Whenever I encounter remediable barriers to access, I find myself in a dilemma. Is pointing it out to The Powers That Be worth it? Will anyone pay attention? Do I risk alienating someone I should be cultivating? I have yet to come up with a simple answer or even set of answers. Each time it happens, I must consider anew my priorities.
There are a few types of situations that routinely crop up. The first relates to inaccessible websites by companies both big and small. In this situation, I am not risking much, but the chances for positive change are low. Most companies ignore such email or send back a generic response that typically illustrates they have missed the point entirely.
Recently I received a print survey in the mail from Ipsos Mendelsohn - Personal Interest Survey with $10 enclosed. I was more than willing to accept the money, but there was no way for me to participate in the survey. They did include an email address, so I sent the following admittedly rather snarky email.
I was happy to pocket your $10. I was less pleased that I, a blind person, was receiving a print survey without any indication whatsoever that my existence was taken into consideration. At the very
least, you could supply a link to an online version of the survey or offer to send it on a CD-ROM.
You might want to consider entering the 21st century where technology exists to allow you to take the needs of everyone into consideration. Any sample you collect that doesn't taken the needs of
blind people into account is inherently statistically skewed.
Apparently I was trying to vent all my frustrations when I wrote that. In response, I received:
Thank you for your email.
We apologize for the inconvenience of sending you this survey. Unfortunately, this study was only conducted using paper survey and there is currently no online version available.
If you haven’t already done so, please consider visiting our website for more information regarding the Personal Interest Survey: www.interestsurvey.com
Director, Ipsos Mendelsohn - Personal Interest Survey
This response made me feel the fullness of the futility in having sent the email in the first place.
At the other end of the spectrum are people with whom I have a personal relationship. This happens quite frequently with musicians acquaintances when they send out graphical newsletters. I then must decide if I wish to point it out. Typically, these are decent people who quite possibly are nice to me out of a sense of obligation/it's their job. Putting them in an awkward position is not something I enjoy doing. And, if they make a change, are they doing it because they understand my point, to make a fan happy, or to be nice to the blind woman? I act in such situations infrequently.
Now we come to my latest dilemma. In working with the local LBGT Center, I have become increasingly frustrated by their lack of access for disabled people in general and blind folks in particular. Because I am starting up a new discussion group at The Center, I cannot avoid the issue. It's right there staring me in the face going, "So, what are you goanna do?"
It began with demographic forms. Apparently, every person served by The Center needs to fill out some basic information each year. Then I discover those who lead discussion groups receive an entire clipboard of information before each session. There is a form with information about group attendance and topics. There are also the aforementioned demographic forms I'm expected to make people fill out. My rock and a hard place is that I neither want to alienate TheCenter so they cancel the group nor do I wish to allow discriminatory practices to continue. How do I push enough for change and not so much that they push back in ways I don't want?
I've raised the concerns and after some back and forth, I think I will at least get what I need. It is clear, however, that they are not seeing things in an institution-wide, systematic way.
Have I mentioned that as soon as I get The Center to start considering bisexuality in their actions I plan on doing the same thing for disability?