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October 9, 2003

Commission dismisses deaf sky diver's discrimination complaint

From: (subscription), MI - Oct 9, 2003

WYOMING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint from a deaf sky diver who accused a company of discrimination for refusing to pay for a sign-language interpreter for jump training.

Saying Skydive Hastings Inc. had provided "reasonable accommodation," the commission unanimously dismissed the complaint.

Michael Dantuma, attorney for Skydive Hastings, said the company is committed to accommodating customers.

"We certainly want deaf people to access sky diving like everybody else," Dantuma told The Grand Rapids Press for a Thursday story. "I think what spoke to the commission in the end were the previous attempts that were made to accommodate her and also done in the past to accommodate deaf people."

The complaint was brought by Nancy Gingery, of Wyoming, who has been deaf since age 2. She uses American Sign Language as her primary means of communication.

Gingery said she needed the interpreter because she communicates better with a human than by reading things on paper and writing back and forth.

She said her situation with Skydive Hastings started in 1999, when she inquired about jumping and was told that the company would not pay for an interpreter.

She completed her first jump with the Hastings-based company in August 2000 after a local interpreter volunteered to help her through the training.

In June 2001, Gingery organized a group to take skydiving lessons from the company that included 16 people who were either deaf or hard of hearing, she said. Again, her request for an interpreter was denied and volunteer interpreters stepped in to help the group.

She contacted state civil rights workers shortly after that and filed a complaint.

Gingery said she went skydiving with the company again in August 2001 and her request for a sign-language interpreter was again denied.

The state Civil Rights Department backed Gingery, and a referee who heard her case recommended a ruling in her favor.

But the commission noted that testimony revealed deaf individuals were able to sky dive in the past without the use of an interpreter.

The opinion also noted that Gingery never was denied the chance to dive, and the company allowed her interpreter to accompany her at no charge.


On the Net:

Michigan Department of Civil Rights,

Skydive Hastings Inc.,

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