Bad Models

Section 5: Complex Consequences Chapter 2: Bad Models

Honky-tonk tunes greeted Casey and Sally as they passed under the string of chili’s. Coffee brewed and someone was smoking. Sally’s white cane tapped along the cracked linoleum floor. Casey placed Sally’s hand on the back of a chair as she had been instructed.

Casey swerved around the empty tables to the counter. A bald man pointed to a menu on the wall. Iced lattes and cinnamon scones seemed out of place in this joint, but were just what she wanted at the moment. Back at the table, Sally held up two fingers as she overheard the order.

When Casey returned to the table, Sally was patting a large scruffy dog with its head in her lap. “Meet my new Sparky!” she said with sadness in her voice.

Mr. Sparky shuffled back to his master, who was watching the two unusual customers. Ceiling fans hummed as they relaxed with their treats. Casey broke open her thoughts to include her companion.

“Ok, Sally, surely you have your share of grievances and anger and disputes. Come on, fess up.”

“Well, actually, I didn’t do much disputing or fighting during my career or in personal relationships. That cost me an ulcer. Now the disability thing has dropped a whole bag of chips on my aging frame. I finally figured out how to describe disability. Are you ready to learn some messy models?”

Casey nodded, “You got my chips flying. I’ll listen to your story.”

“My congenital vision loss eventually caught up with me. Myopic degeneration isn’t popular with eye doctors. That point of view is called the medical model. Such conditions have to be fixable, or you get cast into the hopeless category, which — sniff sniff — hurts your poor eye doctor’s feelings.”

Casey asked, “Like, really, when the eye doctors give up, or can no longer charge treatment to insurance, do they just let the person leave their office without hope?”

Sally pounded the table. “I’m sorry to say, yes! Too many doctors look down on the vision rehab profession and the simple practices that can make life reasonably comfortable. ”

She flashed her iPhone. “Remember our conversation in DC a while back? I told you about MDSupport, my mobility trainer, and my vision mentor. Wonderful friends took me shopping for assistive technology, once even at the same time as Stevie Wonder! I found my own way to survive by listening to podcasts on disability and assistive technologies. My learning and research skills saved me.”

Casey cracked up. “Oh, I shouldn’t laugh, that’s awful. But I imagine you shaking your fist at the sky outside a retinal specialist’s office and a cascade of chips — maybe ice cubes or hail — piling up on your shoulders.”

Sally ramped up her lecture. “The complementary so-called social model suggests that any disability limitations really reside in society. These should be fixed by attitudes like universal design. Examples are the ways buildings are constructed and sidewalk signs are regulated. This applies to all disabilities. And situations like curb cuts for wheelchairs benefit almost everybody. It’s like the software rule that a missed requirement costs more to fix as time goes on. Dammit, it’s not my vision loss but my environment that causes problems.”

Grasping her iPhone, Sally continued “There are some great usability examples, like how Steve Jobs understood accessible design. It’s sad how so many smart nerds can’t grasp the concept of different types of people using their work. Someday they will be 40 and their eyes will change, their fingers cramp, their senses boggle at complexity, and their minds reel from advertising and ‘like button’ overload. Good riddance!”

She mopped up her spilled coffee. ” And, don’t get me started on those so-called social clubs called charities!!”

Casey shushed her. “So, what you got against charities, Sally? People give big bucks to help, don’t they, and charities carry the load for the donors and usually do something useful.”

Sally shook her head. “Nope, not in my value system. Some charities think blind people are their tickets to heaven because we are too afflicted to know what’s best for us. And, most charities carve off a very small part of the problem, then dress up their activities with boards, offices, bylaws, pancake breakfasts, and other organization rigmarole. They don’t work to understand the whole problem. They just look for a few unfortunate specimens to service, then proclaim their mission accomplished. Bullshit!”

She was winding down. “No, I’m not anybody’s ticket to heaven, and if you’re not willing to learn from me just because I’m high performing, then to hell with you.”

Casey clapped, “Now, the chips are flying! And we TABs better listen up. See what you taught this ‘Temporarily Able Bodied’ soul.””

Sally drained her latte. “Well, that’s my ‘Last Lecture’, at least for this trip.”

Some eaves-dropper tuned the nickelodeon to entertain the sparse cafe crowd with the spirited musical production Legally Blond. The show’s boot-strapping law student — challenging the rich underachiever — preached that “some crazy ‘chip on our shoulder’ is better than becoming less than our capabilities”.

Reaching for her last bite of scone, Sally laughed at her empty plate. She patted his head as Sparky licked the crumbs from his whiskers. Noting Sally’s white cane, Sparky’s master shouted “I cannot resist. Is this the ‘Blind leading the Blonde’?”

Back at their car, with the sun getting lower over the mountains, they got a surprise. Taped across their car’s windshield were three pages of text with red markings.

Casey explained the scene to Sally. “Our geocachers are long gone to their next treasures. They left us logic puzzles and a note: ‘Are you two brainiacs as smart as three retired nurses?’.”

Casey read one puzzle solution. It was about race car colors, drivers, ranks, and advertisers with an attached rid of x and o marks. She laughed “Damn! That’s one hard puzzle. I can’t wait to fire up ParaLog to check if the answer is correct and whether there are other answers.”

Sally twirled her white cane. ” Casey, this proves we have an audience for our consequential thinking paradigm!”

And on they went to their respective destinations with clauses and deductions dancing in their minds.

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