Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stuttering Discrimination Question

A reader of this blog emailed me with a legal question, since I did attend law school. I will keep him anonymous since I don't have his permission to cite him, but basically what he asked was, if a bar threw him out because they mistook his stutter for being overly intoxicated, could he sue the bar? Here was my reply, leaving out the greetings and formalities and adding some corrections:

A law suit would likely be unsuccessful for a few reasons. First, most law suits are about lost. In this case, you lost nothing except your pride. Second, although you could sue based upon an act of discrimination against you, it would likely fail because, when assessing the actions of a person who has "wronged" you, courts mostly use the "reasonable person" standard. Here is how it works:

Courts ask..."Would the reasonable person in the shoes of the other guy have done what he did?" If not, you would likely win the law suit. If yes, the other guy wins.

Here is one argument for the defendant: To a reasonable bartender who deals with intoxicated individuals every day in his job, it's not unreasonable that he might confuse someone with a stutter...with someone who is having a hard time communicating because he is drunk. The two people might look very similar to him and, given his responsibility to stop serving alcohol to someone who is very drunk, it might be reasonable for him to take the chance that you are lying about your stutter...and deny you further service. How would you expect him to know the difference? What if you were lying and he continued to serve you and then you drove your car drunk and killed a child. Could the bartender be liable for failing to cut off your alcohol? Possibly. It's been done before.

So, his actions might be deemed reasonable by a jury, given that, 1) he can't be expected to tell the difference between a drunk man and a stutterer who has been drinking and 2) he has an affirmative duty to the public to act responsibly in his position as a bartender.

That's the argument the bartender's lawyer might make...and it's pretty persuasive.

An argument for the plaintiff might sound like this:

Would the reasonable bartender have simply denied you further service based upon how well you did or didn't speak alone? A prudent bartender would inquire further, perhaps questioning the friends that were with him, to see if the stutterer's claims were valid. Given how society usually treats stutterers, the teasing and taunting they face, and the many comedians who parody them in their acts, and the disdainful manner they are portrayed in films and on television, it's reasonable to assume that this bartender was likely repulsed by the stutter and simply decided to treat him unfairly, and then tried to justify it by saying that the man was too drunk. What other evidence existed that he was too drunk? Did the man stumble about? Was his speech slurred? If not, why was he denied service? This bartender did not act in a prudent fashion because he based his accusations of drunkenness on flimsy evidence and the result is that my client was needlessly ostracized and discriminated against for a disability.

That argument might persuade some, but I think the former argument is stronger.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My McDonald's Blunder

So, the other day, I was at McDonald's ordering my daily double-quarter-pounder-with-cheese (no onions)...which I then eat on my way to work. Don't worry, my cholesterol is very low, my metabolism is very high and I weigh somewhere around 150lbs. Anyway, one of my triggers for blocking is...ordering food. I hate to order food almost as much as I hate answering the telephone. At the McDonald's where I stop, they know me very well and they always just automatically place my order when I approach because I order it so often. Bless them.

Not on the day in question.

To my dismay, as I approached, I noticed the cashier was someone I didn't know. Damn. I was going to have to tell her my order. Maybe I'd be fluent. Maybe I wouldn't be.

"Can I help you?"

Okay, breathe. You can do this. "I'd like...a double quarter pounder with cheese, no onions, please and a bottle of water." Yes! I did it!

Except, right after I ordered, she leaned over, one hand cupped to her ear. "I'm sorry, quarter pounder, sir?"

Shit! I almost can never say the same thing twice without stuttering. "Double quarter pounder. No onions. And water." I did it! Again!

But, she leans in once again. "I'm sorry, double quarter pounder and what?"

Okay, I'd had enough. "And a bottle of water! Geez!!"

At that point, she looked up, visibly blanched and said, "Sir, I have a hearing problem."

Well, I felt like a total loser. Not only that, but the people standing around all looked at me like I was pond scum. I was going to apologize and explain why I had become annoyed...but I just froze, paid for the sandwich and prayed it would arrive very fast so I could get the hell out of there. Interestingly, I have been to that same McDonald's like 5 times since and she hasn't been there. I wonder if she quit or something.

All said and done, it was an unfortunate event brought about by the meeting of two people with different communication problems and neither realizing it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Steven Stanley on YouTube

Leys Geddes (left), Chair of, was good enough to alert me to the fact that Steve Stanley is now advertising his quack "stuttering cure" on YouTube. You'll remember that I've recently been blogging about Steve Stanley's 9-minute "stuttering cure" on this blog...I even purchased the cure for $37.00 so that I could find out what this cure is, since he doesn't reveal what it is in his advertisements. (scroll down to see the post where I explain what I purchased)
Leys wrote to me...

"We've been chasing Steve Stanley for over a year.  We've made six complaints to our Advertising Standards Authority about his entirely unsupported claims, and every single one of them has been upheld.  So what they call adjudications have been issued against Steve Stanley and Google, as his 'affiliate marketer, (i.e. they earn money for every click through from Steve's ads to one of his websites) telling them both to stop using these ads.  With a bit of luck, Google will encourage Steve to stop publicising all these incredible and irresponsible 'cure' claims, because it does not reflect well on them. That's probably why he's saying he may have to close down that site.

Steve has recently migrated to YouTube - enter stutter cure in the search box - where he continues to advertise his, er, cure - but for free, of course.  We are chasing him there too - see   I'm delighted to say that when the International Stuttering Awareness Day online conference opens on October 1st, Judy Kuster will be publicising this campaign."
I think we should all be aware of the latest scams that are out there, preying on the desperation of stutterers and stammerers to find a cure. It's the vilest form of deception because they seek to financially profit by exploiting the desperation of stutterers/stammerers like you and me who are desperate to find a cure. I encourage everyone who reads this to visit Steve Stanley's YouTube channel and let him know that we are aware of what he's doing and we are spreading the word to shut down scam artists like him.

Steve Stanley's YouTube channel:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stuttering at Work

One of my duties as a counselor is to occasionally tape a recorded report of the shifts' events for the on-coming shift. I say occasionally because it's primarily the nurse's job to perform this function, but often circumstances arise that make this difficult or inconvenient. We record the shift report only on my shift because my shift ends at 11:30pm and the only shift interested in the report would be the next morning's shift...not the overnight shift when the kids are all asleep, although they are free to listen to it.

The day shift gives the shift report in person and there is no reason to record it.

I recorded the shift report three nights this past weekend...Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. The report is recorded in a closed room, so I was by myself with nobody around to hear me record it, yet, I had much difficulty getting through it while being fluent. Ordinarily when I am speaking alone in a room I am almost completely fluent. But not while recording myself. Why do you think this is?

Could it be that...I realize that my voice is being recorded and that those that hear it will ONLY hear my voice and so there is added pressure to be fluent? I view it much as a phone conversation where the listener has a delayed hearing of my end of the conversation. Since I am most dysfluent while speaking on the phone, it would only make sense that making a recording that is much like having a one-sided phone conversation that I know will be heard later by the listener...would also give me just as much trouble.

Incidentally, I was able to record a fully fluent report all three days by intermittently stopping the recording when I came to a word or phrase that gave me trouble or going back and recording over stuttering events. It took longer because of this, but I was at least happy with the result.