Where there's a will
- By Thomas R. Temin
- May 01, 2002
Thomas R. Temin, Editorial Director
The athlete looked tired but determined. He was pushing up the last of a series of steep hills in a long road race. Spectators cheered and shouted encouragement. The weather had warmed considerably from the noon start, making the going more difficult.
He had a pair of aides positioned on either side and slightly behind him to make sure he didn't fall backward'though they weren't allowed to help him up the hill.
It was the notorious Heartbreak Hill in last month's Boston Marathon, and the man I'm describing was in a wheelchair, one of those lightweight models built for competitive racing.
Generally, wheelchair athletes, who get a 15-minute head start, finish marathons well ahead of those on foot, but this competitor found himself in the midst of the pack of 17,000 runners.
There's no momentum up Heartbreak Hill. He was in that zone where the effort requires as much mental stamina as physical.
I never did find out whether he finished, but I'll never forget the sight of one human being's will to succeed against long odds.
Emotion tends to make the mind range, and for some reason I thought of Section 508'maybe to forget for a few minutes my own screaming quadriceps'and wondering if that guy's employer provided him with an ergonomically correct workstation.
As the federal bureaucracy comes up on the first anniversary of Section 508's enactment, many agencies are touting the benefits to all users of making systems accessible to the disabled. Especially for Web sites, good design for accessibility results in better usability for users in general.
Plus, enabling the disabled to participate fully in the workplace ensures that no person is overlooked in the urgent search for talent.
Those are laudable benefits of 508. But I hope agency managers remember 508's fundamental purpose of letting minds trapped in disabled bodies realize their potential.
In road races, it is against the rules to help a runner. But in the world of work'another type of marathon'it's OK to give a little help.