The promise and the peril of the exoskeleton.
August 7, 2015 7:04 PM   Subscribe

"The tension, the promise, and the peril of the exoskeleton: It is great for some, but in the gusto for technological solutions, for stories that “inspire” and for devices that pull people into the “normal” world, people can lose sight of a future that could be much better. " Rose Eveleth at The Atlantic writes about exoskeletons and other forms of assistive technology for people with disabilities, the life-changing things they can do, and the possibility that they are blinding us to other ways to look at disability, accessibility, and infrastructure. This is part of Remaking the Bodies, a series on how science and technology are re-engineering the human body.
posted by Stacey (37 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The problem with arguing for wheelchair accessibility over exoskeletons is that it ignores that the wheelchair is already a kind of exoskeleton. Just one that fails to cope with a variety of architectural and alsio "natural" environments that other humans can often navigate without exoskeletons.
posted by mary8nne at 7:44 PM on August 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Exoskeletons are awesome, but it would be nice if we made our cities more livable without personal vehicles first. Uber is great, but you can't request a vehicle that can also carry your wheelchair, and buses are slow and you have to traverse crappy sidewalks and missing curb cuts. Improving transit accessibility would make life easier for everyone. And, even if you work in a modern LEED-certified building, you sometimes still can't even get into the bathroom without help. As a temporarily disabled person, it's frustrating and exhausting and I can only imagine how hard it is for people who have to live with this permanently. A part of me thinks the reason we don't make things easier is because we feel uncomfortable seeing people who are differently abled then us. It reminds us of things that can go wrong and we don't like that. I think a lot of people would rather not be exposed to human "weaknesses" because they are scared of them. Hence, the Ayn Randian exoskeleton.
posted by missmerrymack at 7:51 PM on August 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Except that the real reason we don't make things easier for disability access is just that it almost always costs more money.
posted by mary8nne at 7:54 PM on August 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


I suppose my perspective on this is colored by the fact that I spend a significant portion of my work life trying to make spaces more accessible. It is true that it's a reflection of our cultural values. I wouldn't have to work so hard at it each day if accessible features didn't in fact require more space and cost, which means they need a champion and advocate to make sure they happen in every case, not just where convenient (dual height drinking fountains) or easy (usually curb ramps). My anecdotal experience is that access is generally better in the U.S. than in most countries I've been to, at least by the building standards the ADA Guidelines tell us are important. But, fundamentally, I think we need to do both. Make a world as accessible as we can, and create technology toallow as many who want it as possible to function as similarly to their fellow people as they would like. Which strategy you think is getting more meaningful attention (i.e. consistent resources) may just depend on where you put your attention.
posted by meinvt at 8:00 PM on August 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Except that the real reason we don't make things easier for disability access is just that it almost always costs more money.

Sorry, but that simplifies things way too much. Almost all of us will benefit from accessibility features at some point in our lives, whether for our own use or for someone we are caring for. There's also an opportunity cost associated with making it harder for entire groups of people to participate in our work and living communities.

And, to get back to the point of the article, providing everyone with exoskeletons would hardly solve the problem or be cheaper.
posted by missmerrymack at 8:08 PM on August 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


Those calculations involve long-term projections and indirect relationships, and most decision-makers are fine with leaving that cost for people living with disabilities and their loved ones to pay (which I guess would also be the case with these exoskeletons). There's no immediate penalty to them for thinking in the short term, and plenty of up-front costs involved in taking the long view. (As with everything.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:44 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but that simplifies things way too much. Almost all of us will benefit from accessibility features at some point in our lives, whether for our own use or for someone we are caring for.

The question is who pays the cost for those accessibility features and who bears the burden of their lack? As a person who already uses a lot of accessibility features, even without ever having been in a wheelchair, I know I'd rather have the exoskeleton. It privatizes the advantages and cost to me, sure, but it's also under my control, and getting actually useful wheelchair access to places I go regularly--many of which are nominally accessible--would be difficult to impossible.
posted by immlass at 8:44 PM on August 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I remember an article from a while back about a specific ?arm prosthesis that worked very well - but the company went out of business and spare parts were no longer being made. It required some surgery to use in the first place and people were just generally out of luck if it broke down.

Wheelchairs are easy, you invent the chair, you invent the wheel - a ramp comes into play somewhere along the line - we managed all of that thousands of years ago.

There's a bank nearby me, not one of the ones I go to unless I need to get some cash from the ATM - it's a historic building and I guess they can't change anything because of it, but on entry, there's a six foot wide bank of 3 steps on the right, and on the left, there's a 2 foot wide ramp, which is at about 50 degrees over the same slope. It's not accessible. If I were in a wheelchair, I could not possibly propel myself up it. It doesn't matter because there's a 5 inch step to get into that lobby in the first place. Unless you have someone moving you around, you are not getting in that bank. Nevermind going down that ramp on the way out, because it terminates in a wall about two feet from the bottom of the ramp.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:47 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Boomers are getting old and many of them have money and political influence. The time sounds right for an accessibility movement.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I want an exoskeleton. Oh, yes I do. Boulders and trees would wither in fear of my might.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on August 7, 2015


Eh, as someone who acquired a disability, I know that the narrative of "overcoming" one's disability is idealized by our society, but is actually an impediment to a good psychological adjustment. Acceptance of one's status and learning to reject ableism are key, as they've certainly been for me.

And here's the thing. For a paraplegic, a wheelchair is a simple, reliable and efficient technology, as long as the spaces you move in have a few basic characteristics like ramps. You get in your chair and start rolling--often faster than the people walking around you. An exoskeleton is a complex, expensive, unreliable technology. Pragmatically speaking, any advantage in theoretically being able to negotiate stairs is just a fantasy--the technology as it stands now makes that a risky if not impossible proposition. Ramps and wheels, on the other hand, are technologies that have been around for millennia, and they work just fine.

So why are people so into the idea of exoskeletons? Sure, there's a transhumanist bionic human fantasy element, but to my mind, the main reason is ableism. It's the belief that a person using a wheelchair is lesser, and a person upright on two legs greater, even if the person in the chair can roll rings around the person in the exoskeleton.

Yeah, new technologies are cool and all. But if we expressed the same enthusiasm for making spaces accessible that we do for "miracle" tech, we could improve a lot more lives right now, and send the message that we value the lives and abilities of disabled people.
posted by DrMew at 11:55 PM on August 7, 2015 [31 favorites]


There was a talk that I unfortunately missed by Professor Rosemarie Garland-Thomson earlier this year that seems relevant. She refers to this as "Eugenic World Building"

I've cut and pasted the summary from here:

A crucial challenge for Critical Disability Studies is developing an argument for why disabled people should be in the world, should inhabit our democratic, shared public sphere. The ideological and material separation of a national citizenry into the worthy and unworthy based on physiological variations imagined as immutable differences is what I call eugenic world building, which strives to eliminate disability and, along with it, people with disabilities from human communities through scientific and medical technologies, such as genetic manipulation, selective abortion, and medical normalization. It is justified by the idea that social improvement and freedom of choice require eliminating devalued human traits in the interest of reducing human suffering, increasing life quality, and building a more desirable citizenry. In this lecture, I suggest that a eugenic understanding of disability as inherent biological inferiority leads only to addressing disability through systems of compensation and normalization and, when this fails, through systems of exclusion and elimination. I argue, instead, that the traits and ways of being in the world we think of as disabilities must be understood as the natural variations, abilities, and limitations inherent in human embodiment. When this happens, disability will be understood not as a problem to be eliminated but, rather, as a reality to be accommodated through a sustaining and sustainable environment designed to afford access for the range of human variations.

In developing this argument, I trace the logic and history of eugenic nation building in the Holocaust, define and explain the role of the “normate” in eugenic logic, and provide a Critical Disability Studies reading of the 2005 novel and 210 film Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This reading takes apart commonplace assumptions about “normate” and disabled lives, which underlie contemporary eugenic logic. In opposition to this logic, I offer a counter-eugenic argument that variant forms and functions we count as disabilities and abilities do not predict or determine, in any coherent or meaningful way, quality of life, human value, happiness, merit, achievement, virtue, contribution, or potential—in short, any of the criteria for evaluating a human life. I conclude that the question of whether we want to be or have disabled people in the world is the wrong question. The right question is how can the disabled people in our shared world now inhabit it effectively.

posted by kisch mokusch at 3:19 AM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


.Sorry, but that simplifies things way too much. Almost all of us will benefit from accessibility features at some point in our lives, whether for our own use or for someone we are caring for.

Ok, so is your house fully accessible? Wide doors, roll-on shower with taps and shelves down at a reachable height, no steps anywhere, lowered benches, no tall cupboards, etc etc? If not, why not?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:44 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, so is your house fully accessible? Wide doors, roll-on shower with taps and shelves down at a reachable height, no steps anywhere, lowered benches, no tall cupboards, etc etc? If not, why not?

No, it's not. It's my private residence, not a public space. But, my home is older and I do keep accessibility in mind as I make changes to it.

To get back on topic, my comments were in relation to public spaces, not private. I'm not saying people shouldn't get an exoskeleton if they want one. I'm saying the sidwalks should be repaired for the good of everyone . (link via the first linked article in the post)
posted by missmerrymack at 5:30 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just think of the Dune-the-movie fatsuits we'll have!
posted by clvrmnky at 6:05 AM on August 8, 2015


I just can't see how Garland-Thomson can robustly argue that " disabilities must be understood as the natural variations, abilities, and limitations inherent in human embodiment. "

If it were actually true, it seems that the current dilemma would not exist. The dilemma only occurs because the disabled are undeniably a "burden" in some sense: economic, architectural, productive, agricultural or otherwise.

I just feel that any robust argument for a change in attitudes must honestly and seriously deal with this aspect of the problem. It must for instance, show why say reciprocal participation is not necessary for social cohesion. Or alternatively must demonstrate that we are living in a time of "abundance" rather than "scarcity".
posted by mary8nne at 8:09 AM on August 8, 2015


the disabled are undeniably a "burden" in some sense: economic, architectural, productive, agricultural or otherwise.

The same is true of children, or the elderly, or people who have a curable disease, or or or. "Oh but we must start from underlining how much of a burden those people are" is a silly way to proceed (in virtually any argument), flattering itself that it's hard-headed realism. It's not. Here we have a huge segment of society, and one that any of us could find ourselves in tomorrow and most of us will spend some time in at some point. Laws like the ADA that allow that huge population (and their families/caregivers/etc) to engage in society, go out and vote, go shopping, hold jobs, etc are hugely important and beneficial. Does it cost money to build infrastructure to meet those needs? Sure, but we mandate spending money on plenty of stuff because it's hugely beneficial and even necessary to people being able to lead their lives. That's what money is for.

In the developed countries, we certainly have enough abundance to put in wheelchair ramps and other basic accessibility measures, if we have enough to be thinking about the more fragile, more quickly obsoleted or broken, usable by only one person at a time, whiz-bang solutions like exoskeletons. I mean, I think exoskeletons would be cool! Great, let's work on them! But it's implausible to think they're a better society-wide solution than basic accessibility measures that make simple, bulletproof tech like wheelchairs workable.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 AM on August 8, 2015 [21 favorites]


Using the arguments and language of capitalism ("burden", "cost") doesn't work. There will always be scarcity, or the perception of scarcity. The ROI of good (leaving particular formulations aside ftm) early childcare and education is pretty well established, and that doesn't seem to have any great persuasive effect; neither does presenting information about productivity "lost" to caregiving. Trying to reason with politicians', voters', and corporations' short-term interest, given the social structures that promote it, is a losing game. The only thing that seems to work (sometimes) is using the force of law to insist upon values - like the inherent value of all people - that are illogical from within the capitalist framework, and going to battle as often as is necessary.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:29 AM on August 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


The only thing that seems to work (sometimes) is using the force of law to insist upon values - like the inherent value of all people - that are illogical from within the capitalist framework, and going to battle as often as is necessary.

As a person with invisible disabilities myself, I generally agree with this proposition and I'm strongly in favor of both of public improvements for more than one reason (moral, financial, practical). But as a person for whom these debates aren't entirely academic, and who fortunately has the privilege and money to work my way around some of the disabilities I live with, yeah, I'm going to take personal advantage to make my life easier and get more things done when I can. I'm down with a double-pronged strategy, but I'm not putting my life on hold until the American public is convinced of the value of people with disabilities and their place in public life. Honestly, I'm gonna die waiting for that, and there's enough stuff I already can't do because the minor accommodations I need aren't available in many places.
posted by immlass at 9:38 AM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


the disabled are undeniably a "burden" in some sense: economic, architectural, productive, agricultural or otherwise.

Sorry, but this looks like frank eugenics to me. Members of college fraternities are a burden on society. Business sectors that receive financial bailouts from the federal government are a burden on society. That is, frat bros and investment bankers who enjoy lots of social privilege and are supposed to be rational and reliable adults create big messes, and society at large, made up of people who have on average less privilege, pays to clean up those messes.

The idea that people who are children or are elders or have low vision or break an arm or whose house catches fire are a "burden on society" while others are not is illusion.

In fact, one could define a society as a collection of people joined together to share burdens. Every time you visit a library or send a child to school or call your township to fix a pothole in front of your house, you are "placing a burden" on society. Society is a mechanism by which we spread the burden meeting our needs out of a sense of collective responsibility. It's always been this way. Neanderthals cared for their sick and disabled community members. It's pretty much what it means to be human, since we started being that.

Anyway, I have a disability, and a professional career, and I support a family, and do all those things capitalist individualists love. The idea that people with disabilities don't contribute to society in the way that others do is false and offensive, in addition to being to my mind evidence of a sad misunderstanding of what a society is.
posted by DrMew at 9:48 AM on August 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


[One comment deleted. At this point I'm going to just call it; we're not going to have a debate over whether disabled people are as valuable as other people. Thread is about technology anyway, maybe we can get back to that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:39 AM on August 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


“But the problem is that patients are so marginalized from defining their own wishes, that you risk replicating that same top-down assumptions about what people want.” Hendren uses cochlear implants as an example: Inventors assume that a person must want to hear, because they can’t imagine another possibility—but in reality, the Deaf community is quite vibrant, and not everyone feels the need for an implant.

I think this is the crux of it. Well-meaning scientists and inventors don't always first go to a community of disabled folks and ask "what do you want/need?" It's the same problem that comes from outside groups attempting to "solve" the issues of the poor, or those in other countries needing aid; they assume they know what people need, and they're often wrong. And sometimes do more harm.

I also don't think you can say that other technologies, like say growing new limbs or organs, won't be something the disabled community has to deal with eventually. The article mentions cochlear implants, but it's not like some deaf folks don't want them. Some do, some don't. If you could grow someone a new set of eyes or optic nerves to replace those that don't work, blind individuals would likewise have to decide if they were worth getting.

In terms of exoskeletons, I'm not really impressed with them as a replacement for wheelchairs, but then I don't use a chair. My opinion is not the important one here.
posted by emjaybee at 11:27 AM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some do, some don't.

I think that was one of the things that was low-level bugging me about the article. People with disabilities are not monolithic and they/we don't all want the same sorts of adaptive assistance or accommodations. There are some general solutions for different kinds of disabilities (and accommodations that are helpful to broad groups), but maybe treat folks as people and not like extensions of their disability? And don't decide what's good for them like they're too stupid to figure it out on their own, particularly where the tradeoffs of working with different kinds of technologies and assistance are concerned? None of these (current) aids are going to magically solve a disability so it's always about the trade-offs, which is something people who don't live with disabilities don't internalize. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes there's not even a one-size-fits-me solution.
posted by immlass at 12:08 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am part of an out patient program at my local hospital. I see a lot of people in wheelchairs. I think there are a number of issues that would keep exoskeletons from being a viable alternative. Pain is the biggest one. I have seen a number of people that are clearly in pain when jostled in the wheelchair- I can only imagine the pain from each limb being moved about. At least from what I've observed, some amount of wheel chair use is more about minimizing movement and less about the physical ability to walk.

The Rewalk requires certain physical attributes, like normal bone density. The article suggests it can only be used for those with spinal injuries. So what of those with muscular distrophy? ALS? Many more I am unaware of.

And for the people who are not wheelchair bound but use ramps because stairs are a difficult proposition? From people with casts, to prosthetic limbs that don't have great articulation to those who can only manage a shuffling gate- many more than wheelchair bound make use of ramps over stairs.

Transhumanist idealism sounds great, in theory. I am fatigued a lot and feel like my body can't go while my mind is willing. I would love some external contraption that could keep my fleshy meatbag moving. But we aren't there yet, the cost is far to high and the needs too varied. Maybe someday we'll live in a world where disabilities functionally cease to exist, but we're not that close. I can't see a world where we will be, and that's not talking about the possibilities mentioned that there are those that don't want or feel the need to be "fixed".

We're also talking the U.S. where there isn't going to suddenly be a socialist wave of medicine to ensure that everyone among us with the need get free access to assistive technology. Can you imagine "The Donald" and his fans advocating every disabled person get a free $100k assistive device? On tax payer dollars? Please. We'll just get public policy advocating paraplegics learn to walk on their hands and quadriplegics just roll everywhere. If they don't, they clearly don't want mobility bad enough. Cuz that's how we GITRDONE in America.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:55 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just can't see how Garland-Thomson can robustly argue that " disabilities must be understood as the natural variations, abilities, and limitations inherent in human embodiment. "

I didn't see her talk, but I can't see how anyone in possession of the facts could take your stance.

Human beings are not some inherently perfect species. We get old, we get cancer, we get infections, we die. As a community, we spend considerable efforts to mitigate these factors, all of which could be construed as a "burden" to society. In fact, two of the things you mentioned (architecture and agriculture) have arisen to compensate for man's inherent limitations.

Now consider some variations in our species: Most of us are not colour-blind, yet we make our traffic lights accommodate people who are. Most of us have a range of susceptibilities to various infections depending upon our genetics, diet and upbringing, and yet we spend billions on treating and preventing illness in the "weakest" members of society. And as people above have mentioned, children and the elderly clearly have a different spectrum of capability compared to young adults. Indeed, there are many roles in our society that can only be met by healthy people in the prime of their life (e.g. firefighters), and yet nobody believes that we shouldn't structure our communities to cater for the rest of society.

Once you acknowledge the limitations of "able-bodied" people, it is harder to see disabled people as sitting on anything other than that same continuum of capability that everybody else is on. Taking that view, it becomes much harder to draw the line in the sand between who should benefit from society's collective efforts and who should be excluded and eliminated.

It is hypocritical to expect a new building to have parking places and lifts but not also adequate wheelchair accessibility.
posted by kisch mokusch at 3:15 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


One benefit of these -- not to replace chairs but to augment them -- is that they keep the body upright and weight-bearing in healthy ways. Sitting all day creates problems, and being able to change your body position is a useful thing. Not everyone can use them, and not everyone will want to, but they're a good development.

Repairing damaged nerve tissue, of course, would be ideal.
posted by jrochest at 3:54 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Or alternatively must demonstrate that we are living in a time of "abundance" rather than "scarcity".

This has always been humanity's primary challenge.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:38 PM on August 8, 2015


Can you imagine "The Donald" and his fans advocating every disabled person get a free $100k assistive device? On tax payer dollars?

He has spoken in support of universal healthcare. I'm sure that if the business case shows the value of dropping $100K on everyone in need, he'd be for it. He's not a complete monster. Not like Scott Walker.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:43 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Australia doesn't seem to have an equivalent to the ADA, and it really shows. Last week a relative of mine was taking her MIL to see an osteopath. Except she couldn't get in there, because she needed a wheelchair and the bend in the corridor wouldn't accommodate it. Older building, you know. This osteopath specialises in knee reconstruction ... you would think this had come up before.

So the other day she takes her to look at mobility devices. There's this store that sells wheelchairs, crutches, braces, all that sort of stuff.

It has no handicapped-accessible parking.

The shop floor is above ground-level, accessible by a steepish ramp with no platform at the top.

You enter the shop via a sliding door that you have to push manually, but which pulls itself closed via a weight.

THIS IS A SHOP THAT SELLS WHEELCHAIRS. You try opening that door and entering while in a wheelchair - or pushing one!

So, presuming Australia is where the US was before the ADA, you've come a long way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:50 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Medical facilities and para-medical stuff or stuff for seniors has those kind of problems more often than makes sense here too. People don't always follow ADA - for example, it has specifications for how much parking must be set aside for handicapped spaces that are suitable for using a ramp or wheelchair lift to get inside (i.e. they must be flat and have a marked space next to the van so nobody parks in the space you need for your ramp)... and even many hospitals and medical offices don't have as many as they're supposed to. And curb cuts are a mess, even in rich areas with supposedly up-to-code infrastructure. Places will plow snow onto their wheelchair ramp area, just stupid stuff. There's a long way to go.

But for all that, ADA is a literally life-changing law. The progress the US has made since it came in is unbelievable, in so many areas.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:59 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


From Mother Jones: The Americans With Disabilities Act Is Turning 25. Watch the Dramatic Protest That Made It Happen.

I'd heard of the Capitol Crawl and had seen photos, but had never seen footage. Watching the video brought tears to my eyes.
posted by Lexica at 9:26 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Good lord.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:29 PM on August 8, 2015


That footage of the protest is amazing. It is really obvious when you travel to a country with no ADA equivalent, not just in terms of the missing infrastructure but also in how many fewer disabled people you see out in public. It was a transformative law and even though there are imperfections everywhere things are far better than previously.

Exoskeletons are neat, though I suspect their broader use will come from the military and industrial and construction applications rather than as wheelchair replacements. For the people that both want them and can use them, though, it must be an amazing and transformative experience. I agree with the article about the importance of continuing societal and infrastructural improvements rather than expecting individuals to adapt.

Ok, so is your house fully accessible? Wide doors, roll-on shower with taps and shelves down at a reachable height, no steps anywhere, lowered benches, no tall cupboards, etc etc? If not, why not?

My current house is not, because it is a century old and no one considered those things then. My last house was accessible (with a few small and easily fixed issues, like a couple of narrow doors), simply as a side effect of being an open-plan mid century house. Having lived in both, I plan to make accessibility a priority with my next house, because it just makes daily life easier and we are all one accident away from temporary or permanent disability. there are a lot of great concepts in the universal design toolkit that I want to implement, partly selfishly in case I need them myself someday, and partly out of politeness because I want my house to be accessible and welcoming to everyone I know, and unfortunately my current house is not.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:01 AM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Australia doesn't seem to have an equivalent to the ADA, and it really shows.

That's not correct. Australia has the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Section 23 of that Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of disability in providing access to or use of premises that the public can enter or use. This is expressed in a whole suite of building standards. More information from the Human Rights Commission.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:17 PM on August 9, 2015


The Australian act is very different, though, because it doesn't create a personal right of civil action:
125 Unlawful act not basis of civil action unless expressly so provided

(1) This Act does not confer on a person a right of action in respect of the doing of an act that is unlawful under a provision of Part 2 [i.e., the list of things that are illegal - JiA] unless a provision of this Act expressly provides otherwise.
The US act has been criticised for encouraging ambulance-chasers to profit by creating fictional outrages against people breaching the standards, but compare it to the Australian one, which gives no incentive for complaints other than civic duty. And really, if you're unable to visit a restaurant because it's not handicap-accessible, would you visit there after you lodged a complaint and it eventually complied? At least with the US one, some anonymous stranger is likely to lodge a complaint in order to get civil damages.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:08 PM on August 9, 2015


Fair point, Joe. A complaint to the Human Rights Commission isn't worth much when the Federal Government keeps trying to slash their funding until they crumble into dust.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:14 PM on August 9, 2015


Even if it were, how many people have the patience to lodge one? I don't know how much effort it takes to follow one through, but I suspect without prodding they won't suddenly drop everything to make a local cinema (e.g.) install handicap-accessible bathrooms. I mean, there are council officers who drive around all day, every day, finding illegally-parked cars. Is there anyone who does the same for illegally-designed public facilities?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:35 PM on August 9, 2015


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