Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Blind Eye to the Blind

As I passed the post office on my walk today, I noticed a sign saying that no animals are permitted in the building. Apart from my usual irritation at the strange definition of animal that doesn't include our species, I wondered if they would allow blind people to bring their seeing eye dogs in, to avoid discrimination. Then, if they did, I wondered if they, to avoid discrimination, would need to allow other dogs in. There are subtleties here which I'll revisit in a second. I then compared the situation to special exemptions that permit Amerindians to use recreational drugs to get high, for religious purposes. That's another situation of dual-discrimination -- if one permits getting high for religious purposes, is it not discriminating against the nonreligious to deny them that practice in a secular context? To word it differently, is it acceptable to allow religious people privilege that is denied to people of different or no religion? I am inclined to suggest use of a "blindness test" for these situations -- in order to judge the way people can do things, judge them while blind to any special conditions that they have. This cuts the religious issue cleanly and nicely, in my opinion -- I like the way that it cleanly protects individual expressions of religion that are not otherwise against the law, removing the ability for things like the Inquisition, but also avoids establishing privilege and entanglement for religions and the religious. Unfortunately, it does a poor job for the handicapped, and unless we want to pry apart the types of discrimination, which I don't (it's difficult to come up with principled and elegant separation for them, and I don't admire that tactic), we must permit the handicapped to lose out. In the end, I am comfortable doing that, allowing people and similar to not make special allowances for the handicapped, and permitting them to keep seeing-eye dogs out if they wish. For government buildings, it would be better, I think, to permit pets, but there are issues involved in that as well -- people who are strongly allergic to pets might find such facilities unusable. I'm unsure how to best resolve the obligation for service versus the inconsistencies involved, and do see the appeal to the current, inconsistent presumed way of doing things -- allowing seeing-eye dogs but prohibiting other animals (although it too has problems, in that it may still make unusable the facility for those with strong animals). I would probably prefer such facilities have as few rules of that nature as possible.

Of course, for those who would hope to socialise everything, the libertarian-style dodging the issue by relegating workplace handling of things to the private sector is not appropriate. At once I am reminded of the libertarian philosophy appeal in these situations -- by passing the problem on to other people, one pretends the problem does not exist. This neat wrapping up of loose ends is merely an illusion, and in fact solves nothing.


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