Equal Opportunity, Equal Responsibility

THOUGHT PROVOKER 27

Equal Opportunity, Equal Responsibility

      "I know he'd let you out of some of this if you just asked." Said the librarian. She was assisting me to find the materials I needed to complete a couple of projects for my History of Economics class. I was working days,
full-time, plus, on a part-time evenings and night schedule, taking some
classes to update myself so I can advance in my career.

     Later, knowing I'd just make the last bus, I rushed up to where I could hear
a crowd of people waiting at the bus stop. "Here!" A woman called to
me. I knew she must be sitting at the very end of the bench. "Take my
seat!" She said in an insistive voice. I kept moving, igknowledging her offer with a small grin and negative shake of the head.

     When the bus arrived I stayed back, waiting my turn at the door. Up in the
bus, inserting my coins into the fare-box, the driver says, "Hey Bud. You
know you could get one of those picture IDs and pay half fare?" I nodded,
moving on back to the half-way point, I found an empty aisle chair with
my cane.

     Seated for the long ride home, I thought over my life, my dreams, my
expectations for myself. I examined the choices I had made along the way, where they had taken me, what they had given me.

RESPONSES
e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. "What conditions must be met in order to achieve equal opportunity?” Personal responsibility should trump Social Engineering every time this subject is discussed. Too often people substitute equality of outcome for
equality of opportunity.”

Dave Mitchell (Tempe, Arizona USA)

**2. "Allow me to answer it like this- "Hey brother." The black student slipped in beside the blind student. "Saw Yaa in the library. Saw Yaa at the stop. Saw Yaa climb aboard. Saw those people trying to do for you, suggesting things. But you held yourself proud, didn't accept what you didn't need and did it in a respectful way. I guess I'm telling you all this cause I think you be like me. Do'n like how my granddaddy taught us, 'You get as good as you give.'”

Jessy Williams (Michigan USA)

FROM ME: "Responsibility mentioned once and implied by behavior once.
With responsibility coming up twice so far, let's track this thread through all incoming responses.
Second, if this fits; What should the blind or visually impaired population/person be doing that they presently aren't?"

**3. “This subject of "equal opportunity" strikes a responsive cord in my very
core. So often we hear this issue of "equal opportunity" harped on but
without giving consideration to what it requires. I'm pleased to see this
angle of it addressed.

When our noble forefathers and even biblical writers, made the statement
that all men are created equal, it wasn't meant to be taken to mean that
everyone is capable of doing anything that he may want to do. This
reference to being created equal has to do with human worth and dignity. We
are all in equal standing in this category. Some of us may find it
difficult to reach out and demand it of others at times, but nevertheless,
this does not mean that we do not deserve it.
When getting down to "equal opportunity" however, this is an entirely
different ball game.

Along with equal opportunity comes equal responsibility. Blindness is no
reason for copping out and saying that certain requirements should be
deferred because of our blindness. Granted, certain modifications may need
to be instituted, but these modifications should be with the aim of meeting
and upholding the same requirements as do our sighted counterparts. With
every opportunity come specific requirements and abilities. If we, blind or
sighted, can not meet the criteria for a specific opportunity, then we
should strive to equip ourselves with the needed skills for it, or look for
another opportunity.

I have learned that for some of us "out-of-sight" individuals the hardest
thing that we have had to learn is when to say, "I can't do this, but I can
do something else."

The incapability to perform a specific task does not make us a failure.
Failure is constituted by failing to try instead of being unsuccessful.
When we do not succeed at one thing we must be determined to try harder to
do something else. In this manner we can keep on until we find our area of
expertise and finally find our niche in life. This is when we make our
Opportunity become equal.”

Freda Trusty (Dallas, Texas USA)

**4. “As an old New York subway and bus strap-hanger and
pole-clutcher, I remember days when I'd rush from
work exhausted and would willingly have traded my
eyeteeth for a seat. If I'd actually been offered a
seat, I'd have been ecstatic!

But on days when I had to use a cane for arthritis, I
refused all seat offers. Did I have to show the
world that I may be (temporarily) disabled, but not
in need of help? I know I was cutting my nose to
spite my face, because a seat would have relieved a
lot of pain in my ankles and knees on those bad days.
What was I trying to prove by refusing a seat, that I
was tough? That I didn't want to be the object of
pity? I lived in a city of 8 million people. It
wasn't likely I'd see any of those people again, so
why did I have to act like I could do anything they
could do. . . especially when I knew I couldn't.”

Carolyn (Clearwater, Florida (USA)
rgold2@tampabay.rr.com)


FROM ME: “She writes- ‘why did I have to act like I could do anything they
could do.’ How about this strategy? Positive or negative? Helpful to bring about equal opportunity or not?”

**5. “This story recounts a number of separate events. Although they all
occurred in reasonably quick succession, and although they all happened to
the same person, they are different enough from one another that I believe
each must be assessed on its own merit.

It is not clear why the librarian was suggesting that the student request
special treatment from his professor, i.e. it may have been because he is
blind, because she was aware of his over-committed life, or because she
wanted to get out of offering him the assistance he needed. In the end,
however, it doesn't matter. A passing grade on an assignment is a
declaration to the world that the student is adequately capable of dealing
with the subject matter at hand. Any form of special treatment would more
than likely result in an artificially high mark which, in turn, would, at
best, be a lie regarding the student's abilities, and, at worst, falsely
qualify him for a job.

The woman who offered him her seat at the bus stop meant well. He was
right, however, in wanting her to keep her seat. Without being able to see
her, after all, for all he knew, she may have been carrying a lot of
groceries, been pregnant, or had any number of other good reasons which
would have made it better for her to remain seated. He was quite rude,
however, for not stopping to politely and verbally thank her for her
kindness, and to explain that he would really prefer that she would keep
her seat, and that he felt so full of energy that he'd rather stand
anyway. If, on the other hand, he really was exhausted and would have
rather sat down, and if he only wanted to stay standing in order to assert
his independence as a blind person, then he was being an arrogant
hypocrite, and willing to trample on the feelings of others in order to
prove it.

Waiting his turn to board the bus was the right thing to do. Blindness is
no excuse to demand better treatment.

I'm not sure what the bus driver was offering him. Was it a half-price
pass which the bus company offers to everyone in order to encourage less
use of money when boarding (our local bus company does do that sort of
thing in order to reduce its money counting costs), or was it a special
reduced fare pass for blind passengers? If it was the former, then the
student was a fool to reject it. If it was the latter, then, whether or
not he intended to follow through and get it, he treated the driver rather
poorly. The driver didn't have to tell him about that method whereby he
could save a bit of money. All he needed to do, and should have done, was
politely thank the driver for that very useful information.

This does raise the question, however, of whether or not an independent
blind person should take advantage of special offers for blind people,
e.g. reduced bus fare. I think that they should, but that they must always
do so with the right attitude. Our local bus company offers free bus
transportation to blind people, recognizing that many need to travel with
an attendant and, rather than make each attendant go through some special
procedure each time she is helping a blind person, it simplifies the whole
matter by allowing blind people to travel for free. All I have to do is,
once a year, go and pick up a pass. I also have no qualms at all about
claiming a few thousand dollars of income tax deduction each year which is
available to each blind person in my country because our government
recognizes that a blind person often has additional living expenses, e.g.
the purchase of special equipment (like the Braille display which is
connected to my computer).

Any person, blind or otherwise, must never greedily go after whatever
special benefits he may be entitled to. He should graciously accept them
in the spirit with which they're offered, and, should they exceed his
needs, be prompt to generously pass them along whenever he encounters
others who have needs which he is able to meet. If everyone had this
attitude, then those who offer benefits would never worry about whether or
not they were giving out too much as they'd know that the selflessness of
the recipients would, in and of itself, be the process which would
properly redistribute the wealth so that it achieved the maximum possible
benefit to all.

Some final thoughts: Blind people should never put their need to assert
their independence ahead of the feelings of others. Sometimes it is
necessary and right to humbly accept an unneeded, and even unwanted, offer
of assistance, even if that offer is counter-productive (like being led
the wrong way across an intersection), simply because it is more wrong to
offend the one offering the assistance. One must never put personal goals
ahead of the feelings of other people. Those who do may well eventually
get their just reward when, in an unexpected moment of true need, others
assume that assistance wouldn't be appreciated and probably isn't actually
needed anyway. Even if you never need assistance from anyone else
throughout your entire life, how would such arrogant insensitivity on your
part help other blind people who are less independent and do need to rely
on the benevolence of others?”

Dave Mielke (856 Grenon Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Phone:1-613-726-0014,
EMail:dave@mielke.cc,
Web:http://dave.mielke.cc/ )

FROM ME: “Sometime soon we will have a PROVOKER
On the subject of special price reduction and/or services for the blind; good or bad.”

**6. “Well, this seems to be an easy Thought Provoker for me, and I know not all
will agree. I tend to look at life a lot more simpler than most. Many
times people try and complicate simple issues and therefore keep themselves
busy with the unimportant. This robs us of our time here on this earth. We
let people steal our time....or we give it away! This topic (to me) is not
about being EQUAL...but being kind and helpful!

So here is my simple answer to this topic:

So what if someone is polite and offers you a seat. So what if the driver
informs you of a benefit you may have not known was available. It sounds
to me like folks are just being nice. We would be the first to complain if
they did something really wrong...

Get a life, love not hate, build up, not tear down. People need to be
needed and if I fulfill that in such a small way as to accept a kind
gesture...then I'm for it! I, in turn will do a kind deed for the next
person!”

Joyce Cass Pratt(USA)

FROM ME: “How do we get that balance between ‘the being nice’ and ‘the being forthright? If desired, how do we nicely hold off those who wish to not allow us to take charge?”

**7. “This Thought Provoker got my attention. I
Have been blind for 6 years I've had to really decide on what to do with my
life in somewhat of a short period. After attending blind rehab in 3
different states, I thought I could accomplish almost anything. Almost 3yrs
of rehab and 2yrs of college I realized that I jumped into more than I could
chew. As much as I thought I was prepared I wasn't. I've learned a lot since
I enrolled in college. Get ready for the worst, in most classes I was the
stereotypical disabled student. Some very fine classmates and then some
rather rude ones. I want to obtain my Bachelors Degree, and some little set
backs are not going to stop me. I do look back at what my dreams are and what
expectations I have, some of the choices I've taken have set me back a
little. But I have a lot of faith in God to help me make it through all of
the obstacles. What I'm trying to say is to really stop and think hard about
what you want to do at that one point in your life. Live everyday of your
life, day by day. Some of us are more fortunate than others.”

Mark Patlan (Omaha, Nebraska USA)

**8. “After reading this short short, the word that popped into my mind first was DIGNITY. Self reliance and making a way in the world like everybody else.
Equal to the task of the sighted folks and possessed of a work ethic my Grandmother would smile at. Whenever I was dating, she would wonder if he was
a "hard worker" a "nose to the grindstone" person who could also allow themselves to have some fun.
I'm picturing this fellow asking his girl out to dinner and surprising her with the new dance steps he learned because he knows how much she loves to dance.
This scenario creates the type of success that anyone can achieve if willing. Also he wasn't being rude by taking the special favors or cuts in line.
He was asserting his oneness with the rest of the world. I would bet he would give up his seat for a very pregnant woman or an elderly person. I get
the feeling we are dealing with a real stand up human being here!
“Cheers!"

Suzanne Lange (California USA)

FROM ME: “Dignity, self reliant, standup type of guy… If each and every blind/visually impaired person were to exhibit this type of behavior to the best of their ability, what do you think the result would be?”

**9. “I find this man in this short story to be courageous. His
principles are to be admired. He wants to be treated as an equal despite
his visual impairment. I have known such a person.”

C. Ross (Winnipeg,
Canada)

FROM ME: “’Principles!’ Break down the plural part of this one; to make the whole of ‘principles,’ there must be several actions going on, what are they."

**10. “Just my thought on this and that is what are we doing with our lives
today and have done with them in the past. I know that looking at mind as
to what I have done and what could be done different with it and how it
might have changed if any.
I know that I have enjoyed my life and what I have done with mind and I
like what I have done.

I do know that some people don't feel like they are doing anything but
with a little help they can move forward and sometime that is all it
takes to get them in a forward direction like the lady giving up her seat
and the bus driver informing him about the bus pass for half price just
little things that can help and make a person thing that not all people
are bad and they just want to help the blind move forward and in a
positive direction.”

Willie Burton (Arkansas U.S.A.)

FROM ME: “What impression does a person with a White cane give when seen paying full fair? (In this thought/question, no outsider is suggesting another option.)"

**11. “I enjoy this thought-PROVOKER because it does present a few of the choices
that the most able blind folks must make each day when interacting with
the sighted majority. There's nothing wrong with the able-bodied blind
person not taking a seat ahead of others if he or she isn't profoundly
tired or burdened with heavy parcels. Likewise, all of us sighted and
blind have to decide if we want to qualify and follow the rules for
discounted mass transit. A regular subway rider in New York City can cut
their travel expenses in half if they buy certain passes that are offered
quarterly and yearly for instance--and this does not involve any handicap
other than not having sufficient cash to buy the long-term ride pass.
Now, the most serious matter for me was the one about workarounds for
students in handling paperwork. I generally think that disabled students
who're excused from doing the full load of reading, writing and being
tested are actually being short-changed. In this age of high tech
adaptive OCR there's seldom an excuse to simply waive the required student
work. When this must be the case because of handwritten items it should
be rare and adjusted to in the most equitable manner, such as the
instructor providing this handwritten material on tape.

I believe that taking advantage of discounts offered by society to
the blind traveler are nice but they in no way will ever equal the ease,
convenience and power that the sighted citizen has at his fingertips,
gripping a steering wheel. A trillion dollar plus road system lies ready
for his travelling wheels while the blind traveler often deals with
nearly non existent or totally unavailable mass transit of one type or
another.”

Will Smith (wilsmith@iglou.com)

**12. “I'm not exactly sure how to take this one. Should I give the blind guy
the thumbs up for turning down the woman's gracious offer of her spot on

the bench? She was only acting out of kindness and courteous, which
there's so little of these days. I'm not saying the guy had to take the
seat if he didn't want to but he certainly could have refused it in a
nicer way, like "Thank you, I appreciate the offer, but I’d prefer to
stand." Those who are rude for whatever their own reasons are going to
, and have, ruined it for those of us who very much appreciate kindness.

Should I applaud the blind guy for sticking his nose up to the use of a
half-fare handicapped bus pass? Those passes are given to us, and in
this case I don't believe it even has so much to do with human kindness,
but because from what I can see handicapped people are in the lowest
salaried jobs out there in general and a little help financially never
hurt anyone.
Do I think handicapped people have the right to have the same hopes,
aspirations and dreams as everyone else? Of course I do. And I believe
from the bottom of my heart that they, we, can achieve anything if we
work hard enough. Though I also believe it's going to be a tough haul.
As far as the last part, sitting on the bus and delving in my big dreams
for the future, I was exactly that way too. Dreams don't and won't come
true unless you put your every ounce of everything you've got into it.
And denial of refusal of what is not going to make it go away and is
certainly not going to help anything in any way.”

Patricia Hubschman (Levittown, New York USA)

**13. “I find new achievements on a weekly basis to meet as a blind person. Many
of these are meaningless to others but , they remain important to me. For
instance, How I might expand my knowledge at my job in order to run a
better office and remain competitive . Reaching out to shake one more hand
and meet those who are negative as well as positive in so many communities
which I travel in. Knowing that my dog Guide Ockham and I need to look
professional at all times makes me think, today will make the difference in
someone’s life. My utmost challenge for achievement will one day be to own
and run my office which I have designed to assist so many in educational
possibilities. Why change one would ask when I have a great employment
situation working in a Federally funded office. for all the right reasons as
many of would choose , I too would like to be my own boss and decide what
conference to attend and when to be home with my family and at the same time
remain successful in the business world. The money used to be a large part
of success but it did not take long to understand that family first will
always be my achievement in success. We as persons from a wide variety of
lifestyles choose to spell success in our own ways. It may very well be
accepting that half fare for the buss or getting a priority seat on a
plane . However still as individuals if we can help one person see our
positive outlook and remain within our boundaries of who we are then that
in itself, is total success. My friends, this format alone tells me that
many of you are still reaching for the stars and hoping for the right
opportunity and that is what makes us as human beings whom we are. Reach
out and take one more class, meet one more friend and lets work together to
educate this great world that persons who are blind have dreams and
feelings as well as realistic goals.”

Lee a. Stone (Hudson, New York U.S.A.
stonedge@mhonline.net)

**14. “If we as blind persons take all the easements and
gim-me's of the world, we shall never gain equal opportunities. Granted, it
is hard to resist and easy to simply take, but if we are able to meld into
society, we must give where it hurts a bit. Oh, but I hate to give up those
half fares! Grin.”

Pam McVeigh (Ruston, Louisiana USA
Pmcveigh@huntel.net)

**15. “Well, I think equal opportunity is a rather subject. Being a blind teenager, sometimes I just feel so alone. I feel as if no one
understands my sightless world. Granted, all teens have this sense at some
time. It's not just a specific characteristic of blindness.

I think that many sighted people, though, are very uncomfortable around
blind people, and therefore, don't know what to do or say. I've noticed,
though, that if some one truly takes the time to know me, they soon are
comfortable. I've had many adult influences in my life tell me my
personality helps. I am rarely mad, and try to smile or laugh when possible.
I feel it eases the tense situation. Of course, when you have other blind
students at your high school who are very much different then you, I feel as
if I'm under strict competition.”

Stacy (who has rambled on enough Wisconsin USA.)

**16. “I'm glad to see this item. I think the blind person in this story act4ed
much as I would, avoiding wasteful belligerence while insisting on the
giving as well as the receiving that are inseparable parts of first-class
status in our society.

Dealing with blindness is often not a simple matter. Sometimes, it is not
enough simply to remove the attitudinal barriers and their obstructive
progeny from life's thoroughfares: like people trying to farm near-barren
land, for example, we sometimes need assistance--tools and training--to
deal with the physical facts arising from being blind in this or that set
of circumstances.

There is one thing that seems to me a sel