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Seeing how it's done

A little while ago, I wrote about a blind activist in the Boston area who got bent out of shape because he wasn't allowed to tour the USS John F. Kennedy when she made a call to Beantown. the navy, attempting to head off a potential PR disaster, offered him a private tour when the ship wasn't being mobbed (3,500 visitors an hour), but he stood his ground: he wanted to be treated just like everyone else.

Well, Big John has moved on, but a Navy destroyer -- the USS Donald Cook -- was in Beantown yesterday, and Mr. Pyyhkala went for another tour. This time, it was granted.

Because this time the ship wasn't mobbed, and Mr. Pyyhkala (along with three other blind visitors) were shepherded around the much smaller (and newer) ship by one of her officers.

Here's a few harsh realities:

Active-duty warships are not handicapped-accessible. They are under no legal obligation to be so, and should not be -- for one, wheelchair-friendliness and watertight compartmentalization are fundamentally incompatible. (That's why ship's doors -- I'm sorry, "hatches" -- usually have a very high threshold.)

Tours of Navy ships are a courtesy, not a right -- and a burden on the crew, who most often just want to get off the ship for a little while. Conducting tours requires the crew sacrifice their precious free time to accomodate people who, at best, are ignorant, and at worst, demanding and a nuisance.

A modern warship is absolutely no place for a blind person. Every year Naval personnel, who live on these ships for months at a time, are injured or even killed just moving around the ship. They are designed for functionality, survivability, and efficiency. Routine safety concerns and convenience are way, way, way down the list of ship designers' priorities.

With the case of the Cook, her crew was considerably less overwhelmed by visitors, and a Lieutenant could be spared to shepherd these four visitors around with minimal risk. But Lt. Paul Brawley, most likely, gave up a free afternoon to extend to them the United States Navy's courtesy.

I hope this is the last we'll hear about this particular crusade. But I fear it won't.


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Comments (15)

The world ain't perfect; it... (Below threshold)

The world ain't perfect; it's Bush's fault. WAAAAAAHHH.

What the heck is this guy g... (Below threshold)

What the heck is this guy going to "see"? This blind guy is definitely a dimmer. ww

Kim, lol.Leave it ... (Below threshold)

Kim, lol.

Leave it to some liberal to see a warship not as a current "weapon" of the military, but rather as some sort of floating museum on tour for, you know, the (ignorant) public.


They should squire the guy ... (Below threshold)

They should squire the guy around an old rusted hulk of a trawler, and tell him about all the glorious Navy gear he'd be seeing if he could see.

I'm curious if Mr. Pyyhkala... (Below threshold)

I'm curious if Mr. Pyyhkala went to the ship by himself or with his lawyers in tow? Maybe he can answer if he shows up to comment on this thread as he has done in prior ones.

And does this mean he has dropped any considerations of litigation and apology demands about discrimination from the experiences with the JFK? Maybe he has already done this, but I have not had the time to read more about his particular case.

The LT in question didn't g... (Below threshold)
Uncle JR:

The LT in question didn't give up a "free" afternoon as he undoubtedly had the duty that day. However, he WAS being kept away from other duties that probably required his attention more than playing "guide dog".

I'm with the previous poster who asked what he thought he'd "see"?

Having served over 20 years in the Navy, I can assure you, a warship, or even a service ship, is no place for a blind or any other "special" individual to attempt to make a point. It's dangerous enough for those of us with all 5 senses.

I guess if he had wandered off and fallen down an open scuttle he would have ... no he would have sued.

Heh. When my sub was in Ft.... (Below threshold)

Heh. When my sub was in Ft. Lauderdale in the late '90's, we had a little incident with a tour group. You see, we collect all the waste from the heads (bathrooms for the laymen) in a large tank, then pressurize that tank to a few hundrd PSI to blow it overboard when we are out under the water. Well, in port we still use that system, except we use hoses to connect it to the local sewer system. Someone is posted topside to watch this hose in case of a mishap. This one day we were pumping the tank with tour groups all around and found out the hard way that the hose had been connected improperly. Imagine a geyser of waste interrupting your afternoon. Luckily for the tourists, one of our guys took the brunt of the mess till we could shut it off. This poor guy is left standing in the middle of quite a few locals and VIP's covered in crap, and he can't go back on board because he is too much of a mess. A few guys held up some sheets to give the guy a little privacy while he stripped so he could go scrub for a few hours. Unfortunately they didn't notice the boats milling around behind the sub who had an unimpeded view of the guys backside, until they started sounding their horns and yelling out cat calls. This caused one of the guys to drop his sheet, so now the poor bastard is stark naked in a group of strangers. He ran for the hatch and jumped down the ladder to get inside...and landed right in front of our Captain giving local officials a personal tour. Not his day.

On a related not, my little brother is a Marine how just got back from Anbar last month. i saw him for the first time in a year on St. Patricks Day, and he relayed a quick story. the troops use port-a-johns while in Iraq and have to truck them some distance to empty them out when they get full. Apparently some misguided terrorist thought that truck would make a great target and hit it with a mortar while it was making a delivery. My brother said residents were complaining for days about the mess and stench...especially since it was 120° out that week.

Sorry. I'll cut this crap out now.

Damn, sorry again. :)

That must have been an amaz... (Below threshold)

That must have been an amazing tour for the blind man.

"Watch your head"

"Watch your head"

"Here you can see...uh, heh"

"Watch your head"

He might have gotten more from having someone read him a book about submarines.

"(That's why ship's doors -... (Below threshold)

"(That's why ship's doors -- I'm sorry, "hatches" -- usually have a very high threshold.)"
You were right the first time - doors are for horizontal travel and are built in bulkheads (or walls) - hatches are for vertical travel and are built in decks (or floors).

How pathetic. Fricking law... (Below threshold)

How pathetic. Fricking lawyers.

Um, no, we don't give blind people sight seeing tours, and no we don't give free iPods to deaf people.

BillyBob,We don't ... (Below threshold)


We don't give iPods to deaf people? Wow. Isn't that kind of insensitive, intolerant, and exclusionary? What if they just want a iPod to look like everyone else? Does this mean they don't get cell phones either? Next you'll be advocating getting people that can walk out of the electric carts at the grocery store. We should probably stop giving Sunglasses to blind people though. No free speedo's to obese guys either.

The nautical word for a wat... (Below threshold)
Dave A.:

The nautical word for a watertight doorway threshhold is "coaming." And yes, coamings are the bane of the lubber visitor.

brainy435, that was interes... (Below threshold)

brainy435, that was interesting about having to truck port-a-johns around a war zone to empty them. Don't they have little vacuum trucks to suck the honey out? Or like in olden times, construct plywood latrines with a "cabinet" in back. When full, the cut-off steel drums which hold the dookie are pulled out across the ground with a long hook, diesel poured in the maggot-infested pot, and burned-up on the spot. Of course, no need for Halliburton or Waste Management, Inc., to achieve this, just a private on shit detail.

I am an Architect. My compa... (Below threshold)

I am an Architect. My company once had to put in a 6' ramp on the inside of a bank with grab bars so that wheelahir bound employees could empty the money out of the ATM machine. A few years later when the machines were redesigned with lower hatches, the bank had to fill in the ramp to make the floor level again. Oh well, it's not their money, and being able to empty out a ATM machine is a "right". I wonder if any burglars ever tried that one?

On a more serious note. I have a friend who has been blind since birth who would love to tour a warship, but would be completely understanding if the sailors said it was to dangerous. The number of times I have seen his face badly damaged from hitting hard, solid objects with it still makes my skin crawl. We have gone on a number of relativly dangerous walks together but I know him well, I know how things are built, we walk slow and I am smarter than a guide dog. I hope that British team gets the artificial eyes worked out because he would make a heck of a sonar man.

bryanD, I don't know the lo... (Below threshold)

bryanD, I don't know the logistics of the deal. They could be paying Iraqis to haul their shit (literally) to try and boost the economy, but that wouldn't fit your world view, would it?






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