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"It's the principle of the thing"

There's an old saying that goes: "when someone says it's about the principle, not the money, it's about the money." It's akin to Shakespeare's "methinks the lady doth protest too much."

Yesterday, I wrote about a blind activist who was turned away from touring the USS John F. Kennedy, undertaking her "farewell tour" and currently in Boston. I said that an active-duty warship, even one just about to be decommissioned, perhaps might not be the best place for a blind person to visit -- a warship has to be one of the least handicapped-accessible places in the world, and might even be a downright hostile environment.

(Hell, I'm technically not disabled, but I'd probably have trouble in some places on a modern warship -- I'm nowhere near as slender, flexible, or generally fit as today's sailors.)

That stirred up a bit of attention, including two comments someone claiming to be the subject of the piece (and after a brief investigation, I am fairly comfortable that it was, indeed, posted by Mr. Pyyhkala).

Well, Mr. Pyyhkala is back in the news again today. It seems that the Navy reached out to him and offered him a personal tour of the Big John. It seems that the ship had let most of its crew off on leave while in port, leaving only 800 crew members to man the ship and manage the crowds that reached roughly 3,500 an hour -- and a total of over 51,000 people. Now that the rush is over, they can spare a sailor or two to show him around the ship.

That isn't good enough for Mr. Pyyhkala. He doesn't want to visit the ship now. Instead, he wants an apology from the Navy -- and, perhaps, to set a precedent subjecting active-duty warships to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I see a very simple solution to all this: simply end public tours of active-duty warships. For everyone. If no warship is ever open for public tours, then there can be no discrimination.

This, of course, would suck -- and suck severely. But it would solve the problem.

The idea behind the ADA was long overdue. The notion that any public accomodation should be accessible to all Americans is a fundamental principle, and it was appropriately tempered with the "reasonable" caveat to prevent abuses. And in this case, the Navy acted most reasonably.

Warships are not safe places. They are not designed to be safe places. They are designed to fight -- and survive. They are designed for the safety of able-bodied, well-trained sailors, not civilians of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and fitness levels. And still every year sailors are injured -- or killed -- aboard them.

In a huge crowd like the Big John welcomed over the weekend, making sure a blind man gets his full experience without injuring or killing himself -- or others -- would require the services of at least one sailor. In the middle of the throngs over the weekend, they simply couldn't spare one. After the rush, they offered him his own tour -- and Mr. Pyyhkala refused to even return their phone calls.

Would it be considered "hate speech" if I were to say that Mr. Pyyhkala sounds like he has a long white stick with a red tip up his butt?


Comments (59)

There is absolutely nothing... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

There is absolutely nothing preventing a disabled person from being as much of a dick as anyone else. They are their own people, and should be judged on the merits of their actions as anyone else would be.

As a parent of a child with... (Below threshold)
Drewdog85:

As a parent of a child with cerbal Palsy I am disgusted with the ADA law and how its misused. Instead resulting in positive changes like lowering barriers to employment it actually deters business from hiring people with disabilties. If you hire them you have to accomidate them, but if you simply do not hire them, well you know the answer to that one.
Instead this dipstick wants to fight about military warships!!!!!

Lemme get this straight.</p... (Below threshold)
ExSubNuke:

Lemme get this straight.

He wanted a tour. Now he has the oportunity to get a special tour all to himself. And now he's refusing.

Folks, when I was in the Navy, and I gave a tour of my boat to a single person or small group, and there was no external pressure (like the pressure to "move along" to make way for the NEXT 3,500 people this hour), I gave a FAR more in depth tour.


I think we all know the REAL reason this guy is still pursuing legal action. And it doesn't have ANYTHING to do with touring a majestic and mighty ship of war.

Maybe they should offer him... (Below threshold)
matt:

Maybe they should offer him a self-guided tour. They could give him a map (in braille) or a PDA with spoken directions and he could wander the ship at will. After a while I'm sure they'd find him half starved to death, battered and bruised with his fingertips half worn off from trying to "see" everything. Maybe the could let him tour the flight deck without supervision, that is a relatively open, "freindly" space.

Since he can't see any of t... (Below threshold)
Tim:

Since he can't see any of the ship, maybe a more, say, kinetic experience would be best. Anyone for a tour of the catapults?

I see a very simpl... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
I see a very simple solution to all this: simply end public tours of active-duty warships. For everyone. If no warship is ever open for public tours, then there can be no discrimination.

I see an even simpler solution. It's called common sense. A warship need not be ADA compliant, nor open to the disabled. If we don't start applying common sense we'll soon have to pave the Grand Canyon to make it ADA compliant.

All that is required is a "... (Below threshold)

All that is required is a "reasonable accommodation." So, give the guy a helmet, elbow and knee pads so he won't hurt himself bumping into stuff.

Mika Pyyhkala from the firs... (Below threshold)
marc:

Mika Pyyhkala from the first thread: I have examined how the NFB is handling this, and I agree with the quotes they are entering in to the media.

One of the quotes he refers to: At the very least, United States Navy officials owe Mika Pyyhkala an apology for their conduct in this matter.

"Mr." Pyyhkala, sometimes less really is more.

You and your high priced shysters on retainers all need to take a longer walk off a long flight deck.

Oops... I should have added... (Below threshold)
marc:

Oops... I should have added, and leave the leaderdog behind.

We damn sure don't need PETA to join another frivolous lawsuit.

It's sad that this is the w... (Below threshold)
Tbird:

It's sad that this is the way the modern world works. The US Navy gives over 50,000 people a once in a life time experience and one anal orifice(I don't care if he is blind, he's still and a** hole) screws the whole thing up.

Tbird, I agree. Wonder if ... (Below threshold)
Gianni:

Tbird, I agree. Wonder if he has considered how many wont get to experience something he'll never be able to. Selfish prick. Maybe he can go get a braile experience at the zoo, lions, tigers, monkeys, snakes, bears, etc.

Whats next, we sue mother nature because the deaf cant hear birds chirp?

Hi,This is Mika Pyyh... (Below threshold)

Hi,
This is Mika Pyyhkala again, the person who was involved in the incident.

Unfortunately, I think many of the commenters here are overreacting to the difficulty that blindness poses. The ship does not need any modifications to make it accessible for a blind person.

I think a simple illustration of how the white cane works is in order. The blind person holds the cane in fromt of him or her, and the cane detects things like stairs, the edge of subway platforms, etc. There are techniques that a blind person uses, with proper training, to avoid getting hurt.

This notion that the Navy would need to somehow make modifications to the ship to allow me to board is absurd.

This is a classic case of the kind of discrimination people who are blind face. As Dr. Maurer said, people rely on these stereotypical "safety" concerns, and believe any discrimination can be done with impunity as long as it is for "safety."

I can assure you the ADA was passed because of this very problem, e.g. "safety" was used an an excuse or justification to prohibit people with disabilities from participating in certain activities. In most all cases, these "safety" concerns were unfounded.

Let me give you another real life example. When I was in college, I went velcro jumping with some friends in Kenmore square. When I first got to the club, the club tried to vbar me from velcro jumping? Guess why? You guessed it, that magic word, safety! They imagined it would be more dangerous for a blind person to velcro jump.

Then they agreed to let me participate, but (like the Navy) they wanted me to velcro jump not during the regular activity timee, but at some special pre-arranged time.

Instead eeventually I was allowed to velcro jump at the same time as others, and no, I didn't injure myself, kill myself, or have the slightest scrape.

I am no more likely to injure myself on this ship than someone who is sighted. Whether one gets injured is more a function of other factors.

After discussing the matter with NFB, we mutually felt that a tour without an admission that this conduct was wrong was not appropriate.

If the tour was open to the public, it should have been open to me as well. The blind are not going to stand for having to take tours or do other activities at "special" times, or to special restrictions based on unfounded safety concerns.

I have attached a link to NFB's blog, where they comment further on the tour that was offered yesterday.

Er, perhaps the JFK is buil... (Below threshold)

Er, perhaps the JFK is built differently than the other three ACC's I've toured, but in my experience, one is required to duck and dodge incessantly in order to avoid bumping one's head on pipes, valves, door portals, etc., and there is hardly enough room for two people to pass without turning sideways. A white cane doesn't help in such instances. What say you on this?

Yo Mika:Why don't yo... (Below threshold)
SShiell:

Yo Mika:
Why don't you come on down to the local golf course and play a round - and just for you we will let you have the whole course to yourself - at night!

SShiell, don't be an asshat... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

SShiell, don't be an asshat.

Mr. Pyyhkala may be completely in the wrong in his quest, but you're just being a dick.

Sorry Mike, but wavemaker makes a very valid point. ADA or no ADA who wants to risk a lawsuit if you are seriously injured? Not saying you would sue, although you seem to have close connections with lawyers.

SShiell,That's the... (Below threshold)
DSkinner:

SShiell,

That's the punchline to one of my favorite engineer jokes.

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning at the third tee while a particularly slow group of golfers were flailing away ahead of them.

Engineer: What's with these guys? We've been waiting for 15 minutes!

Doctor: I don't know but I've never seen such ineptitude!

Priest: Hey, here comes the green keeper. Let's have a word with him. Hi George. Say George, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?

George: Oh yes. That's a group of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight while saving our club house last year. So we let them play here anytime free of charge!

Doctor: Wow! Thanks for the scoop George.

Priest: That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.

Doctor: Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them.

After a short pause ...

Engineer: Why can't these guys play at night?

I went on the tour, and whi... (Below threshold)
Bunker:

I went on the tour, and while it was a lot of fun, we didn't see the Crews Quarters, the Control Tower, or any of the "small" areas on the ship. There were no pipes to duck under or anything on that line.

That being said- I don't think it was the place for an unescorted blind person. The Flight Deck and the Hanger were the only two areas open, and they were pock-marked with holes, tie-downs, and very uneven surfaces. The painted areas were also very slick- people were slipping (and kids were doing the run fast and see how far I can slide thing) on the painted stripes of the Flight Deck.

Basically we went up a very steep gang-plank that my girlfriend had an issue with (she was wearing stylish not sensible boots), once at the top- the area below the Flight Deck (the Hanger?) was open and had many stations (that were mostly for kids of various ages). Fire-fighting stations where kids dressed up in the suits, the little "Tug-Cars" that pull the aircraft that kids could sit in, and an fighter jet were examples of the stations.

The coolest part of the tour was taking the Giant elevator up to the Flight Deck. As Maxwell Smart would say "that is the second biggest elevator I have ever seen!" Very cool to go up on that.

The flight deck was much more fun than below deck to me- as it offered very unique views of Boston. It was a beautiful day and the city looked great.

There were also two planes on deck, another fighter and a Viking Sub Hunter type plane. The Viking had a pilot answering questions (and who was also very uncomfortable with the Boston Cold as he was from Florida) who was very informative.

Most of the crew I saw were on Guard duty- carrying weapons and wearing body armor. Security was fairly strict to get on- we had to go through airport like screening and metal detectors after 3 hours in line.

There were a few crewmen along the sides of the Flight Deck keeping people from the very edges of the dangerous areas and these poor folks were overwhelmed. People were absolutely ignorant of the polite but firm sailors. I don't know how many times I saw a sailor saying "Excuse me sir!" trying to keep people two feet from the edge of the deck. You have to remember that most folks were with there kids, trying to take group shots of the amazing background view, but ducking the throngs of people to get the photo. Lots of tunnel vision.

Anyway, there were also a lot of kids- young kids that were wearing sailor uniforms (they were Junior Cadets or something like that) who showed up and were helping with the crowd control. They basically stood "at ease" along the edges of the giant elevator decks (these elevators have no walls, just chains and the Cadets keeping people from the edges).

Was it an area a blind person could have gone on his own- probably. As I said there were no small spaces or over-hanging pipes and such. My guess is that our overly litigious society was the reason the sailors insisted on Mr. Pyyhkala having a friend there to escort him. This was the reason they say they refused him (as the story in the Herald states they allowed a blind person who had a friend escort).

Also, well after the my tour (around 4:30 PM) we ran into an officer in The North End, we thanked him for his service and said we loved his ship- but not the line to get on. He told us that we could get a private tour from any of the many sailors in Boston.

Hi,Well a couple o... (Below threshold)

Hi,

Well a couple of things in response:

1. When I went to the boat on Sunday I told the officials I would either be willing to travel on my own, and/or with the group from the general public that was being let in. Or, if they preferred, they could provide a guide or escort from the Navy or the city of Boston;
2. The assertion that they did not have anybody to provide any minimal assistance (such as a guide) is utterly absurd. I am blind, and I could tell that the place was full of police officers and navy officials. To say that they didn't have somebody for 15 minutes is crazy and unbelievable. If the navy didn't have anyone (again doubtful) they could have asked that one of the Boston Police details provide the service. When I spoke to the navy officials, they told me (at least on Sunday) they would not let me on the ship period, even if I brought a friend;
3. If the ship is so dangerous, why did more people not get hurt? I have already covered the fact I am saying people who are blind are not more likely to get hurt, and I would have realized that I was in an environment where I would need to pay attention. I would not for instance be jogging on the decks of the air craft carrier.

While this mmay be a conservative blog of sorts, I assure you I have received unsolicitted emails of support.

Also this is the only kind of issue, e.g. this patronizing custodial "safety" BS, that I am letigious about.

Mr Pyyhkala, with all due r... (Below threshold)
brainy435:

Mr Pyyhkala, with all due respect, touring a warship is in no way comparable to using a velcro wall. As someone who spent 6 years in the Navy i can tell you that I still have scars and the memories of embarassing bruises from mashing various body parts into the obstructions on various ships. Warships are built with minimal thought to unimpeded movement of the fully sighted people who will man them. You would hurt yourself badly were you to walk through this ship without personal attention.

And that doesn't even take into account what would happen if there was a problem on the ship. If an alarm was to go off... even accidentally, which can hapen...you would be left on your own and the sailors in all probability would not hesitate to run you over. They could not afford to treat you differently in that situation, they have jobs to do and lives depend on them.

I appreciate that you want to vist a fine vessel like the USS JFK, especially as a taxpaying citizen of the US. However, since you have rejected the only safe method of doing so out of hand, I can find no sympathy for you. Your statement: "I am no more likely to injure myself on this ship than someone who is sighted. Whether one gets injured is more a function of other factors." is a sign of your total ignorance on the matter and is 180° from my experience. That is not meant to belittle you, for I cannot imagine how you WOULD be able to fathom the treacherous paths of a warship in your condition. You are different from sighted people and cannot do all the things a sighted person can do. I am sorry that it is so, but it is so.

A dedicated tour guide is, IMHO, the only way you leave that ship intact.

This seems to be a case of ... (Below threshold)
Buddy:

This seems to be a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't"

The blind guy (if that is h... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

The blind guy (if that is him) has already admitted he's just being a dick like the rest of the ADA riders. All they want is everyone to look at them and say 'poor old person' since they're screaming poor old me. We spend a million dollars to let one person in a door and after they get they're way they never come back. It's all a con and all of you PC AH's know it. Maybe we need to adopt the left wing liberals view on aborting all handicapped at birth or doing away with them after birth. The want Nazism/Communism, give it to them.

Well all of this would have... (Below threshold)
Mika Pyyhkala:

Well all of this would have been avoided if the Navy had provided a guide on Sunday, or made arrangements at that point. The navy only made the offer of the tour once the story got media attention, and probably because they were contacted by members of Congress. No offer for a tour was made on Sunday.

If the ship is so dangerous, in the ways that you guys are describing it, I don't think it would accommodate large crowds of people that were allowed to board on Saturday & Sunday. I think the dangerousness of the ship is being dramatized here.

If it really is as dangerous as you say, they would not allow random members of the public to board.

I would also suggest that those of you who are so skeptical of the capabilities of people who are blind learn more about The National FederationbOf The Blind
http://www.nfb.org

One of the activities NFB has had for people is an opportunity to use a chain saw. No, a blind person is unlikely to use a chain saw in his or her career, but using a chain saw is something, an activity, that is done at the center. Again, its one of those things, the average person in the street would probably figure a blind person could not use a chain saw, just like the average person might think I would kill myself on the ship.

The National Federation Of The Blind has a number of events, and I would suggest people got to know the organization better before so quikcly jumping to these conclusions.

So it's all about making a ... (Below threshold)

So it's all about making a point now. Great. A nice, personal tour was offered, but OH NO, there's a political point to be made!

So, in other words, they di... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

So, in other words, they didn't bend over to kiss your ass and now your gonna show them a thing or two.

Please remove the giant chip from your shoulder and grow up.

So if you were able to tour... (Below threshold)
Alcudia:

So if you were able to tour the ship, and got hurt in doing so, is that your fault, or the navy's??

If you are not able to tour, would you sue, thereby most likely preventing them from touring?

I am truly sorry that you w... (Below threshold)
Michael:

I am truly sorry that you were inconvenienced and not allowed on. But is it a reason to be litigious? You aren't in the least willing to compromise? People in this country make accomodations and compromise constantly, the ADA has forced that. If you are so confident that you will not be injured and that the so-called "safety" factor is bogus, why is it then that my tax dollars must be spent accomodating you in every day life? If you are so sure that you want to be treated equally, then I don't feel the pressing need to accomodate you with my tax dollars. There doesn't need to be beeping traffic lights, or wheelchair ramps or ergonomically correct keyboards or computers that read for you, all provided at taxpayer expense. You could certainly help in this situation by being more willing to compromise and take their offer of a solo guided tour, but by not being willing to do so, you expose yourself and all like you for what you really are. And that is someone who thinks they are owed something by this society because of a difference from the majority. I'm more than willing to be helpful and accomodating, but when you aren't, I see no reason to leave my hand out there to be slapped back. I would hate to see all 300 million people in this country lose an opportunity to see how our tax dollars are being spent just to accomodate Myka. What a joke!

Sir, you didn't respond to ... (Below threshold)

Sir, you didn't respond to the question about close quarters and bumping head, etc.

And while you're visiting, I'd be interested in your opinion regarding the recent court decision requiring the government to redesign paper money.

You know what's next:... (Below threshold)

You know what's next:
Braille signs in the military.

As for the question of hitt... (Below threshold)
Mika Pyyhkala:

As for the question of hitting my head, I thought I alluded to it earlier, but I do not feel I would be in more jeopardy of sustaining a head injury. There is a technique, a mobility technique, of sorts used by the blind where you hold your hand next to your head so as to avoid such a bump. For instance, commonly, this would be used when a person who is blind is wlaking under roof construction staging equipment. The commenter above, who took the tour (thanks by the way for the description) did not allude to that many pipes or other things one would be so likely to hit ones head on.

As I said before, if the Navy had offered the guided tour on Sunday, or myabe even if they made arrangements on Sunday for me to come back, this all may have been for not. But on Sunday, they sent me home, turned me away, and weren't offering anything. They even told me if I came back with a friend, they would not let me on the ship. This is what they said on Sunday.

Mika,How the hell ... (Below threshold)
LouDawg:

Mika,

How the hell do you know if you would be at greater risk if you haven't been on the ship? Members of the military who have been onboard and know its risk have made the judgement that it would be dangerous for you (or others) in a crowded situation. They offered to give you a private tour. The fact that you have decided that you know better than they do and have rejected their offer proves you are an arrogant jackass.

Why is it the Navy's respon... (Below threshold)
Thrush:

Why is it the Navy's responsibility to line up your guide? Why didn't you provide your own? A poster already said that they allowed another blind fellow on with a friend to be his guide. Expecting them to find someone to lead you around the ship while 3500 people an hour are wandering the ship is purely selfish.

Did they tell you that if you returned with a friend you would not be allowed on before or after you raised a stink?

I have to say I"m completel... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I have to say I"m completely unimpressed with Mika's continued refusal to acknowledge the danger of visiting a warship. I have not had the honor of visiting the USS JFK, but I have visited the USS Midway which is a Korean Era Carrier now permanently docked in San Diego as a museum. Even with the special railings added around the edge of the flight deck and the elevator there were still a large number of ways to stumble, trip or hit your head even though only the hanger, galley and flight deck were open for visitors at the time I was there. On an operational carrier without the guide rails and barriers, and with all the additional equipment of war I cannot imagine how anyone could wander there blind without a dedicated guide, and unless I'm mistaken there is no "Tour Guide" position standard in the military.

Mika, you sound like a proud man who doesn't want to be treated differently because you are blind, but there are times where common sense dictates that safety will not allow others to do that. Visiting a warship is definitely one of those times. And its been explained that most of the crew was on leave, and I'm sure that a large portion of the crew still on board had watch duties that couldn't be abandoned. The previous poster who had visited the ship said that the crew he saw were overburdened with the difficulties of trying to keep up with the visitors they had. I would like to think you have enough respect for others to not want ot make their duties more difficult when its not something that they were exactly trained to do.

I'd say the Navy did what they thought was wise and right, and I'm not going to disagree. Mika sounds like a disgrunted 2 year old who needs to be spanked soundly and reminded that the world doesn't revolve around him.

Sorry, Mr. Pyykhala. You ar... (Below threshold)
Ric Locke:

Sorry, Mr. Pyykhala. You are making assumptions, and the assumptions are flatly wrong. I used to be a sailor, and served on John F. Kennedy's sister ship, America (since scrapped).

I'm sorry you're blind. I didn't do it, and wouldn't have, but the plain fact of the matter is that you're blind, missing an important ability needed for the environment. We can go a long way toward letting you have a "normal" experience, but it simply isn't possible to go all the way.

The inside of an aircraft carrier is a completely alien environment, not in any way comparable to anything you have encountered before. Your technique for avoiding head injuries is more likely to result in injury to your hands and arms -- up to and including risk of loss of a digit or limb -- than anything else, and no matter how good you are with the cane it cannot detect places where the steel the ship is made of is bare of any covering because the vessel is old. The total effect is comparable to strewing the surface of a frozen lake with randomly assorted junk, much of it sharp-pointed and/or greasy, digging random holes in the ice, and turning you loose there. That's not even counting the tight spaces -- crew quarters, engine rooms, and O-levels -- which weren't accessible to the visitors anyway, by the account above.

Sighted sailors, with intensive training in what the hazards are and what the equipment does, get minor to severe injuries all the time. A relatively modern ship like JFK is much less dangerous than older ones -- gone are the days when sleeping quarters were hammocks slung from the gun-breeches -- and the effort to improve conditions is ongoing, but it's expensive, and the priority for a warship is to spend money on things to fight with before spending money on things to make the sailors comfortable. It's correct, too. If the sailors are dead because they didn't have adequate things to fight with, they aren't particularly "comfortable".

The same thing is true of the modifications necessary to accommodate you. Certainly such are possible -- but they would be expensive and of minimal if any use to the sighted sailors, and the money for them would have to come from somewhere. That "somewhere" would have to be from fighting capability, so you are asking sailors to die to accommodate you.

As for the guide issue, you are being petulant and self-centered. Sailors love to show off their ship, but their first priority in port is to get off the ship -- the few who stayed to guide visitors were sacrificing shore-leave time to cater to the crowds, and were barely numerous enough to manage the sighted tourists. (I know that without being there, because I know how such tours are arranged -- having participated more than once myself.) Asking one of them to devote his entire time to you constitutes endangerment of the other visitors, because barely-adequate supervision would become even less adequate.

I have no doubt that you (or rather your lawyers, who will gobble the lion's share) will make a nice piece of change off of this. I also have no doubt that the ultimate result will not be that the Navy spends more time catering to the needs of the blind (and otherwise "differently abled"). What will happen is that tours like that will become less common and/or much better supervised -- that is, you will by your actions deprive many people of the enjoyment of having such a tour, and require many sailors to miss their shore leave and family visits in order to provide the necessary manpower. Congratulations. You have just established the principle quoted by a poster above -- being handicapped doesn't prevent you from being a horse's ass.

Regards,
Ric

Once in a former life I spe... (Below threshold)
robert the orginal:

Once in a former life I spend several years trying to accomodate the hanicapped in a sporting event that was suited to it.

I did many things and spent lots of money but nothing was ever enough. I came to realize that a very high percentage of these folks play the victim card and have a "you owe me" attitude.

After they demanded equal time on TV I lost it and showed them the door.

Too many are self-centered jerks with chips on their shoulders, just like this jerk. Whine, whine, whine and if you offer a special guided tour... "no thanks, I would rather have my complaint".

It's all me, me, me or else I'll protest, throw things and make a fuss.

You're so self-centered you probably don't know this song is about you.

Mr Pyyhkala,I'd li... (Below threshold)

Mr Pyyhkala,

I'd like to suggest that you put yourself in the position of the officers who refused you access to the ship. I've been the Officer-of-the-Deck (OOD) on a major warship (USS Iowa) during a period of public touring, and I can tell you that it is not an easy job. By mid-watch, he will have been dealing non-stop for two hours with people who want something special. Simultaneously, he is trying to maintain his situational awareness of the ship's condition, ensuring that the daily routine is being carried out properly, supervising his subordinate watch standers, and monitoring the security situation. He is responsible to the ship's Commanding Officer for all of those things, and is subject to the old man's wrath should he not execute his duties properly. He has a set of written orders from the Captain, and normally does not have authority to deviate from them. Accommodating your needs was likely not covered in his orders, and thus he would have been entirely in the right not to do so. The fact that you spoke to another officer suggests that the OOD felt the decision would be better made by his superiors.
His immediate superior, the Command Duty Officer (CDO), is responsible to the Captain for the performance of the watches, not for a couple of hours but for the entire day, but his ultimate responsibility is for the safety of the ship and all who are aboard. This officer is normally more senior, especially on a ship as large as an aircraft carrier, and is empowered to act for the Captain in his absence. During tours, he is most likely even more harried than the OOD, and has probably been up and about the ship non-stop since early morning. By mid-afternoon, he has probably walked 10 miles and climbed up and down 100 ladders in the course of his duties; talking to and keeping track of most of the 800 people in his duty section.
Both of these officers are bound by Title 10, US Code, and more immediately by Navy Regulations issued by the Secretary of the Navy under the requirements of 10USC6011. Specifically under the Navy Regulations, the Commanding Officer "and others officially concerned shall exercise reasonable care to safeguard the persons and property of visitors to naval activities..." (http://neds.daps.dla.mil/US%20Navy%20Regulations/Chapter%208%20-%20The%20Commanding%20Officer.pdf, page 6). Additional guidance is provided to Commanding Officers in the Standard Organization and Regulations Manual, issued by the Chief of Naval Operations (http://neds.daps.dla.mil/Directives/03000%20Naval%20Operations%20and%20Readiness/03-100%20Naval%20Operations%20Support/3120.32C.pdf). Visiting requirements are covered on pages 6-13 through 6-19.
Bottom line, or if you will "the principle of the thing" is that the CO is responsible for the safety of everyone on his ship, and has the authority to ensure that he can successfully execute that responsibility. You, as a civilian with no experience of life aboard a warship, are not qualified to judge what is or is not "reasonable care."

Ric, the days of hanging ha... (Below threshold)
brainy435:

Ric, the days of hanging hammoks from the gun breeches aren't really gone, they just modernized a bit. When I was new to my boat, a sub, I slept on a bedframe tied down in the torpedo bay. I would literally wake up wrapped around a Tomahawk cruise missle. Stored in it's horizontal launching tube, of course.

To add to Kens post, you're... (Below threshold)
brainy435:

To add to Kens post, you're also whining about not getting a very tired crew to bend over backwards and provide a service they are not really trained for when they are short handed. Sailors love helping with tours, for the most part, but these guys are awake for extended periods when coming into port and have been out to sea for awhile. It grinds on you. On my boat we would be on 18 hr days. Not working 18 hrs in a 24 hr day, but working 6-12 hrs...maybe more...every 18 hrs. The last thing we want to hear after pulling in is someone complain that we didn't personally see to their every whim. These guys are warriors, not ushers.

And you still didn't explain how you would have been able to properly account for yourself in case of an emergency. A sighted person can see a ladder to know which way to go or see where a sailor is pointing or see someone coming and where to move to get out of the way. You could porentially put someones life at risk. This isn't a museum, its a warship.

Hasn't anyone noticed Mr. P... (Below threshold)
epador:

Hasn't anyone noticed Mr. P seems to be deaf to your explanations?
[brainy, Ken,Robert, Rick, etc.]

BTW, I've always remembered... (Below threshold)
epador:

BTW, I've always remembered the quote about principal and money as attributed to "Kin" Hubbard. Google away folks.

Firstly, people have been c... (Below threshold)

Firstly, people have been conditioned by lawsuit after lawsuit to NOT be reasonable about safety. Better safe than sorry and all that. It's not discrimination or an excuse to be mean not to let someone take responsibilty for their own choices and do their own thing because if someone *does* get hurt they'd be howling to the lawyers about how someone else who understood the situation better should have prevented them from doing what wasn't safe.

That's the world we've asked for and that's the world we've got.

The one time I was on a ship it was moving but the water was calm, hardly rocking at all, and none of us were allowed to carry our own babies (all of us had at least one baby, some had babies and toddlers) even a short distance. If I went anywhere at all I had my own sailor who carried my child for me. It didn't matter how fit, how coordinated, how still the sea, we could not hold our own child and take a step down a passageway (and were not not not allowed on the weatherdeck at all.)

Probably I'd have been fine. Probably I'd not have stumbled or knocked into anything. It never occured to me to doubt the judgement of whoever made that rule simply because I felt that I, personally, didn't need it.

Something I did notice, in general, in the military... civilians always felt like they didn't need to follow the rules. Spouses tended to get over it pretty quick. DoD teachers seemed to think that it was an affront to them to be told where they couldn't go. Sort of a "you're not the boss of me" attitude.

well mika, hate to tell you... (Below threshold)
tj:

well mika, hate to tell you this,but it,s a Ship NOT a Boat. damn landlubber...:P and a damn fine one at that.

Dear Mr. Pyyhkala:... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

Dear Mr. Pyyhkala:

Please stop trying to talk sense to these people; they deeply resent it, and are liable to hurt themselves trying to respond to you. Compassion requires that you take your reasonable arguments elsewhere.

astigafa, in this matter I ... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

astigafa, in this matter I think you're miles away from sense. Your typical knee-jerk reaction to be the exact opposite of the regulars here has made you foolish.

astigafa,All us ex... (Below threshold)
ExSubNuke:

astigafa,

All us ex (or current) Navy posters here are trying to explain HOW IT REALLY IS aboard a warship. Both you and the esteemed Mr. Pyyhkala have no idea what it's REALLY LIKE.


I'm 100% capable (with my glasses) and have scars to comemmorate my time aboard my boat (USS Olympia, SSN-717). This, even when I was aboard for YEARS and knew where pipes and valves were. I STILL got hurt (as did most of my shipmates). It's not a coincidence that the Navy SCREENS personel entering service to ensure they won't hurt themselves (much) while serving aboard US Navy warships.

We ARE showing compassion. We ARE being reasonable. It really IS that simple.

interesting information <br... (Below threshold)
Let me add my 2 bits: 12 y... (Below threshold)
BKWA/SS:

Let me add my 2 bits: 12 years in USN, 1 CVN969), 1 SSBN (633B), 1 SSN (597). Served as tour guide numerous times in Naples Italy on CVN.
I have suffered laceration of my forehead and scalp at least three times, I have a wicked scar on my right forearm from sliding down a ladder going to GQ, and have more bruises and scars on my shins than I car to remember. OBTW my eyesight was 20/20 uncorrected.
A warship is not a public place and giving a tour to 3,000 people does not make is, just as you inviting 10 people over to your home does not make it a public place.
Please quit drfagging other people and organisations down because you have an inferiority complex.
Now I'll go back to lurking.

I can understand if all of ... (Below threshold)
Mika Pyyhkala:

I can understand if all of you are sick of reading my posts, but I thought I would share with you some posts from other email discussion lists in the blindness community. The excerpts below are from other blindness organization participants that support my position here.
Of course, on the NFB lists as well, there is widespread support from other blind Americans.

"Personally, I would love a private tour, but I don't think that's the point, and it's not my place to judge Mika's
intentions. The bottom line is that when he went as a member of the public, he was denied entrance, based solely on
the fact that he was blind, and based on outmoded ideas about the capabilities of blind people. The issue is not
the quality of the tour; the issue is discrimination, and discrimination (based solely on disability) is illegal.
That's the underpinning principle of the ADA, and it's what we all say we believe, so this is a good opportunity to
put up or shut up. If we believe what we say we believe, then we shouldn't be taken in by an after-the-fact offer
of a personal tour, for such a tour, without an accompanying apology, is nothing more than an attempt to appease
Mika without addressing the real issue. I hope we're not so gullible as to be taken in by such a weak gesture as
that.
I would add that so far, neither Mika nor the NFB are asking for anything other than a public apology. True, there
may be more to come, but I think a public apology is in order, and that's not the same as a personal tour.
We need to remember the old adage that came from "Brown vs. Board of Education," because it' represents one of the
core values which drove the civil rights movements for Black Americans, other minority groups as well as people with
disabilities. "Separate is inherently not equal."

"A blind person has a right to request and receive reasonable accommodations but accommodations cannot be forced on
someone. It would have been appropriate for an officer to explain to Mika the types of hazards that were on the ship
and ask him if he required any assistance. If Mika declined the assistance, he should have been allowed on the ship
immediately at his own risk. If he accepted the assistance offer, the Navy would be required to accommodate him on a
reasonable basis. The argument would then shift to whether or not a separate tour on a different day is reasonable.
The ADA states that persons with disabilities are entitled to "equal benefit and equal participation". Certain
individuals with disabilities require accommodations to equally benefit and equally participate.
I submit that the core issue is whether or not Mika requested accommodations. Mika is free to determine for himself
whether he required accommodations or not. It is not anyone's place to determine that for him.
As we consider such issues, we should be very careful that our advocacy does not get interpreted as meaning that
individuals who are blind never need to be accommodated. The determination of whether or not we require
accommodations, is an individual decision and not one that we or ACB, or NFB or anyone can make for us. It is bad
enough that when it comes to sensory disabilities, the ADA is very ambiguous about what constitutes reasonable
accommodations. Let's not endanger our rights to request and receive reasonable accommodations by implying that
equal means without accommodation for all individuals who are blind in any given situation. This is a very slippery slope"
Mika's Comments: The Navy offered absolutely nothing on Sunday. They flat out denied me access to the ship, and two officers said I could not even come with a friend. Only after the bad press, and the delayed departure, did the Navy offer the tour.

"As usual, you have posted a thoughtful comment that just makes common sense. While I, personally, probably would
have brought someone with me as a guide for the tour, there was no requirement or request made that people with
disabilities do that or call in advance to request assistance. Mika went to tour the ship as a taxpaying member of
the public. The Navy doesn't treat the money that it receives from people like he who are blind any differently
than all the other tax dollars they receive. It's none of our places to tell Mika how he should or should not have
handled this situation.
Thanks."

" I would think that it would be wise for the navy to do some serious
thinking about blind persons. With so many more people surviving this
"war", there might be a lot more blind folks around.

What makes you think a blind person would fall down anything. For once
the NFB has it right. We should not settle for "private tours".

BTW, i didn't hear any concerns about the narrow doroways for the wheel
chair people. What if they rolled off the deck? (not serious, of course)"

"Thanks, again, Ron, you are speaking what the law says, and the law protects blind people and other minorities from
discrimination which is usually based on fear and ignorance. Questioning the safety of the blind man attempting to
do what his fellow taxpaying citizens do, is his right, those who say otherwise are, to me, stating that they really
don't believe they are equal due to their blindness. Yes, saying so is one thing, but bashing him and the NFB are
that ugly fear coming up all over again. And, fear truly does make us behave in strange ways. If people don't want
to take risks due to their fear, that is their choice, but please do not impose your fears and perceived limitations"

Mika, the Navy made a judge... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Mika, the Navy made a judgement call for your safety and theirs.

Move on.

I got to tour Connie (USS C... (Below threshold)

I got to tour Connie (USS Constellation) in '86/'87 when it was in port in Anchorage. I was about 25. It' s not easy for a young man who's in shape to get around those things.

I've got an idea, we'll make warships and other military equipment/locations ADA Compliant when we start drafting those with disabilities.

Fair 'nuff?

....it's like trying to exp... (Below threshold)
Michael:

....it's like trying to explain quantam physics and space/time coninuums to a cat. Time to give it up folks. Mika ain't interested in listening.

umm, that would be continuu... (Below threshold)
michael:

umm, that would be continuums, but cats can't spell either.

I see that Mika ran to a si... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I see that Mika ran to a sight for blind people to try to get some support. And they pulled out the ADA.

Let me remind Mika and all his blind buddies taht the ADA doesn't apply to active warships. It applies to public buildings, but an active warship is not a public building. It is therefore not required to make any accomodation for a vain and selfish idiot who thinks that he will be safe wandering around a ship just because he's learned how to walk down a city street using his cane.

As for his friend who asked about wheelchairs. I wasn't there, but I have visited the Midway which has been converted into a floating museam. They do have the ability to deal with wheelchairs, but its cumbersome and will pull guides away from other areas to deal with moving the wheelchair between levels. (and even with that some levels of the ship just aren't accessable to wheelchairs.) Seriously its sad that Mika didn't get the tour, but his attitude makes me burn with anger. He has no right to demand special treatment (and it is special treatment). The tour was predicated on the goodwill of the Navy and a desire to show off the ship to the citizens of the US. Mika being blind would have missed out on much of the experience and its pure arrogance that he's saying that he missed out on the tour. The Navy doesn't have dedicated tour guides.

I say the Navy can easily fix this problem and give the blind community a permanent black eye by announcing that due to Mika's demands tours of US military vessels are permanently banned and that no apology will be given. Think of all the people who will miss out on future tours because one blind man with a persecution complex demanded special treatment.

I refer to people like Mike... (Below threshold)

I refer to people like Mike as being from the planet "I don't get it."

Although in Mike's case, it's more like the planet "I WON'T get it".

Hi all,I have no e... (Below threshold)
Arielle:

Hi all,

I have no experience with warships, but I am blind and an active member of the NFB. I'm not even going to acknowledge the many unacceptable responses that Mika has gotten here. However, I would like to correct a misunderstanding that most of you have about this case. Mika isn't asking for any special accommodations. He doesn't want them to change the ship in any way or to bend over backwards to get him a guide for the tour. All he wanted was to take the tour just like everyone else. He asked for a guide as a compromise after they refused to let him tour without one.

Also, although many of you know a lot about warships, none of you have said you are blind. You don't have experience with the techniques that blind people use every day to travel in all kinds of environments. Without that experience, I don't think you are qualified to say for sure whether or not Mika would have been safe. Just because a sighted person got injured doesn't automaticallly mean that a blind person is unsafe. That judgment is up to him because only he knows what he is capable of doing. Mika is an adult and he should have the right to decide whether or not he needs accommodations like an escort to participate in the tour. If Mika hurt himself, just like everyone else on the tour, it would be his responsibility since he was aware of the risks when he chose to board the ship.

Really, all we want is the freedom to speak for ourselves and decide what we can and can't do. We want to hold jobs just like the sighted, and we want to be able to participate in tours along with everybody else, and not to get special treatment unless we specifically ask for it. Mika wanted to be just one of the crowd and not get his own special private tour. I believe he has the right to ask for that bit of dignity.

The ignorance about the cap... (Below threshold)
Bob Hachey:

The ignorance about the capabilities of a blind person traveling independently exhibited on this page is appalling. Why do so many folks assume that a blind person would get hurt on a war ship? I'm totally blind and have been on war ships before. I boarded with a sighted guide, but the guide and me separated at least twice. When I was alone, I independently walked the decks and climbed steep stairs, all with the help of a white cane. If I were Mika, I might have been tempted to take the private tour, but what you folks don't seem to realize is that Mika was humiliated when he was not allowed to tour the ship with the rest of the crowd. Funny thing, I know of a former marine who is now blind who recently toured the JFK when it was in his hometown. He toured the ship unassisted, and was not discriminated against. He was wearing some sort of a marine shirt. When you so-called able-bodied folks start treating us blind folks like adults, then maybe we won't need to act so stridently. The discrimination against Mika Pyyhkala has diminished the grandeur of the JFK carrier's final trip to Boston.

Boston Herald Editorial<br ... (Below threshold)

Boston Herald Editorial
"Navy can't see an injustice
By David Ticchi/ As You Were Saying...
Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Navy's recent refusal to permit a blind person to join a public tour of the USS John F. Kennedy is a reminder that blind people still experience discrimination
and public humiliation in much the same way as when black people were turned away from lunch counters in the South until the passing of anti-segregation
laws.
    The Navy's justification that the denial was based on safety concerns does not change the fact that discrimination and humiliation occurred.
    In fact, the rationale that the blind are not safe in places suitable for the general public only adds insult to the injury that has been done. The
idea that the blind are unsafe in other places where members of the public are invited is simply wrong. More to the point, refusing to admit a blind person
on a public tour is against the law."

The case of the Boston Navy... (Below threshold)
AMG:

The case of the Boston Navy ship is undoubtedly an instance of discrimination, and I am disgusted that the U.S. armed forces did not back down from their position. Thousands of people from the general public were allowed to tour the ship, and I am willing to put some money down on there being elderly people with arthritis, fat people who were less moble than Mr. Pikala.

Blindness does not equal lack of physical ability, a fact that is proven by the fact that hundreds of blind people compete in the summer paraolympic games in such sports as track, swimming, socker. the blind even play golf, so one poster's invitation to Mika Pikala to play golf might be welcome by him.

The blind, myself included, look forward to equal treatment. Sure, there are ocasions where one may want special treatment, such as a private tour of a naval ship, but the staff on this ship singled out a man because he is blind, not because he is unable to do the task at hand. And any reasonable person, blind or sighted, will agree that touring a ship of war, is not such a herculian task.

Should the blind be treated as brittle crystal that brakes at the lightest touch? ? Should the blind be excluded from social activity? Is it right for the blind to be limited to the minimal participation in school, work, and leasure? Of course the answer is no.

The anti-blind posts on thi... (Below threshold)
Jason:

The anti-blind posts on this forum are pathetic.

For those bragging about the scars you have from your time on a navy ship, get over it. Nicks, cuts, scrapes, bruises, scars, are no big deal. And when you incurred them, you were probably rushing from place to place, possibly under battle conditions or threat of disciplinary measures if you failed to get somewhere asap. A person on a public tour has no such need to rush.

For those claiming that blind people can't handle the danger, I say bullshit. There are blind rock climbers who could probably out-climb you any day of the week, in hazardous, even lethal, 3D environments that would make you pee your elastic-banded little pants.

Some of the techniques blind people use to navigate challenging environments have already been explained to you, but you still don't get it. I've been on battleships, and have seen the places you're talking about. The head-guarding technique in addition to normal use of a cane would work fine in such a place. Bumping into something hard and sharp does not equal injury. I guess maybe for you it does, if you are all tensed up and at the same time being either a show-off or, or just simply careless. But blind people don't move that way. It all depends on your technique. Just because you don't know the technique, don't claim that blind people are ignorant like you.

Which brings me to the final point. I'm sorry you are lacking in the ability to comprehend, and in some of your cases, in the ability to move gently and carefully in such a way that avoids injury. It's not my fault, and maybe not even your fault. It's just the way it is. Now get over it, let Mika fight his good fight which raises awareness of serious issues that need to be addressed, and move on.

Hilarious but a bit sad tha... (Below threshold)
Jason:

Hilarious but a bit sad that the poster of this original thread, Jay Tea, has a recent post in which he said the following:

== snip ==
A declaration of dependence

We, the undersigned, having grown weary of the burden of freedom and responsibility, do hereby foreswear, forfeit, and waive our following rights:

1) Our right to protect our physical persons. We pay the government -- and quite well -- to do this for us, through the police, the military, and far too many other government agencies to count. We have chosen to disregard numerous court decisions that they have no responsibilities to us individually, and still place our fate entirely in their hands. And when they fail us, we will blame our excessive freedoms and surrender more rights in the name of physical safety.
...
== snip ==

Obviously the quote is intended as sarcasm. So while Jay thinks its fine to belittle Mr. Pyyhkala, who wants to take personal responsibility for his own safety, he ironically also derides those who (unlike Mr. Pyyhkala) want to entrust their safety to government escorts and other government babysitters.




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