As we all know, it is quite difficult for a blind person to find gainful and productive employment, not necessarily through his own fault, but mostly because of society. There are many employers who not only feel that the blind can’t compete on equal terms with the sighted on the job, but are also at risk on that job. We know that neither one of these assumptions are true, and thankfully there are people who know what the blind are capable of.
Since College, I was employed eight times, and for the most part my bosses weren’t worried about how I conducted myself, because they saw how I handled things on a day to day basis. Having said that, I ran into a problem while working as a receptionist for a construction company. I worked there, without incident, for nearly a year, but then, for whatever reason, the company had to relocate to another building. Suddenly, my job was on the second floor, not the first. Despite how confident I am about new surroundings no matter where I go, my boss had a different idea once I started my job on the second floor. I wasn’t at my desk for no more than a few minutes when he approached me with an affidavit to sign. He wanted me to agree not to sue the company for any liability if I happen to fall down the stairs. In his mind, being the sue happy society that we are, it wouldn’t take much for my family and I to sue him if I fell, especially if I was injured. At the same time, one of my sighted co workers slipped on a banana peal in the office and fell. Do you think my boss asked him to sign such an agreement? No, because the other guy was sighted, and I suppose my boss felt that the sighted employee had no reason to fall down the stairs like I allegedly do.
Needless to say, I refused to sign the agreement, using the logic that anyone can fall down his stairs for any reason, whether the person is blind or sighted, so why should I release the company from any liability just because I’m blind? What if my boss, or one of his other workers, left an obstacle in my way? According to my boss, I’m blind, so it wouldn’t be his fault. He didn’t say that, but what else would you think if he purposely asked me to agree to release his company from liability while he never approached his sighted workers in this fashion?
For several days, my boss insisted that I sign the agreement, but I continued to refuse. Finally, his lawyer must have told him to stop insisting that I sign the agreement, because it was never mentioned again, and I know that he approached his lawyer to find out what legal leg he had to stand on, where I kept refusing to sign.
Have any of you had similar experiences on the job? It wouldn’t surprise me if you had, because it’s as I said, lots of employers are worried about how their blind workers conduct themselves. These employers don’t know that the blind are at no more risk for injury on the job than the sighted. Any insurance agent can testify to that.
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind