Not long ago I wrote about providing accommodations people really need as opposed to those others think they should have. It seems the accommodations offered are often seen as easier or less expensive than the accommodations requested.
Here is a case in point. My friend, Ed, was invited by email to participate in a conference call/webinar about a topic of interest to him. Because Ed has hearing loss he knew the conference call would be a problem; he would be unable to understand what was being spoken. Ed called the organization sponsoring the conference call to request real time captioning so he could participate on the same level as everyone else involved. Ed, already a volunteer raising thousands of dollars for the non-profit, offered to help the organization arrange for the captioning by providing the name and phone number of the local captioning agency.
Here is what Ed was told by the employee to whom he spoke:
- I can email you the PowerPoint presentation in advance so you won’t have to worry about it during the call. The speaker will just go over it.
- I can arrange to meet with you and go over the presentation at a later date.
- If it were in my power I would do that for you. Unfortunately the decision is made at the national office; but don’t worry I’ll email them about it.
- I understand your frustration.
Why are those options not good for Ed? They aren’t good because they don’t work for him.
Having the slides in advance does not change the fact that Ed will be unable to hear what the presenter says. Have you ever attended a presentation during which the speaker says only the words on the slides? Any decent speaker embellishes. A good presenter uses the slides as a framework and builds on it with additional information which Ed would miss.
The same holds true if an employee of the organization brings the presentation to Ed later. He can see the slides, but misses the additional information provided by the speaker. He also misses out on the interaction between the speaker and the listeners during the question and answer session where even more information is imparted.
As for local office versus home office, Ed doesn’t care who makes the decision. He only wants to know someone is arranging the accommodation he needs
When the staffer claimed to understand Ed’s frustration Ed became politely upset. The staffer, a person who hears quite well, could never understand Ed’s frustration with a lack of proper accommodations. Perhaps the staffer was able to ascertain that Ed was growing increasingly frustrated during their conversation, but here his wording was inaccurate and unfortunate.
It appeared to Ed the organization was trying to get away with providing other accommodations that would cost them less than real time captioning. The captioning would cost under $150. What would it cost for an organization employee to drive 60 miles to meet with Ed to review the presentation and then drive 60 miles back to the office?
There is an additional cost. By not providing an accommodation the organization probably has lost Ed as a fundraising volunteer. It is unlikely Ed will continue to endorse the organization to others.
All in all it is much less expensive to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person with a disability.