The Strong Arm of the ADA Law is Heard

There is a story coming out of Provo, Utah that is making me think.

Here’s a link to the story: http://deseretnews.com/article/0,1249,695269341,00.html

Here’s my summary:

In this story, we have mom Lareen Strong, who has a daughter that really likes “Rock Star” Miley Cyrus, and it just so happens that Ms. Cyrus is coming to Provo to entertain at the Stadium of Fire on July 4 of this year. Mrs. Strong was “One in a Million” of the fortunate ones who obtained tickets to the event. They will enjoy a “G.N.O (Girls Night Out).”

But “Ready, Set, Don’t Go.” As it turns out, Mrs. Strong’s daughter also has an unfortunate hearing disability.

Mrs. Strong did something that I would consider very smart and reasonable. She called ahead to the BYU Marriott Center ticket office, to ask them if they have listening devices available. She did her homework. If I were going somewhere, I would call or check the website, or do my research and see what preparations I would need to make, and what kind of accommodations were available. I see many people who don’t; who simply show up somewhere and expect that accommodation has already been made for them, and even get upset when the red carpet is not rolled out as they arrive.

Unfortunately, the folks at the ticket office didn’t know. Her call was passed around to five different people, and none of them knew the answer.

Now, I might have a little perspective on this one. Check out “The Other Side of Me” – I work at a technical support call center. I can easily imagine this type of thing happening. Someone calls, and asks a question that seems simple and intimately familiar to that caller, but it blindsides the people answering the phone. They don’t know, maybe even panic and maybe even don’t say something that sounds friendly or helpful. They are not being rude; they just don’t understand the situation yet. They check with other people, and no resolution is found – at least not right away. After all, “Nobody’s Perfect.”

Which seems to be what happened to Mrs. Strong. She received a call the next day from a manager “Who Said” that she knew the answer. The answer was that the LaVell Edwards Stadium doesn’t have them available, but if you call ahead (as Mrs. Strong had done) they can make arrangements to have something there and ready. And so they will be very happy to get a device for her daughter.

But overnight, I suppose Mrs. Strong had a chance to stew over it and get upset at her mistreatment. Now I try to see it from her perspective. The disability that Mrs. Strong and her daughter deal with every day is very personal to them. And they are far more familiar with the situation than they ever want to be. So the fact that when she called people at BYU, and those people didn’t understand her problem or situation and were not ready to help her, she became upset. And keep in mind that some people build up and expect that B.Y.U. is “God’s University,” where the people there are absolute perfect and upright representatives of the Church and the Savior – in other words, they put BYU on a pedestal higher than it really belongs.

And so now she has gone to the lengths to file complaints, talk to the newspaper, and looking into the Americans with Disabilities laws for support of her position. She’s going to “Make Some Noise.” She has out-and-out accused BYU of deliberately being discriminatory to her daughter. Think I’m exaggerating? Then how else can you interpret this quote: “Brigham Young University is discriminating against my daughter, as well as every hearing impaired person who goes to an event at LaVell Edwards Stadium.” There you have it, “Good and Broken.”

If BYU has made reasonable accommodation at her request, then I have to ask her, how are they discriminating? To discriminate, doesn’t one have to place some thought of ill-will toward another person? There is no way every situation can be planned for ahead of time; it would be unreasonable to expect this. The fact that they were not ready with an instant answer in no way says they were discriminatory; just ill-prepared or poorly-trained. And I sympathize with your daughter’s very difficult life condition. But as you should understand by now, the world in general and our society in specific is not particularly familiar with nor always sympathetic toward the problems that they don’t deal with personally. I’m not excusing thoughtlessness or insensitivity; I’m just stating it as a fact.

It sounds to me as though Mrs. Strong is attempting to get “the Best of Both Worlds” for her daughter. “Life’s What You Make It,” and I think she and her daughter should be grateful for the good time they are going to experience together, and don’t dwell on this moment leading up to it.

2 thoughts on “The Strong Arm of the ADA Law is Heard”

  1. I know Ms. Strong and in her defense, she is very level headed and doesn’t stew. She talked to me about the situation and was more concerned about all the other people who assume large facilities have assistive listening devices, like they are supposed to, and don’t think to call ahead. It would be like someone in a wheelchair having to call ahead to every facility to make sure they have handicapped parking, like they are supposed to.

    Yes, “Life’s What You Make It” but if there are laws in place to help people, shouldn’t they be obeyed?

  2. Since I don’t know Ms. Strong, I will gladly accept your knowledge of her character. My remarks and opinion admittedly could only be based on the clues that the newspaper gave me, and I may have used my imagination to create a characterization of her. I hope I made it clear enough in the writing that my depiction was imagined, not necessarily fact.

    The article raises a large question about what the law specifically requires in the case of the stadium. I’m no lawyer, so going with the explanation that is given, it appears that it is not required in this instance. To answer your question directly, if there are laws in place to help people, then those laws should be obeyed.

    To answer the same question in another way: If people are asking for accommodations that are not required, simply because they perceive that the law covers it or they are entitled to it, can be considered “reverse discrimination” – going beyond reasonable accommodation and required law, to where it can become burdensome and or discriminatory against others. This type of thing is also known as causing “undue hardship” when accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense, and such is mentioned within ADA laws. Not to mention, establishing an unnecessary precedent. After establishing this as a precedent, other similar venues may also feel compelled or pressured to do the same, when in actuality the law holds no such requirement.

    Sure, it would be nice if the stadium offered 2100 hearing devices. But when the law doesn’t require it, and only one request has ever been made for it, that seems to me like an undue burden being placed on the stadium. Should they also install and maintain escalators just in case someone shows up with difficulty walking? Should they hire and have on hand language interpreters, in the event that someone shows up speaking a different language?

    As far as her concern being about “all the other people” who assume that accommodations have been made for them – those folks are bound to find themselves disappointed if they are unwilling to do some homework – to make a phone call, or look up a web site, or otherwise seek out the information beforehand. I don’t want to sound rude – just matter of fact. If the law does not specifically require it, then either the law needs to be changed, or the expectations of the individual dealing with the handicap need to be adjusted. But the burden on others cannot be undue and unreasonable.

    The biggest thing that still bothers me in this story is this quote: “Brigham Young University is discriminating against my daughter, as well as every hearing impaired person who goes to an event at LaVell Edwards Stadium.” That is pretty heavy statement to make. It appears to me that BYU did not discriminate. In fact, they did help and assist, although the initial phone call was not handled well on their end. They will have learned and be better prepared for next time. And they spoke of being willing to assess the situation and determine if need arises to change the way they handle this need. Maybe that is PR speak, or maybe they really mean it. I don’t know – I don’t have any connection with the real situation or persons involved.

    That’s my humble opinion; armchair quarterbacking after reading the newspaper article.

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