for Technical Assistance
Connecting people with disabilities who are facing day-to-day barriers with those who have overcome them.
Michael and his girlfriend have visual impairments. Before they armed themselves with their legal rights under the ADA, they were pushed to the back of the line when it came to shopping at the grocery store – “We will help you at OUR convenience.” Knowing their rights, they are now simply treated as any other customers in the store - help, when needed, and in a timely manner.
My girlfriend goes to this store regularly. I usually go with her. One time, the manager told her that he didn’t have anyone available to help her. He asked her if she could come back another day or could she wait? She is legally blind. She explained that she was on a schedule with paratransit and that she can’t wait for an indefinite period of time. He said, Why don’t you come back and I’ll let you shop on Tuesdays from 2:00 – 3:00 – once a week. We didn’t know the law, so we went along with it. When we came on Tuesday, he said, I know I told you to come at this time, but I don’t have anyone here to help you after all. I didn’t know what to say to him.
We were at a meeting with an organization that had advocates there for blind people. They brought up this store to discuss. Three or four other people had experienced the same thing. This group didn’t know what to do about it so that was when I called the Southwest ADA Center and got information on the ADA. You sent us information about the ADA law. We read it and we were armed. My friend called the corporate office and talked to the top executive. When she was knowledgeable about the law, she had power. He talked to his legal department and got back to her. The executive said he would have a talk with the manager, and it wouldn’t happen again. We started shopping there again and haven’t had to quote the law because of the executive. Now, not only can we go and shop, but we are not treated like second-class citizens.
When we had the information from your office, we realized we had been discriminated against. Everyone else could shop whenever they please – we should be able to shop at any time. Another good thing is that, now, everyone who comes after us can get the service they deserve. The store had a bad reputation for not helping people with disabilities.
I recommend that you not fight every battle. Go through the journey of explaining and find things out. Don’t do it alone. Go to and work with agencies and advocacy groups that have had people go through this before. All the leg work may have been done. Work with them. Find out your next move.
To speak openly about it if you can. Talk about your disability; Tell them what you are going through so they can understand it. Tell them what it is to be disabled without boring them. Tell them that just because I have one disability, it doesn’t mean I have several disabilities. For example, my vision—my only disability is my vision. People with vision problems do not have intellectual problems; there is just blindness. People will speak loudly to me thinking that I am hard of hearing. When I am with others, they will say to the other person, “Can you ask him…” without asking me directly. I will say, “Tell her/him to ask me the question.”
I started working as a mortgage broker. I’m going to open up an income tax preparation office next year. I will be busy putting that together—putting together a business plan. I was proud of myself in 2008 when I became certified to teach Social Studies to Grades 8-12. I had a degree in business and had gone to graduate school. I was living in Dallas. While I was teaching, they laid off 1,000 teachers. After that, I decided that I was not going to get out of financial services. It took me nine hours to take the Financial Services test. I had a reader, and someone else wrote down the answers for me. Although it took a long time to complete the test, I still passed it!
Questions or comments may be sent to Michael by e-mailing the Southwest ADA Center and referencing ADA StoryTeller client # 13-01-001 in the subject line.