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care for us is almost without exception the common motive.

Few

acts of discrimination against the blind or handicapped are based

on raw hatred as sometimes may be the case with other minorities.

But combatting hatred would probably be easier than trying to

confront an overprotective and benevolent spirit. Nevertheless, we must do so if we are to gain our equal place in society.

The

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difficulty we have in dealing with it in the absence of

protective laws.

The Michael Hingson story:

In September, 1980, Michael

Hingson, a young blind sales executive who works for an

internationally-known small computer firm was traveling in

California for purposes of marketing his company's products and continuing contacts with clients or former clients. Michael uses

a dog guide named Holland.

When he arrived in the boarding area

for his Pacific Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to San

Francisco, Hingson was advised by a gate agent that "blind

passengers with guide dogs must sit in bulkhead seats," and,

furthermore, that the bulkhead seats (six in all) were already

assigned to other passengers.

But, Mr. Hingson had not requested

a bulkhead seat, and he did not want one in the first place.

The

agent, however,

was unyielding--Hingson would sit in a bulkhead

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PSA has frequent flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

so, realizing this, Mr. Hingson decided he would wait and attempt

to get a seat on the next PSA flight available.

There was open

seating.

So, when the time came,

Mr. Hingson, ticket in hand,

joined the line of other passengers and sought to enter the

aircraft.

He did so but found himself restrained by agents of

PSA who once again insisted that Hingson occupy a bulkhead seat.

This, he respectfully declined to do and attempted to move

to a

seat more toward the middle or rear of the aircraft.

He

explained that his dog Holland would be more secure under one of

these seats than he would laying in the aisle at the bulkhead and

that furthermore he (Hingson) would be better able to do some

work in flight by using the drop-down table attached to the seat

ahead.

The bulkhead was not suitable, and Hingson felt within

his rights to request any other seat that might be unassigned or

unoccupied.

This was not to be.

The mood of the PSA representatives

turned ugly.

In the altercation which followed (not precipitated

by Mr. Hingson) Mr. Hingson's arm was twisted behind his back,

his Braille watch was broken, and his dog guide was taken from

He was forceably removed from the aircraft and denied his

him.

right to travel.

Why? Why was Mr. Hingson denied his right to fly?

The sole

and simple reason was

that he declined to sit in a bulkhead seat.

Upon examination of PSA's policies concerning air transportation

for the handicapped, we found that there was

no policy requiring

blind passengers to be seated in bulkhead seats.

Quite the

opposite, according to one PSA representative--the guy who

developed the policies in the first place.

But, in subsequent

litigation which ensued, the airline has stubbornly defended the

actions of its agents, never mind what the policy says or what it

was intended to say.

The airline personnel "laid down the law"

and Michael Hingson was expected to obey it, without regard to

whether their orders had any rational basis, and even if the

instructions were,

as in this case, unreasonable and detrimental.

This example illustrates a kind of arbitrariness which we

face in travel and tourism today, because so often there are few

laws or regulations to govern the conduct of the industry.

Agents, representatives, and other personnel with whom we must

deal represent themselves as omnipotent--all powerful and all

knowing.

Either we cooperate on their terms or we are not

served.

Individual preference makes no difference.

The

handicapped are the handicapped.

We are all to be treated alike

regardless of circumstances. This is true in air travel as well

as other forms of transportation or public accommodations.

And they say there is no discrimination:

How about a

Caribbean cruise?

In the spring of 1981, Donna Yates, a young,

bright, and attractive well-trained blind woman paid her money

and signed up to take a Caribbean cruise.

That is where her

troubles began. The New York City booking agency (Singleworld) was glad to serve Donna. But under date of May 20, 1981, the

Costa Cruise Line who owned and operated the ship upon which

Donna intended to sail returned her payment, explaining that

neither the company nor any prospective cabinmate could bear the

responsibility for having to care for an unattended blind person

on board ship.

So what?

Donna required no care and wanted no

attendant.

She was perfectly capable of attending to herself.

However, the idea that Donna was blind triggered images of

helplessness and dependency in the minds of Costa Cruise Lines

representatives.

Under such circumstances, they felt perfectly

at ease returning Donna's money and refusing to book the cruise.

It was not a matter of discrimination.

To the cruise line

officials it was simple common sense--you do not accept an

unaccompanied blind person on board ship.

The ship isn't built

for them.

Whatever that means.

This is a clear illustration of how misconceptions and an

overgeneralization as to the needs of "the handicapped" can

result in acts of unreasonable and detrimental treatment.

AS a

matter of practical and provable fact (although I have not

personally inspected every cruise ship) there is simply no

sailing vessel built for the travelling public which cannot be

negotiated with safety by someone who is blind.

True enough,

some handicapping conditions may well prevent travel in certain

areas on certain types of vessels.

This may be especially true

where steep stairways or narrow passages and doorways are

involved.

But, none of these or similar barriers is a matter of

concern to a blind person booking a cruise.

Donna Yates had paid

her money as was required of a prospective passenger, and she

rightfully expected to be treated like anyone else.

Denying her board would probably be killed.

was unreasonable and detrimental and thus the refusal constituted

discrimination on the basis of blindness.

But the incident had a happy ending as we were able to make

an appeal to the New York State Human Rights Agency.

The

investigators found probable cause for a judgment that the Costa

Cruise Line had violated the New York State Human Rights Act.

Then a settlement was eventually negotiated with the company.

Donna could take her cruise unhampered and unrestricted.

But it

took a fight of nearly two years duration to do it.

This

illustrates the value of having protective legislation.

Travel Insurance:

Discrimination against the blind which

sometimes occurs in travel insurance is among the most shocking

manifestations of unreasonable and detrimental treatment.

In one

instance which came to light only a few years ago, the Mutual of

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amount up to $325,000, but declined to sell her blind husband the

same insurance to cover him for any more than $20,000.

Both were

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merely intended to sit there and ride along with all of the other

passengers.

If the plane went down, God forbid, all for mostly all) on

It is doubtful that the tragedy

would have a greater impact upon a sighted passenger than on a

blind one or that the blind passenger would be more likely to

die.

There is simply no evidence that blind people are greater

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