I have a relationship with a group of disability access advocates. Somewhere in the makeup of the group is someone who's using 1950s standards to make things uncomfortable. (Perhaps it's more than one person.) They raise objections to me and what I do [shouldn't be admitting this publicly] on grounds of disclosing private information (not true), speaking out of turn, committing some transgression that justifies censure, committing some error that justifies being ignored, bringing up too much at meetings, upstaging others, soliciting business from the parent organization (which is a violation of either the bylaws or the Code of Conduct), violating The Brown Act.
My assessment of all these issues is that someone is uncomfortable with my assertiveness and my attention to details that have gone overlooked and forgotten by many. And it appears there's a problem with interpretation of the very rules that they say are being followed but are not.
How do you deal with these forms of discrimination? One issue at a time. You don't get flustered (or don't show it to the degree that its outrageous nature inflames). And make certain of your interpretation of the rule or language that is in controversy.
One of the objections was knowing the parameters of The Brown Act (2003 version), a California law that governs public bodies and their membership. There are still things of a higher priority but I created a search string for "provisions of the brown act california" and got some very useful information. California now has a new Attorney General who has taken into consideration the formalities required of bodies for giving notices and so on as compared with California's budgetary constraints. Some of the provisions of The Brown Act have been modified. So where should I start in my adventures of getting up to speed about public entity meetings? Perhaps a good starting point is the Public Official's Guide to the Brown Act which is the January 2013 version.
I also considered the issues related to exclusion and censorship. What type of legs does one have, or what causes them to fall, with regard to thinking about harassment under those conditions. Form another research string and see what resources are revealed, one that reads "exclusion as harassment". In fact, exclusion is identified by Just Do the Right Thing.org as one of the four major types of harassment. And we haven't even gotten into looking at case law that addresses this.
Much of what is offered from the search string talks about harassment in the workplace. Well, I've already looked at what constitutes a workplace, when it's a workplace, and for whom. It doesn't hurt to double check just for the sake of refreshing memory and also to ascertain whether or not that research is still valid. If there have been any changes, what are they and in what way have things changed (just like The Brown Act).
I've come to some conclusions about this organization and the people who comprise it. Many are well-intentioned and sincere about their involvement. Their aim is to have a positive impact for the benefit of their identified group. It is not a professional group. Instead, it is merely a group of citizens, many who are retired. The leadership is questionable on many levels. It's unfortunate that the best they can offer is what came from the book and only what the book says. There's little appreciation of what is said. And looking at how accusations are made and survive, the leaders have a very poor grasp of what discrimination is and the many ways it presents itself.
The chair of the group announced at one meeting that he wanted to be kept apprised of all things and wanted a copy of all materials so that he can remain aware of the many issues that affect the group and its work. Yet, he rejected a notice about a webinar conducted by an organization focused on maintaining quality boards and officers of both public and private organizations. He again rejected a free download of a guide on how to evaluate the effectiveness of boards and their members and some strategies for infusing effectiveness into their transactions.
Do I believe my two-year tenure with this body is appreciated? Go back and read the opening of this post if you're wondering that. I'll also supplement that by saying there was a sudden need to amend the bylaws (even though the body's membership is dwindling). Under the new set of bylaws, members are put on three-year terms. The terms expire in 2014, 2015, and 2016. On application to renew membership, a new term begins. Why would you put a member who joined the group in 2012 on the list of those to be reviewed in 2014? Why would you put a person who joined the group in 2013 on the list to be reviewed in 2016?
For that matter, why would you accuse one person of soliciting business from the parent organization because they made a presentation to the committee but was not allowed to put their logo (nor any other identifying information) on the presentation handouts. But another person who did a presentation with a CD, available for sale, and contained their branding, is not soliciting business (even though they openly encourage people at succeeding meetings to collect his business card so he can provide them with additional information). It seems the rules and governance are not equally administered. That's a problem for a public entity that is also a government contractor.
What else can be done to counteract the resistances that confront one in their endeavors to accomplish a goal aimed at the common, public good? Before the issues begin to take a toll on one's health and well-being, speak up. Object in a polite but firm manner with reasoned arguments for seeing things from a different vantage point. Point out the unnecessary financial and risk exposure(s) that could be avoided. If you're still not heard, take your case to the next level of authority. If you still meet with resistance, take it even higher.
With what I have seen in this past year, it would be good if there were some way to no longer use the services of this organization. Unfortunately, they are too large and their sprawl is immense. I've paid attention to how things are done. Much is swept under the rug in failure to document or flaws are disguised with inaccurate accounts of events. People are discouraged from comparing with tales of how unethical the alternative is.
In the month of July, there was a marked change in front-line services. There are no longer arguments about whether a ramp should or could be deployed for a passenger using a wire cart. There are no longer disparaging remarks about the person using the cart. There no longer are objections to offering courtesies because one does not appear to be disabled. Planned route detours due to construction and alternate stops are no longer moved two and three blocks away from the original stop; they're moved a half a block away from the original one.
So it seems most of my reasons for being part of this group have been fulfilled. What's left is input regarding driver training so that their effectiveness can be from conscious execution of courtesies extended to guests on the vehicles.
Do drivers understand why the changes have occurred? Do they understand the many issues that are impacting those who attempt to use the service? More importantly, we have to ask whether anyone has even considered that when funds are scant and a need is high, people will become creative as to what can be used as an assistive device that will aid in their getting about. As with the definition of "disability" the definition of an "assistive mobility device" needs to be considered in a broader context. People should not be denied access to transportation because of a personal prejudice of a provider.