Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Cost of Faulty Assumptions

Wheelchair bound Reverend Walter Hermanns wrote an article in the Journal Times entitled "Examine those things that keep us apart". In his article, Hermanns laments the stairs in businesses and homes which divides him from others.

"It's the steps that keep me out. But it is also the attitudes and assumptions that were in place at the time of the buildings construction, and are perhaps still present today. It would be great to think that this was a problem in the past, but I don't think so."

He goes on to write about other divisions, like those between "recent immigrants from Mexico and the English-speaking population, those between "African-Americans and Whites, or persons who are gay/lesbian and those who are straight".

He writes that "the true causes of our division come from fear and a failure to understand one another's stories."

But what effort did Hermanns put forth to understand the stories of the business owners whom he has smeared? None. Instead, he assumes that the steps which divide him are the result of "attitudes and assumptions" of yesterday and today. Maybe not Reverend Hermanns. There are numerous factors which go into business decisions. You neglected to mention the most critical one, and that is costs. It costs money, in some cases, a prohibitive amount of money, to make businesses wheelchair accessible. But what of other handicaps? Must we also provide braille menus? I know of one businessperson in the medical field who was required to have a system of flashing lights installed in the restrooms, in case a deaf person was in the bathroom at the time the fire alarm went off.

It is easy to impose these kinds of requirements on people when you blissfully ignore the costs and the consequences of those costs. We will never know how many businesses failed or never came to be because of the prohibitive costs imposed by people who did not have to pay those costs.

Reverend Hermanns is right about one thing. We should hear each others stories. And he should practice what he preaches.

1 comment:

Preachrboy said...

Wonder if he's talking about our church, which doesn't have an elevator.