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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reviving the Old Touchscreen: Seeking Out Disabled Volunteers

When I told Lawrence yesterday what Bow had said, that he did not want the man who cannot read, because using the computer is hard, Lawrence jumped in and said that Bow had already told him that! So Bow has communicated with each of us independently on this issue.

I've been thinking a lot about what it would mean to have someone who cannot read working with Bow. This is actually the same principle that applies in our bilingual proofs: that Bow knows something the person with him does not. It is a way to dispel the notion that there is cuing, and to lay to rest the accusation of "Clever Hans" once and for all.

In order to get to work with Bow, the man who cannot read will have to meet all the other criteria for being a caretaker. He will need to pass medical tests. He will have to have recommendation letters. Since he served in the military, I will want a letter from his commanding officer. Hopefully, the letter will mention both his abilities and his disabilities, so that I can have documentation to prove that this man cannot read.

Of course, he has to be really motivated to be able to work with Bow. One can't build up all one's hopes on a single candidate for a volunteer position. It occurred to me yesterday that if it doesn't work out with this particular volunteer, we might seek out blind candidates. A person who cannot see would be the same as an illiterate, as far as pointing at the glass is concerned. Bow would have to use the touchscreen to communicate.

However, blindness is a kind of physical disability, and I'm concerned for the safety of a potential blind volunteer. Would a blind volunteer be able to stand up to Bow, if he can't see the visual cues for aggression?

This is all taking on an ironic turn, as just recently I have been rebuked by a potential applicant on the matter of being unfair to the disabled. The person was very interested in the position, so I sent a Medical Report form to be filled out by a physician. The Medical Report Form has three parts: physical check up, lab tests against communicable diseases, and a medical history. The form also asks about prescription medicines taken. The potential applicant told me I was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I wrote back to say that the law does not apply, as this is not a job. There is no salary. It is a volunteer opportunity.

My feeling about it, though, was that I'm really not being unfair. Working with Bow is dangerous. You have to be physically fit and mentally alert, or he may injure you. It's for the volunteers' safety, as well as Bow's, that we want to know about their physical condition.

Do I have a bias against the disabled? No, I don't. I'm only interested in what each person can contribute, and I think I give everyone a chance. At this juncture, quite unexpectedly, I am beginning to see that certain kinds of disability, such as dyslexia or blindness, might actually serve as an advantage in getting Bow to use his touchscreen.

Yesterday, Tracey, the computer guy, revived the older touchscreen that was donated to us. It now has an operating system and has Bow's program loaded. We have two touchscreens and all we need now is a really good motivation for Bow to use them!


  1. I can't believe this would a bias. In the end you're protecting both parties, not just one.

  2. K.M. Weiland, thanks! The medical tests are part of our effort to keep this project safe for all concerned. Thankfully, most applicants recognize this.