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March 03, 2006 | Read comments | Post a comment

Apologies all around

There's been a rash of news stories about people asking for apologies, people offering apologies, people saying apologies aren't enough. What is it with all the apologizing?

On Tuesday, Ragged Edge posted a story from Dave Reynolds' Inclusion Daily about San Diegan Joany Schlender wanting bowling alley staffers to apologize for their treatment of her daughter.

"Parkway Bowl manager Bill Rossman later told a reporter that his employees are sorry Tiffani did not get to bowl that day," Reynolds writes.

In that same edition of Inclusion Daily, Reynolds had another story that featured an apology. In this one, Charleston, SC Municipal Court Judge George Epps apologizes for remarks he's made earlier -- in court -- about a man's service dog. The man, Bob Godfrey, didn't accept the apology, though. (Here are two stories about the incident: "Judge apologizes for comments about dog in court" (Associated Press via Myrtle Beach Sun) and "Dander still up over dog" (Post and Courier))

The next day's Inclusion Daily also featured an apology story: An 11-year-old boy with CP in Wales has demanded an apology from police -- he says officers made him get off his motorized scooter to prove he couldn't walk and actually needed the scooter. (For more on this apology, read "Police 'made disabled boy walk'" (BBC News)

On Monday, we'd also posted an Inclusion Daily news story that featured an apology -- this one about DC's messed up paratransit system: "Last Thursday, Metro board Chair Gladys W. Mack publicly apologized for the poor service, and said that an ad hoc panel would be appointed to hear directly from riders," wrote Reynolds, who went on to report that Harold Snider, who heads the Montgomery County Commission for People With Disabilities, suggested that what was needed was better service, not an apology.

I suppose it's good to see that folks are at least apologizing for bad behavior. But I think Snider and Godfrey are onto something, frankly, and I'm glad to see it being reported. I think too often people, when caught and called on the carpet about discriminatory or bigoted treatment, think they need only apologize and everything will be fine. But an apology doesn't guarantee they'll change any of their behavior.

It seems to me that often the people apologized to are then prodded to accept the apology and go on, even if lasting change does not occur. I've certainly seen that many times in my own work with disability activists.

If the activist doesn't accept the apology; if the activist then insists that the behavior change, then they're labeled spoilsports.

I hope that doesn't happen with either Snider or Godfrey. Judge Epps should be held to account for his bigoted remarks. And it's way way past time for DC's paratransit system to be forced to obey the law.

Posted by mjohnson on March 3, 2006 10:09 AM



Someone - maybe you or Dave Reynolds - should try to "pitch" the stories to Diversity, Inc. They've been doing more of them over the past year or so. The first two stories - based in the U.S. - might be something they'd run with if someone called their attention to the items.

Posted by: Stephen Drake on March 3, 2006 12:43 PM

I've had a continuing issue with my car dealership; they consistently park showroom cars in the handicapped permit spaces, over the curb cuts, etc. I've spoken to managers, I've written, I've called, and every time the response is precisely the same:

Abject apology, shock and ignorance that this practice is occurring, promises that it will be taken care of.

Obviously the first is insincere, the second disingeneous, and the third a lie.

Yesterday I was there picking up parts, and they had hit the inaccessibility jackpot: they had cars parked in every access aisle (not the handicapped spaces, just the striped access aisles) blocking the curbcuts, a car on the sidewalk blocking a curbcut, and a car in the entrance circle blocking a curbcut. There was literally no way to get on to the curb.

Once I got in, I dragged the owner outside with me, and starting giving her chapter and verse about access aisles. She must have apologized five times before I hollered, "DO NOT apologize to me again!"

And she said, "What else can I do? I can't police this!"

It's enough to make you cry. This is what passes for customer service.

Posted by: Katja on March 4, 2006 09:37 PM

The article by Harlan Hahn which has just been posted on Ragged Edge reminds us that employers will try all sorts of things to get rid of disabled employees -- employers in this case being universities. And speaking of universities, as if we needed a reminder that they might not be all that keen about accommodating their disabled -- faculty or students -- Monday's Washington Post brings us the story of the suicidal teen whom Georget Washington University tried to get rid of lest he cause them problems:

The above is a cut-and-paste from your website. I'm writing because Jordan Nott was not suicidal at any time. He never contemplated committing suicide nor formulated a plan to do so. He was disturbed because he was thinking about suicide in a general way, partly in the context of his friend's suicide, but he didn't think about committing suicide himself. You might have said that he had suicidal thoughts, but the comment that he was suicidal was inaccurate.


Posted by: Dan on June 4, 2006 02:59 PM

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