Reasons & Remarks: PC Proper

Reprinted from PN February 2002
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The correctness of political correctness (PC) pops up in the media quite frequently, especially on the Internet. The debate never ends as to whether an arbitrary decree can make people with disabilities equal to individuals who are able-bodied and able-minded. In some quarters it is assumed if social conventions would change and enough regulations were issued, all barriers would disappear and access and inclusion would magically appear.

One opinion floating around in cyberspace is that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) literally enforces an old joke about "not discriminating on the basis of race, religion, or ability." Admittedly, the comment is a stretch to say the least, but sometimes ADA, driven by well-intended laws and guided by PC, does run amuck.

For example, the Appalachian Mountain Club experienced such a situation concerning a mountain cabin maintained for the benefit of hikers. Under an ADA ruling, the club was forced to spend $50,000 renovating the cabin with wheelchair ramps and grab bars for the benefit of hikers with physical disabilities. To justify the expense, five hikers, unable to walk, clawed their way up the mountain with the help of 17 able-bodied volunteers who dragged them over the obstacles.

The irony of it all is that the hikers wanted to demonstrate they could climb the mountain on their own. Not one hiker with a disability has been near the cabin or the mountain since...with or without assistance. But the group said it was the law according to ADA.

Clearly, ADA regulations are rectifying countless physical and attitudinal barriers. People with disabilities should not passively accept their lot in life, but in some cases decreeing equality does more harm than good. Promoting the idea that reality is negotiable, that access for all is possible through legal wrangling, defies logic.

A friend of mine attended a touring performance of the long-running Broadway musical Les Miserables. I was invited to tag along but declined; that is one acclaimed stage show that is way too spooky for my limited artistic taste.

As the stage lights dimmed, my more enlightened contemporary was sorta mesmerized, not by the musical but by two people standing on a fully lighted platform just below and aside from the stage. She claimed the actual performers were upstaged by the two individuals who were waving their hands frantically, trying to keep up as they translated the entire show's lyrics into sign language.

In her thinking, an audience with limited hearing would have a dickens of a time understanding the show in this futile endeavor. Les Miserables is a musical. Victor Hugo's epic story comes to life through the show's soaring melodies—far more than the lyrics. It is nigh on impossible to communicate this masterpiece by the frantic signing of an interpreter or two.

Apparently this was not a special performance for people with hearing impairments. Somehow the touring group was instructed to follow an ADA regulation and provide signers. This well-meaning effort to deter "exclusion" turned out to be most disruptive, upsetting the vast majority of the audience. It brought a whole new meaning to discriminating on the basis of ability.

There are more horror stories, but I've probably piqued enuff pc-ers.


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Reasons & Remarks: PC Proper


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