Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Good Legs

UPS official site

That law provided, to use a hackneyed phrase, "a paradigm shift" in the lives of people with disabilities in the U.S.

I know. I lived through the "bad ol' days." Lack of access, certainly, was the modus operandi then. Worse was employment discrimination. Those with visible disabilities commonly heard the words Don't hire him. He'll be sick all the time and miss a lot of work.

It was no better for people whose disabilities were not immediately evident. My wife has a significant hearing impairment. More than once she was told that she shouldn't expect to find work in a laboratory setting. In fact, her graduate advisor told her "No one with a hearing impairment has a place in a laboratory."

I thought of that today when I received a UPS package. Most UPS routes seem to be handled by the same delivery driver. Today we had a substitute. He appeared to be in his forties, and he walked with a limp. It appeared his left knee was fused, and his lower left leg was severely damaged, or at least damaged enough that the bones in his lower leg had an elliptical curve.

Is UPS a progressive company, or is this person's appearance on a delivery route a result of the ADA? I am certain UPS has other people with disabilities, visible or not, employed, but it was remarkable to me that the man was doing a job that two decades ago he probably would have been told, "Oh, no. That job is for someone with two good legs."

I'll never know. What I do know is that the ADA changed America for the better. Oh, yeah? What about all those frivolous drive-by lawsuits? What about big government interfering with how someone wants to run a business?

We all give up something to live in a civilized, democratic society. Being compelled to accommodate a business to the provisions of the ADA is no different to me than its owner being forced to have that same business conform to zoning laws, fair labor practices, and environmental regulations. 

As for me, I don't think UPS is accommodating itself to aid people with disabilities because of a charitable outlook. It is obeying the law mandated by a progressive society. And that's how it should be. 

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