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JetBlue boots autistic girl from flight: what we can learn

JetBlue makes a tough call when an autistic child becomes upset, highlighting how little most people know about autism, leaving much room for companies to learn about it to better accommodate autistic employees or customers.

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When JetBlue and an upset autistic child collide

When Emily Galindo and her husband asked if they could be seated together with their thirteen year old autistic daughter as they boarded a JetBlue flight, the crew tried to accommodate them. They, however, were only able to seat mother and daughter, Mia, together. Mia’s father was about ten rows ahead of this wife and child, and therefore not within his daughter’s sight.

Mia is autistic. Being rational and reasonable are skills that have to be taught, and even if an autistic child has memorized certain situations for the purpose of social rules, some situations, like this one are brought on too suddenly for an autistic child or individual to utilize his/her memorized skills. To Mia, her dad was gone. In the stress of the situation, she could only accept that if she couldn’t see him, he wasn’t there.

Stress, worry, and the unexpected caused Mia to have an outburst. She used only sign language and an I-pad for communication. To get the message across that she was angry, she refused to put on her seatbelt to prepare for taxiing. She actually had a good rationale. She wanted her dad on the plane; the plane won’t leave the terminal without all seatbelts buckled; she didn’t buckle her seatbelt. She wasn’t rebelling. She was communicating the best way she knew how.

Accommodating autism is tricky

Ultimately, the family was asked to leave the plane citing the enraged child was a possible danger to other passengers, and in the aftermath the family, the crew, and the passengers were left wondering how the situation could have been handled more successfully.

In the defense of JetBlue, they did initially try to accommodate the family, but autism is tricky to accommodate. They can’t just serve a special meal or call a skycap upon arrival. As the well known saying goes, “If you’ve seen one autistic child, you’ve seen one autistic child.” Autism isn’t a visible disability, especially on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. It is silent until it isn’t. It looks normal until it doesn’t.

To the blind eye, it looks like bad parenting, although for Emily to have gotten Mia through a family vacation and onto a plane took days, weeks, even months of the most patient, loving, and skilled kind of parenting there is. Emily, in retrospect, may have some different decisions, but she was tired. Tired like no parent of neurologically typical children can fathom.

It was a difficult call for the airline to escort the family off the flight. Mia did need to get off the plane in order to calm down and refocus. Just like a person having a panic attack or a PTSD sufferer would need a change of scenery to find calm.

Companies should gain a better understanding of autism

We understand panic and PTSD better now, but there was a time when we didn’t—a time when PTSD war veterans were excommunicated for their efforts, ignored, and labeled alcoholics or just plain messed up. Now any one of the general population would be appalled at the unfair treatment of a PTSD sufferer. That time hasn’t come yet for autism.

Until then, companies, brands, businesses, and schools need continuous education. We all have professional education, in-services, and lectures on equal rights. How many of us, depending on our industry, are still being made to check a yearly box that says we have been trained in bloodborne pathogens, STDS, affirmative action, and practice drills? Hearing these things repeatedly seems asinine. And, here’s hoping that in the coming years, we are all so well learned on the fair treatment of those with silent disabilities that we roll our eyes at the mention of the annual training.

Because we are all uneducated until we aren’t.

Kristyl Barron holds a BA in English Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MHR in Counseling/Organizational Management from the University of Oklahoma. Barron has been writing professionally since 2008, and projects include a memoir entitled Give Your Brother Back His Barbie and an in progress motivational book called Aspies Among Us.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. BawldGuy

    July 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    The airline tried to accommodate them? Really? How hard would it have been to seat Mom, Dad, and the daughter in one row? This is beyond stoopid.

  2. Emmanuel Fonte

    July 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

    no one is “autistic”! It’s the equivalent of saying you are cancerous. You have cancer, you have autism.

  3. Pondering_It_All

    July 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Really? Jet Blue “tried” to accomodate them, but couldn’t? They solved the problem by kicking them off the flight completely, but they couldn’t just order three other individual passengers to change seats with them. That is beyond ridiculous, and makes those Jet Blue employees look like idiots and liars.
    Its not like they would have even had to split up a group of three, since I am sure there were many rows containing three people traveling alone or just two of the three people together.

  4. Lisa Pulitzer

    August 21, 2013 at 1:26 am

    I find this story sickening. I have recently traveled aboard Jet Blue with my two children, and we have been separated on most of our flights. My daughter has an airborne peanut allergy and is already terrified at the prospect of being on a flight where someone might open a bag of nuts or a candy bar, and even then, the flight attendants cannot accommodate a seat change so that she can sit with a parent. Additionally, passengers on this airline are equally horrible, refusing to change their pre-selected seat to accommodate a scared young traveler. Shame on the lot of you.

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Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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