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Inability to Type Not a Disability 266

Posted by michael
from the never-stopped-CmdrTaco-before dept.
gizmo_mathboy writes: "The 9th Circuit Court has ruled that not being able to type does not give one protection/privilege under the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA). This article on Yahoo! has information concerning the case."
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Inability to Type Not a Disability

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  • Consider, there are three basic reasons for not being able to type.

    1) Physical problem. Like you have no fingers or your wrists won't bend or whatever. In which you presumably *already* qualified as disabled.

    2) Mental problem. Like dyslexia or not being intelligent enough to know your alphabet or whatever. Again, presumably you already qualify.

    3) Education problem, i.e. you never learned how. You aren't disabled. Go learn to type then reapply for the job.
  • Catch 22 (Score:3, Offtopic)

    by SilLumTao (134743) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @08:54AM (#2110828) Homepage
    I would have responded to this article, but I can't type...
  • by 2Flower (216318) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:26AM (#2111134) Homepage

    The minute I read the article, I realized what we'd be seeing in this thread on /. ... lots of modded up (+2, Funny) jokes about laziness, mocking posts saying RSI and carpal tunnel don't exist, etc, etc. Sad, really, that things are that predictable...

    Obviously, not every single person claiming to have a disability actually has one. The guys with temporary paper tags in their windows filling up the handicap spaces so I can't park close enough to unload my walker from the car are very suspect... but just from what I'm reading here, this looks legitimate rather than someone being 'Lazy'.

    And in her chosen profession, yes, not being able to type is a serious problem. As the third judge pointed out, in modern life in general typing is becoming more and more of a critical skill unless you wanna stuff tacos for a living. (CmdrTaco?) It's not fair to punt someone from the line of work they've trained for just because they COULD do something else that doesn't involve typing.

    So, if you take as truth that we are dealing with a legit disability here and it's one that directly relates to her livelihood... the issue then becomes 'Well, what can be done?'. To that, I'm not sure. It sounds like lots of accommodations have already been made, to the point where they've run out of things that can make the situation more bearable for the reporter and allow her to do her job. I'm not sure if firing was appropriate, but they have hit a wall. That's the real issue here; not if she's faking it, but how can this be handled in a feasible and reasonable way?

    • in modern life in general typing is becoming more and more of a critical skill unless you wanna stuff tacos for a living

      Surely exactly the opposite is the whole point of the article?

      The claim is that sufficient alternatives to keyboard input exist, not that sufficient alternatives to using a computer exist.

      Which having seen my friend's ponderous progress with an on-screen keyboard and voice recognition, I have to say that's also bollocks, but that still isn't the same as what you were saying.

    • You're right, but what do you suggest? The bottom line is that this woman is incapable of doing her job anymore. Furthermore, her employer has made every reasonable (and from the sounds of it, some exceptional) attempt to keep her healthy and able to work.

      If she can't do her job, then the company shouldn't be forced to keep her on. She received long term disability, she received worker's compensation, and now she's claiming discrimination because they won't pay her to not do her job. In this particular case, what I think she deserves a big smack on the head.

      Does she have an injury? Most definitely. Is it a permanent disability? With regards to her job, yes--but that shouldn't make her automatically entitled to keep that job. Get out! Deal with the fact that you've worked yourself out of this particular career path, and find something else to do!

      Or put another way, you mention that you use a walker. Would you file a discrimination suit if you got turned down for a job as a jogging instructor?
      • Or put another way, you mention that you use a walker. Would you file a discrimination suit if you got turned down for a job as a jogging instructor?

        As I was expecting -- another invalid comparison I've seen bandied about in this thread... because obviously I wouldn't have been applying to be a jogging instructor in the first place, I'd be looking for a job that fit well with my skills AND disability. There is a key difference which a pat one-liner like this ignores...

        The situation here is not someone looking for work and being turned down, it's someone who had work in the first place and was quite capable of doing the work, then we have an injury scenario and the disability arises. There are always alternatives to giving someone the boot if accommodations won't allow them to continue on in their current role.

        I'm reminded of a situation in the World Wrestling Federation (probably not a popular show with /.'ers, but read on) where a wrestler named Darren Drozdov was paralyzed from the neck down due to an on-job accident in the ring. Clearly he would not be wrestling again -- but the company paid for his therapy and continued to employ him as a columnist for their website instead rather than ejecting him for being unable to continue his then-current job. If a guy who can't even MOVE his hands can write a weekly column, why can't something be done with the reporter in question? She has value in her talents as a writer, even if the physical process of writing is an obstacle. If not having her continue in her same role, maybe in a similar one where her talents can be used while working around the accident.

        However, I will grant that if nothing else can be done, if there are no roles she wants or they want her for and the injury simply is too debilitating, then her continued work for the company is not likely. That's where REASONABLE comes into the phrase Reasonable Accommodations; there's a fuzzy line after which it's too much to be expected to cover. Once you exhaust the possibilities, it is time to move on and find some other direction to take with your life. I'm simply not certain that is the case here.

        I will commend the company for going out of their way to help her out and try to make things work; under ADA, they were compelled to do SOMETHING, but they've done more than the bare minimum. (That may be the source of dissent, that her accommodations can be seen as luxuries to folks who haven't experienced her disability. 'Daily massage' would sound like a luxury to someone who doesn't suffer chronic, crippling back pain.) I'm simply wondering if they couldn't do more given how other people with more crippling disabilities are still capable of doing jobs like hers with accommodations, like Darren Drozdov. Maybe they couldn't, but maybe they could and simply gave up before that point of unreasonablity.

        (Of course, it's a concise Yahoo style article, so we don't have all the facts. Keep in mind we're dealing with a lot of speculation in all directions. Oh, how I hate the Reuters style...)

        • "As I was expecting -- another invalid comparison I've seen bandied about in this thread... because obviously I wouldn't have been applying to be a jogging instructor in the first place, I'd be looking for a job that fit well with my skills AND disability. There is a key difference which a pat one-liner like this ignores...

          OK, that's fair--it was a cheap shot on my part. However, you also refer to her problem as an injury, which implies (in my mind) that something happened at some particular point to cause it. Dropping an axe on your foot is an injury. What she has is a degenerative disfunction. Furthermore, it was bad enough that she first raised it as a legal issue in 1994, seven years ago! When it got that bad, she should have started looking forward towards the day when her career would be at an end, and she'd have to find something else to do.

          As you say, we're both dealing with our interpretations of a thin article (which drives me equally nuts). It definitely sounds to me, though, that this woman has been using the law and the courts to avoid taking any responsibilty for her own health and life. I'm living on the ragged edge of low-grade RSI, and am starting to make plans already for the time when I can't type and have to do something else. Why didn't she spend those seven years doing something like that?
  • So, according to this lady's argument any athlete should be eligible to for disabled status if they develop tendonitis. Thats just nuts. Yes, it sucks that she *can't* type anymore, but that is a basic function for her job and if she can't do it she has no right to expect to keep her job.
  • Read it here: [uscourts.gov] The woman simply didn't prove her case.

    I disagree with Judge Berzon's dissent, especially where she writes:
    The fact that using a computer is so essential to modern life that teaching that skill universally has become embedded in our national educational policy must inform our understanding of the ADA's disability definition.
    Using a computer is not essential to modern life, just as having a new pair of Skechers is not essential to my daughter's happiness. (And just what do we do to teach kids computing skills? Let them draw pictures & try to find pr0n on the web.) The ADA does not say that you are entitled to everything you had before you were disabled; it says you must have a fair shot at a job in spite of your disability. Cleary, she no claim.
  • Somebody explain to me how its a handicap not to be able to walk around the golf course, but not be able to type?
  • by counsell (4057)
    ...not taking the time to learn to touch type is definitely handicapping yourself unnecessarily.

    When people ask me how to speed up their computers I say: "Get a copy of Mavis Beacon!".
  • I was doin unix support @ lucent and we hade to work to get this user's CDE fonts *HUGE* [think like 8x3 chars on a 21" monitor] even then the user had to have their nose like 10 inches (.3M) from the screen !!! The user had some degenerative eye disease

    The shocking part is ... the user drove themself to work everyday, and the car was dent free.
  • by MBCook (132727)
    Isn't a disablility something that can't be fixed? By that I mean that someone who is disabled and can't walk is stuck like that. They can't just decided one day to learn to walk. But that is exactly what this lady is claiming. If this lawsuit went thruogh then I would have sued because I don't know how to do brain surgery and therefor diserve disability. This is just another moronic lazy person trying to get off easy. Learning to type isn't that bad. Besides, what is she typeing? Would her boss really care if she used dictation software? What about hand writing recignition software? If I was a boss I wouldn't care how she did it as long as it met two conditons:
    1. They did the job, and did it with reasonable/acceptable speed
    2. Any extra hardware/software they need to perform this task, they pay for.

    Now obviously if she didn't have hands, that would be something different, but from reading the article the impression that I got was that she was perfectly fine physically.
  • by imadork (226897) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @10:00AM (#2121987) Homepage
    Is the question really whether or not she can still type? Or is it whether or not her carpal tunnel has rendered her unable to work?

    The court made the point that she is not injured to the point that her daily life activities are impared. And even though she may not be able to keep up with the pace of typing at her old job, there are ways to be employed in her field that don't involve so much typing. She's not shut out of her field the way that, say, a truck driver would be if he went blind.

    Does anyone have a right to be able to keep working at the same job after they get injured? What about minor league baseball players that get career-ending injuries, even debilitating injuries? They can't engage in their chosen profession anymore, and they haven't made tons of money yet so they can retire, but none of them claim disability. The good ones become coaches, and the bad ones go into a totally diffenent field. Maybe that's a bad example, because baseball players don't expect to be playing until they're 55, but you get what I mean.

    Now, the job likely caused the carpal tunnel, but that's a different issue altogether. Regardless of what caused it, she has it now, and unfortunately has to live with it now.

    I'm certainly not trying to make light of this woman's problem, because it is serious. I'm just wondering where you draw the line that says that a person can or can't find work in their field due to their injuries or disabilities. If a person can't continue at their job, but can do a similar job, does that count as being "substantially limited" in your abilities?

    I hope I never have to find out.

    • Your reply seems to be one of the more thoughtful ones in the discussion, and I agree with you. I had to sit on a jury several years ago that decided a disability case, and it was gut-wrenching. In our case the person had done manual labor most of her life and was unsuited by education for any viable alternative.

      What I can't figure out is why voice recognition was deemed impractical. It would appear to be the most suitable method here.

      Like you, I hope never to have to find this out for myself.

    • "In this case, Thornton was able to perform a wide range of manual tasks, including grocery shopping, driving, making beds, doing laundry and dressing herself," wrote Judge Michael Daly Hawkins in Thornton v. McClatchy Newspapers, 01 C.D.O.S. 7070. "Her inability to type and write for extended periods of time is not sufficient to outweigh the large number of manual tasks that she can perform."

      I find it a little odd that domestic tasks are being weighed evenly against workplace tasks... as far as I can see, isn't this trying to assess her fitness in the workplace?

      I would have thought being unable to do the main (?) part of her work would be substantially limiting... or is the limitation for living as a whole and not just for working?

      *pondering*

      on the practical side, teaching has been suggested, maybe she'll have some luck there...

      • I work in Disability Insurance and for SSI Disability to kick in, it is necessary for the claimant to prove that if they are not blind, or deaf, or missing limbs, they must not be able to perform in 'any' work.

        You are not considered disabled if you can only not work in 'your' field.

        In this case, she can no longer perform her job after much accomodations, but it is obvious that she can work somewhere else, and is not disabled outside the work place.
  • Hmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamesoutlaw (87295) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:30AM (#2122118) Homepage
    Well.. I typically "lean left" politically, but in this case, I agree with the courts. It appears that the employer made reasonable efforts to accommodate the reporter.

    I wonder what type of medical treatment she had... if I remember correctly, there are surgical techniques that can be performed to correct these types of injuries.

    I also wonder how much effort she put into researching assistive technologies- other than voice recognition. In 1997, voice recognition technology might not have been adequate, but currently, I think that's a very viable option. Via Voice appears to be a great product (of course, I'm making that judgement based only on the demo's I've seen).

    She's got all kinds of employment opportunities.. it looks like she's just looking for an easy way out. When people are put into a difficult situation, they can play one of two roles: the "helpless victim" and the "adapt and overcomer". I saw a woman once who had no arms but still used a computer. She typed with her toes. If that woman can use a computer, I see no reason why the reporter in this article could not adapt and overcome her injuries. It looks like she's rather be a "helpless victim".
  • my wrists have started to hurt a lot these days. Ive been trying to change the workstation, exercise, etc, with mixed results. I type for a living - they'll fire me if I can't, and I have bills to pay. But since I could still flip burgers I am not disabled ?

    Keep in mind the judges that rendered this decison get a fat pension FOR LIFE - they have no idea what it will mean to have to choose between a fuel bill and a box of mac and cheese.

  • Hawkins said that McClatchy presented evidence that Thornton could find alternative work as a teacher or free-lancer, and also that she was still able to perform many manual tasks.
    You know, somebody with no legs could also find alternative work as a teacher or free-lancer (whatever that is.) Let's classify them as `not disabled' too!
  • What if you have a Masters in Computer Science, and you have a car accident and damage your hands to the point of not being able to use a computer. According to this ruling, would they just tell the poor guy that he has to go flip burgers for the rest of his life?
    • I find that a lot of time is spent thinking, and designing. Not just typing.

      One could also learn one of several programming languages designed by non-typists for non-typists. (i.e. C, Perl)
    • Exactly..

      "In this case, Thornton was able to perform a wide range of manual tasks, including grocery shopping, driving, making beds, doing laundry and dressing herself," wrote Judge Michael Daly Hawkins in Thornton v. McClatchy Newspapers, 01 C.D.O.S. 7070. "Her inability to type and write for extended periods of time is not sufficient to outweigh the large number of manual tasks that she can perform."

      They didn't define 'extended' periods ? 10 minutes , 20 ?

      As for the pain of CTS I know it all to well (thank God for my Kinesis keyboard)... I also had surgery in Feb to repair torn ligiments and shorten the arm bone (the cause of the torn ligaments). After that my CTS improved in that arm (now I just pray that my other arm gets better)....

    • by chinton (151403)

      Two points...

      One, get a better analogy -- if you can't use your hands well enough to use a computer, then you won't be able to flip burgers... :^)

      Two, if you can't do the job -- for whatever reason -- then you shouldn't have it. Yes, that is kind of harsh, but take another example. A brilliant surgeon loses the use of his hands -- would you still let him operate on you? Would anyone? Should his hospital be forced to keep him employed in the same position?

    • by Jon Peterson (1443) <jon@snowdr[ ].org ['ift' in gap]> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @10:35AM (#2159533) Homepage
      What if you are an artist and become colour blind?
      What if you are a pilot and develop mild epilepsy?
      Hell, what if you are a sailor and develop severe sea sickness?

      It's bad luck. Life sucks somtimes. You have to get on a deal with it. These days people think the world owes them something, that they have some kind of right to be compensated for really bad things happening.

      There is no such right. If I get hit by lightening and paralysed from the waist down, our society will keep me alive. It will give me a home, food, some level of nursing care perhaps. Hopdfully my friends and family will give me something more. But society does not, and should not, give me recompense for my misfortune. It should not pay for me to go on disabled people's skiing holidays just because I could have gone skiing before. It should not require everyone and their dog to bend over backwards to make my life better. It does not give me any moral superiority over anyone at all.

      Sometimes, life just sucks. It's nice to know that, unlike most people in the world, when we get blinded, crippled, or otherwise screwed up, we will not have to walk the streets in filthy rags begging, or to stare at the concrete walls of a hospital for the rest of our days.

      • What if you are an artist and become colour blind? What if you are a pilot and develop mild epilepsy? Hell, what if you are a sailor and develop severe sea sickness? It's bad luck. Life sucks somtimes. You have to get on a deal with it. These days people think the world owes them something, that they have some kind of right to be compensated for really bad things happening. Is it bad luck if the artist went blind due to paint thinner being splashed into her eyes at work? What if the employer did not supply the artist with appropriate safety supplies to keep it from happening in the first place? Is the artist then a lazy ass because she goes after the employer under the ADA? Surely the pilot isn't going to develop mild epilepsy due to flying a plane -- unless he experiences an injury while doing so. The point you fail to see is the injury is due to excessive typing -- doing a work-related task, probably *at* work or at least *doing* work for the company with whom she was employed. While I don't think I have enough information to determine whether or not she's "substantially limited" I do believe that given the information I do have, it *did* seem a little excessive for them to terminate her. Either way, just because she can't do what she is experienced in any longer doesn't mean she is a lazy oaff for not wanting to change careers. Not only is there a factor of not WANTING to change careers, but most people who are 40+ years old, i would think, would have a hard time finding a new career to sustain themselves. Try a little sympathy for the person's situation. You're probably in the computer industry, like most of us are. Heaven forbid if you're one of the unlucky of us that gets incredibly crippling carpal tunnel. Maybe if that happens, we can all visit you at McDonald's to tell you how much life sucks. But then, we probably wouldn't understand.
      • by Chris Johnson (580)
        Absolutely- and thanks for the perspective, it's what I needed to hear.

        Articles like this always tend to freak me out. I'm one of the more autistic geeks out there- couldn't finish school, couldn't keep a normal job because of 'Asperger's Syndrome', a sort of communication-enabled autism. Nobody knew what the hell it was when I was growing up. I developed an ulcer and tried everything from pizza cook to inventory and stockroom for a guitar pickup company, continually getting 'fired in sorrow' by people who knew that I was killing myself _trying_ to do what they wanted, but something was just not fitting somewhere. I turned to drugs (BAD F**KING MOVE) which helped stave off suicide for the time being. I ended up in debt, in a homeless shelter, from there to a psych ward (voluntarily- beat the homeless shelter as long as I behaved well enough to be legitimately allowed to refuse psych meds) and it was there that I found an advocate that got me on social security Disability.

        That has meant a lot over the last 6 years or so. I'd never been able to live free from fear of homelessness or hunger before. Your mention of 'skiing holidays' was wonderful because it put things in perspective- I live on about $6K a year. No car (I don't consider myself fit to drive), no DVD player, no cable TV, yada yada. And yet being free from hunger and the destruction of my former life is such a blessing that I feel guilty when reading the harangues of people with ten or twenty times the income and resources of me!

        I used to be lazy- or something that looked like it but was more like being stressed into immobility. Once I had the ability to define things on my own terms for a while, it turned out I wasn't lazy, and now I even court RSI ( ;) ) doing things that I like, or things that I mostly like that seem to be a path out of Disability towards a niche I can actually handle. For instance, I'm doing things related to costuming and finding there are actually people out there who'll pay money for that. Great! And so I do that for 12 hour days, alternating with days where I can't face it and sit back and don't do it anymore. I always liked audio and sound engineering, and one thing I taught myself over the last couple years is programming (in 'REALbasic'- sort of RAD language like a cleaner VB), and I now maintain an audio mastering program that I wrote for my own use- but GPLed.

        *ramble* sorry for the ramble. All this strikes _very_ close to home. The upshot is, actually, that I don't have total sympathy for this reporter. I think it's great if she gets SSI and is allowed to live on about 6K a year (trust me, one can) to provide a space for her to learn what else she can do. I _don't_ think she is entitled to stick to what she _thinks_ she 'is' in life. At different times, I've thought I 'was' a cook, a stockroom person, a writer for The Absolute Sound (got several articles published actually), a Mac tech, etc. I don't believe any of these things really were so suitable that I should have been allowed to _stick_ myself in that role permanently. I'm glad I moved on from those things, and can draw on all of it as I continue in life.

        I think the biggest reason this woman deserved to lose this particular case is because life changes, seemingly faster and faster, and you can't put down an anchor. The most you can ask for is a damn good life raft. I have that, I use it- I don't bitch that the government doesn't give me more money or expect it to under-write the possible paths _away_ from disability for me. It'll take longer for me to chisel out a niche in society this way. That's okay. By the time I do, the niche may not last, but I'll have got good enough at chiseling out niches that I'll no longer fear anything.

        My advice to this reporter would be: can you sit back and take stock without fear of homelessness and starvation at this point, and what other roles in life could you see yourself filling?

      • What if you are an artist and become colour blind?
        What if you are a pilot and develop mild epilepsy?
        Hell, what if you are a sailor and develop severe sea sickness?

        What if you're deaf and you're a composer? Oh wait...

  • by linuxpng (314861) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:16AM (#2126531)
    When someone files for disability, they receive money from the federal government stating that they cannot work. Say some construction guy has been working on houses for 20 years and is finally to old and worn out (due to injuries) that he can no longer build houses or whatever. He files for disability to help him live. Well what happens when a 55 year old programmer has carpel tunnel or arthritis? I guess you should hope by the time you reach that age you can dictate your code to the computer. I think this is not as obvious as it first seems.
    • who has carpel tunnel or arthritis ... it's time for management and a big bottle of asprin.
    • She has another very clear shot at $$ from her employer. Under recent changes in California law, virtually everyone is disabled if they have a disorder or a condition that merely limits a major life activity (which includes working). The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to rule on this part of the law.
    • Personally, I plan on retiring before I hit 55. There is this neat strategy called "not living beyond your needs", and an other called "taking advantage of your companies 401k plan". I don't mean to sound harsh, but talk to a financial advisor. Take control of your own future.

      What happens when a 55 yo programmer has carpel tunnel or arthritis? If he is smart, and has planned well, he bids his currrent employer a tearful goodbye, and spends the rest of his days in the carribean.

      Just my take on the matter.

  • ...Johnny Cochran is filing a law suit on behalf of Edward Scissorhands for being fired from the programmer position he held at Microsoft.

    Edward Scissorhands, one might recall, was the chief architect of the Microsoft split keyboard.

  • This is ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tim Macinta (1052) <twm@alum.mit.edu> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @10:20AM (#2131427) Homepage
    The government in the US is terribly inconsistent. There was a story back in 1999 about a phone sex operator suing for workers compensation because she got carpel tunnel from masturbating on the job . She won. On a fundamental level, the big difference is that the phone sex worker could have conceivably still performed her job because her voice is the only essential capability needed for it. A reporter, on the other hand, would be seriously put out by the loss of her hands. Something is terribly backwards in these outcomes.

    Oh well... I'm probably missing something here. Perhaps qualifiying as "disabled" under the ADA is more stringent than the requirements for workers comp. Or perhaps, as another poster mentioned, there is more to this case than the defense attorney is letting on. Or maybe this phone sex worker story is an urban legend (a Salon article [salon.com] was the most reputable reference I could find to back it up). I'm hoping something like this will explain the discrepency here.

  • Purpose of the ADA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edp (171151) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @10:30AM (#2133068) Homepage

    A number of the responses speak to whether the inability to type is a disability with regard to the job. Of course it is, but that isn't the issue. In fact, a law that required employers to let people who cannot do the job do the job would be stupid, even in this age of stupid laws.

    A purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act (which I do not necessarily agree with) is to let people who are disabled in life be employed. The idea is that a blind person ought to be able to find some employment that they can do and not have an employer turn them away because they are blind and a nuisance. The idea is not (I hope) to prohibit employers from turning a person away because they cannot do the job.

    So, if a person cannot type, they should not be entitled to a job that requires typing. (Of course, if an employer caused the disability, perhaps they should be liable for that.) And since typing does not prevent most of life's activities and not any critical activities and, in all likelihood, does not prevent a person from finding some other job, this disability does not qualify for protection by law from discrimination.

    Again, the ADA is intended to protect people who would be discriminated against on grounds unrelated to their ultimate ability (that is, with remediation) to do the job, not to protect people who would be discriminated against on grounds related to their ability. (I think the ADA goes too far, protecting people who will have much less net productivity than more qualified workers, but this is unrelated to whether it does apply in this case.)

  • by spiderlog (472336)
    The article listed a bunch of accommodations her employer obviously made to help this woman continue on in her job, so they probably aren't heartless bastards. Plus, just because you can't type doesn't mean you can't use some sort of voice recognition/dictation software in lieu of a keyboard.

    I'm a wholehearted supporter of the ADA, but so many suits today are on the fringes of what the original legislation was supposed to protect. And, regardless of the fact that employers win over 90% of ADA related cases (many due to the "undue burden" clause), frivolous cases such as this only spawn more frivolous cases.
  • by Nivla (515687) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @10:13AM (#2135741) Homepage
    I was involved in an accident a few years ago that left me missing two fingers on my left hand. That of course make normal keyboarding impossible. I am an IT professinal and I have never been cut any slack becasue of my (and I hate using this term) disablity, and never thought I deserved any either, I have to applaud the court for not buckling under pressure and finally saying that SOMETHING was NOT a disablity.
  • furthermore (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linuxpng (314861) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:30AM (#2141337)
    We basically have the defense attorney's side of the story. The story basically suggests that she became too much of a burden on the company (cost wise) and they fired her. What happens if the other side of the story is she came in 2 hours late, took a 3 hour lunch and left at 3:00 in the afternoon while hanging out at the coffee machine most of the day? I know it's a gross exaggeration, but where is the company's side? I posted earlier that I supported disability for this kind of issue, but I think there must be something more going on behind the scenes in this issue that we have not been told.
  • well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NeoTomba (462540)
    There go my chances to live out the American Dream.

    Thinking about it now, I guess my plan to claim that I was a programmer who couldn't type was flawed from the start...

    -NeoTomba

    • Re:well... (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by LNO (180595)
      No complaints about the post itself, but what sort of asinine moderator marks the First Post as "Redundant?"
    • Re:well... (Score:2, Informative)

      by su steve (306535)

      As devastating as it must be to find that you can no longer type 120 WPM, every occupation has its hazards, heck, normal day to day life has them too. RSI is a well-known condition, but until a 'new' keyboard is developed which doesn't require such finger-wrist-contortion that's just life.

      When did this 'shit-happens' -> 'let's sue' conversion of society (especially in the US) take place?
      I know she lost her job, but she couldn't do it anymore. Footballers who get old get layed off, models who lose their looks loose their jobs, typists who can't type loose their jobs... life sucks, get over it.

      Is typing-imparement a disability? I guess so, it's certainly a problem. However, if said disability was self-inflicted? She was using office equipment, but I'm sure they wouldn't have objected to her using her own keyboard if she had one that didn't cause her problems.

      At the end of the day, this problem wouldn't have 'just happened', it would have got worse and worse. A doctor may well have advised her to change her vocation. To leave the problem to get to a critical stage without doing anything (other than change furniture) is just plain stupid.

      I've got to stop typing now, my fingers are hurting; RSI as a programmer sucks, maybe I'll sue.

      • Re:well... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Mr. Troll (202208)
        Sing it out man.......

        This is pretty self explanitory, no? If you can't do the job, then you should not be employed to do said job. I remember the big whoopla about the lowering of standards of physical strength for certain jobs (firefighters in particualar). Immagine the loss of family members in a house fire because a small weak firefighter couldn't carry them out. Well dear reader, take comfort in the knowlege that your loved one died so that a person could do what they wanted to do for a living, rather than what they were qualified for.

  • Common Sense (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jon Peterson (1443) <jon@snowdr[ ].org ['ift' in gap]> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @08:57AM (#2154102) Homepage
    The dissenter said "the majority's ruling ignores the reality that computers and the ability to type and write are essential skills in the modern world."

    But, the person in question _could_ type and write - just not fast and not for extended periods of time. A small minority of jobs require being able to type or write extensively.

    Many fat middle aged Americans can't walk or run either fast or for an extended period of time, but they don't get away with disability allowance for that.
    • i guess that all depends on how you earn a living. for me this is a problimatic ruling because i am a software engineer/programmer. i spent many years of my life in school getting trained to work on a computer. its what i do. if i could not earn a living (in what i have spent my highschool/college training for) because of RSI i would sure as hell consider myself disabled. sure i can go and get a job doing somthing else but by the time you have RSI you have more then likely built a career and a life around the computer. i would compare it to a construction worker with a bad back, they have the ability to work on computers and do other jobs but the fact of the matter is that they would get dissabilty, because they cant do their job.
    • Very True (Score:2, Insightful)

      by neoshmeng (467015)
      I have a step brother who is quadraplegic. He can move his arms, but not his hands. He types using gloves with a 'stick' on each glove. He IS disabled but he can still type, just not very fast. In fact, he is the webmaster at a major university.

      It's hard to say whether or not she should qualify for being disabled since she will live almost a completely normal life, but she should definately get worker's compensation.

      And getting a termination letter from her employer like that...That's just a cruel thing to do. What jerks!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16, 2001 @08:58AM (#2154119)
    for Taco. He was hoping claim a combination grammatical/typo handicap.
  • Hrmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the_ph0x` (170740) <the_ph0x@hotmail.como> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @08:59AM (#2154166) Homepage
    Someone loses their ability to work in their profession and, for most, participate in their hobby/mental exercise/what-have-you then they are disabled. How does this not apply to typing? Unless someone wants to get me a nerve implant right to my brain/spinal cord, Ima fight that if anything happens to my hands to where I can't type.

    .ph0x
    • PC-ness aside, there is a significant difference between someon who requires some accomodation for a diminished capacity and someone who is unable to perform the minimum required tasks of their employment.

      The employer's obligation is to ignore dimished capabilities that do not affect job performance. They can't refuse to hire someone on the basis of an incidental disability. The most certainly can refuse to hire someone who is incapable of performing the essential job tasks.

      I don't argue that a person who is unable to type isn't going to face fewer job prospects. I just think it misses the point-- laws against discrimination are expected to protect people from discrimination, not force employers to find work for disabled people.

    • Re:Hrmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by treat (84622)
      Someone loses their ability to work in their profession and, for most, participate in their hobby/mental exercise/what-have-you then they are disabled. How does this not apply to typing? Unless someone wants to get me a nerve implant right to my brain/spinal cord, Ima fight that if anything happens to my hands to where I can't type.

      So she chose a profession that she could not perform adequately, and now wants others to be forced to allow her to do it anyway. Does this apply to any skill, or just typing? Can I be a sprinter if I weigh 300 pounds and can't run? Can I be deaf and have a job that requires talking on the phone all day? Can I be blind and direct traffic?

      Oh, but typing is different - it's a physical activity that some people can't perform a great deal of. OK, how about construction or garbage collection. Jobs that require constant physical exertion. Many people can't handle this. Should the ADA protect them?

      The ADA was meant to protect people who, say, are in a wheelchair, and could do their job if only there were a ramp up the stairs so they can get into the office. That's a far stretch from someone who lacks a basic requirement for the job.

  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:00AM (#2154168) Homepage
    Where are the people who are against this decision...?

    oh wait.
  • by sadcox (173714) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:02AM (#2154232) Homepage Journal
    I was hoping to use this ruling to force the NBA to let me play, even though I can't run, jump, dribble, or shoot.
  • bias (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jaredcat (223478) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:04AM (#2154247)
    Obviously the comments posted here will all be biased against the proposed new law. After all, you have to be able to type to post here, don't you? Most of the SlashDot readers type for a living anyway. That really limits those with an opposing view from being represented in this discussion.

    Now imagine if one day you stopped being able to type... Its not impossible... Maybe you suffered nerve damage in your hands, or you lost a few fingers in a farming accident. There are lots of ways to gain this particular disability. You wouldn't be able to work, you wouldn't be able to play computer games, and you wouldn't be able to chat on IRC. Worst of all, you wouldn't be able to post comments about your plight on message boards like SlashDot that have no provisions for those suffering from this particular disability.
    • I'll bite:

      There are, as I see it, two reasons not the be able to type:

      1) Just not taking the time to learn/practice the ability.

      2) Some physical defect

      IANAL, but, in case two, to descriminate against the person for not being able to type would be decrimination against their physical disability, which would be against the law (correct?) .

      In case one it's not any more descrimination for a job than if someone applies to be a web-designer and doesn't know HTML. In that case it's just that the person isn't qualified for the job.

      Then again, I could be wrong. Just the way I see it.

      • If you would have actually read the article you would realise that it is case 3..... Used to be able to type but can not anymore due to a RSI.
        I can't believe how many people post w/out a clue of what the story is actually about
  • Unless employers are required to make reasonable accomodations for disabled employees, they will preferentially hire those with no disability. But many people with a minor disability can still be much more productive in their chosen profession than they would be doing some other work which their disability does not impact. By the government guaranteeing a level playing field (by prohibiting taking the disability into account, not by prohibiting choosing the person who is most qualified in all other regards, ignoring the disability), we allow people not to be blacklisted from their careers because of a disability that could be reasonably accomodated. Those who claim the free market will resolve this would say that the employee, who is less productive than employees without a disability, should be willing to work for less, but still earn more than they would outside their profession. But most large organizations have standard salary scales, and could not make special deals with everyone based on their perceived productivity. So the free market does not work in this case. People who liken the inability to type due to RSI to the inability to type due to laziness or stupidity are bad people. And the stupid should not be discriminated against either. Some people may have misunderstood the article - the employer provided some minimal accomodation (chairs, etc - these are just paying lip service to the need to prevent RSI), but refused to provide speech-to-text capability, saying it was an unreasonable accomodation. Or even worse, they claimed that the disability didn't fall under the ADA, and therefore they didn't even have to make reasonable accomodations.
  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:35AM (#2155066) Homepage
    First, being a reporters is different from being a software developer. A reporter deals in a human language -- words are not as mutable as variable names. Blower is a old newspaper term describing a person who takes news reports over the phone and types them up.

    Second, with an RSI, it does not only prevent one from using a keyboard, but when severe, you have problems sleeping (from the pain), and eating (because you keep droping things), or shopping, because your hand strength goes to almost nothing.

    You also have to keep in mind that the ADA analysis is a fact specific test that is done on a case by case basis. There are circuits that ruled in one case that CTS is a disability, and in another ruled that it was not. This does not say if they also considered the state disability laws - which have a different standard for disability.

  • by NNKK (218503) <nknight@runawaynet.com> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:14AM (#2155166) Homepage
    Consider, a blind person can dress him/herself, do laundry, make a bed, even shop in some cases. They cannot drive, of course, however they can get around by walking or bus. And in some cases, someone with carpal tunnel or similar may not be able to drive safely, as the pain it causes their wrists can be extreme.

    There was one comment on slashdot recently about a man who owned a small computer company, who was completely blind, but walked around without a cane or any sort of guide, built, troubleshooted, took apart, added to, computers by touch, using brail or text-to-speech for interaction with the computers, etc.
    However, if they had fired this reporter because she'd gone blind, she would likely have won without trouble.
    Voice recognition is COMPLETELY viable, even in 1997 it was usable, esspecialy if the user had some use of their hands to allow for manual corrections when neccisary. All they would have had to do was spend a few hundred dollars on Dragon Naturally Speaking, and a few bucks on a microphone, and everything would have been fine.
  • by ReelOddeeo (115880) on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:19AM (#2157818)
    Programming Languages fall into two categories:
    1. Languages designed by people who can type (i.e. Pascal, Modula2, Basic, Fortran)
    2. Languages designed by those who can't (C, Perl)
  • Okay, well the ADA doesn't apply if the person is a reporter, because presumibly a reporter has many other tasks than simply typing stuff into the computer (research etc.) and could concievably simply write longhand and get someone to copy it. Therefore inability to type is not a substantial limitation.

    Now reading the decision this appears to be a very narrowly constructed decison. The court doesn't appear to make any statements about typing ability in general, only in the specific case of this specific reporter.

    That would presumibly leave open avenues of pursuit for other professions, programmers -- typists (are there any of these anymore?), keypunch operators, stenographers and whatnot.
  • I can't type, and I'm avery highly paid engineer!

    Thinking is a whole lot mroe improtant then typing.

  • She's an Ingrate! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JCMay (158033) <JeffMayNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Thursday August 16, 2001 @09:17AM (#2158165) Homepage
    Let me get this straight...

    She complains in 1994, so the paper buys her special office furniture to help. A few years later she complains and they give her an extended leave to recouperate. A few years later she complains again and the paper decides that they can't do anything else to help her so they let her go.

    This is discriminatory? It seems to me that they bent over backwards to help her do her work. About the only thing they didn't do is inject painkillers directly into her wrists.

    What are they supposed to do? They publish newspapers and are not in the healthcare business. Staff writers that, after that much accomodation, can't write are a liability.

    Perhaps they should have made her do weight training excercises to prevent this kind of injury. Weight training has been shown to increase bone density, muscle mass and tone, joint stability and more. Face it: the human body was not designed for desk work.

    • by L41N14L (205602)
      I'd have to agree. My sympathy for this woman vanished as soon as it said that she'd sued for discrimination. It sounds like the newspaper did everything they could for her (including trying to reassign her), and then let her go when it became clear that she couldn't do the job. It seems like the only way they could avoid being sued would be to pay her a salary for doing nothing.

      While it's clearly important that employers do as much as they can to support employees with disadvantages, such as this woman, there comes a point when they simply can't do the job any more. It's not their fault, but at the same time, it's not the employer's fault, and they certainly don't deserve to be taken to court over it.

      I've seen companies bend over backwards to accommodate workers with disabilities. But at the end of the day, they need employees who can produce for them. It sucks, but there are some jobs that physically can't be done by some people. I for instance can't juggle, so I don't work in a circus.

      • But the difference here (or so it appears) is that the job caused the disability. In general, Worker's Comp [in the US] is pretty simple...if something you do on the job prevents you from continuing to work, the company gets to pay you your salary to either not work or to work wherever they can find a place for you (even if that position would not normally have that payrate). So, yes, this is a job that she physically cannot do...but she cannot do it because she has been doing the job. So it is the company's responsibility to take care of her in the same way that the Air Force should take care of a mechanic with 30 years' service who gets carpal tunnel and can't turn a wrench anymore./p.

        • GOD I am so sick and tired of COMPANIES having to cater to all you wimpy-ass people who think is is your GOD GIVEN RIGHT to work at a company and EXPECT them to BEND OVER BACKWARDS to make sure YOU are taken care of. THAT IS NOT THEIR RESPONSIBILTY. If they do, GREAT! That's a company I want to work for (like pensions and healthcare). YOU get PAID for your work. Period! Anything beyond that is gravy from your comapny. If you can PROVE that the POLICY or ENVINRONMENT of the company DIRECTLY CAUSED her problem and did nothing to recify then you have a case. Not here. If you develope a medical problem that is NOT due to SPECIFIC actions that the company has you perform, I do not see where she has a leg to stand on. Typing is type. No matter WHERE she goes, she cant type. WHY is her current employer responsible for her problem? It would develope ANYWHERE she typed for a living. All you whiners out there GROW UP AND BECOME ADULTS AND ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF! p.s. I have owned several business and have a lot of experience here.

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