Finger Pointing 101

This NY Times article asks the question “If everyone is finger pointing, who’s to blame?” And sometimes that’s a really good question to ask, especially when dealing with advocacy issues.

Are things as bleak as they are portrayed sometimes when someone with a disability needs to resolve an access issue? On the other hand, are business owners the victims of people with disabilities who have huge senses of “entitlement” as some business owners claim?

Neither of these polarized views represents the truth of most situations. And finger pointing at each other in such situations only serves to widen the gap, rather than narrow it through possible conflict resolution. Negotiations aren’t likely to happen when people act as if they’re at war with each other and feel hopeless about reaching any kind of middle ground.

So how do we eliminate finger pointing? Isn’t it true, you may ask, that people with disabilities are rightfully angry that they can’t get inside a business? On the other hand, business owners might ask with equal anger, shouldn’t they be exempt from such requirements if they can’t afford them?

Both parties have to learn to be realistic about certain facts. Some businesses can’t afford certain accommodations and the reasonable requirement of the ADA protects that. Exaggerating the ADA’s requirements is – well- self serving to those who can afford them.

And although one may have a right under the ADA to access, approaching a business owner with anger doesn’t usually lead to negotiations – or a resolution. So although the lack of access makes us angry, we sometimes have to remember that the approach we take to the problem may dictate whether we wind up getting a fast resolution – or having to file a complaint.

It may be true that finger pointing is an understandable reaction sometimes, but I suspect that the main reason it happens is that it feels good. After all, we all want to be one hundred per cent right. The rest of the world certainly seems to conduct its affairs with this outlook, based on this article.

But when working toward change that involves cooperation that you just can’t legislate, such an approach is not only unworkable, but often counterproductive.

Copyright 2008 Ruth Harrigan

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