More Discrimination Against The Blind

by Kevin Burton

   Today, two stories about blind people standing up for their rights, one of a pending lawsuit, one of a successful suit in Ohio.

   I’m happy to see blind people demanding their rights, but sad that we should have to go to such lengths to get the right to lead basic, normal lives.

   I’m also sad that for every blind person who fight back, probably scores of others give up under financial and other pressures.

   In the first story Scandinavian Airlines refused to allow a blind couple traveling with their one-year-old baby to fly, unless they had a sighted person traveling with them. This was reported by Stephanie Stacey of yahoo News.

   “A blind couple and their baby had to wait an entire week to travel home from their holiday in Greece after they were blocked from boarding two separate flights,” Stacey wrote.

   “Eythor Kamban Thrastarson and Emilia Pykarinou, who were traveling with their one-year-old daughter, expected to fly from Athens, Greece to Iceland with Scandinavian Airlines on Dec. 2.  When they reached their gate, staff refused to let them board unless they paid for an escort, broadcaster RÚV and the Iceland Review reported.

   “This would have involved buying another seat on the plane, so they refused.” 

   “Two days later, the couple were again prevented from boarding another flight for the same reason, per RÚV.”

   “The family finally returned home on Dec. 9 a week behind schedule, on their third attempt. They said they were only allowed to board because another passenger from Iceland agreed to act as their escort,” Stacey wrote.

   “In an interview with RÚV, Thrastarson pointed out that Scandinavian Airlines allows children as young as five to travel un-escorted on its flights and suggested his family should not be treated any differently.”

   “He believes that the presence of his one-year-old daughter might have concerned the airline. Thrastarson insisted, however, that he and his partner would not have booked the flight if they didn’t feel comfortable caring for their child onboard, per Iceland Review.”

   “The couple said that they intend to take legal action against Scandinavian Airlines. They were supported by the Icelandic Association of the Visually Impaired and the Icelandic Consul in Greece.”

   “Eythor told RÚV: ‘This is by no means over.’”

   Scandinavian Airlines did not respond to a request for comment. 

   The second story is about employment discrimination at the Red Roof Inn, where a blind worker was told that applying for a promotion would be “a waste of his time.”

   This story was widely reported. My information comes from the Kansas City Star. 

   “The Red Roof Inn will pay more than $43,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit after telling a blind employee in Ohio not to apply for a promotion, according to federal authorities.”

   ‘The employee wanted to attend an information session about a promotional opportunity at the Red Roof Inn contact center in Springfield, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a Dec. 27, news release. He emailed requesting an accommodation to attend the session remotely and ‘expressing his interest in possibly applying’ for the position, prosecutors said in the complaint.”

    The hotel responded saying it wanted ‘to get the bugs worked out’ and could not offer the session remotely, the lawsuit said.

   “The hotel also said ‘it would be a waste of his time to apply for the position because his visual impairment could not be accommodated,’ the EEOC said.

   “The Red Roof Inn told McClatchy News it “respects the rights of any individual with a disability” and “rejected the claims brought by the EEOC.”

    “Based on the hotel’s response, the employee, who was fully qualified for the position, did not attend the information session or submit a formal application, despite his interest, prosecutors said in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Western Division at Dayton.”

   “The incident happened in May 2018, and the employee filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the following month, the lawsuit said. Prosecutors said the hotel violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and denied the employee the promotion when it failed to accommodate his efforts to learn about and compete for the promotion.”

    The hotel said it “settled this case to avoid the cost of further litigation. … We are pleased to have this matter resolved.” The company will pay the now former employee $43,188 in relief, federal officials said.

   In addition to providing the now former employee $43,188 in monetary relief, Red Roof must provide comprehensive ADA training to its vice president of Distribution Services, vice president of Human Resources, and managers, supervisors and human resources personnel.

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