Letter to the editor
In July 2001, I testified at an Occupational Safety and Health Administration
ergonomics forum in Arlington, Va. I had carpal tunnel release surgery Aug.
23, 2001, and am appalled by the Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Toyota. Although federal workers are
covered by the Rehabilitation Act and not the Americans With Disabilities
Act, I am alarmed by the decision.
Perhaps if Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her colleagues had carpal
tunnel syndrome, they would have ruled differently.
The justices missed one major point: All aspects of our lives are impacted
by our illness.
I cannot sleep at night. My hand pain wakes me up. Sometimes my injured
sisters and brothers and I may make errors because we are so tired.
The only time I drive during the day is getting to work. It hurts me
too much to move the steering wheel, and I am lucky I have only eight miles
Before I go to work, I have to relax my hands after they wake me up.
I have to soak both of them, and I have had operations on both of them.
I then take a 30-minute walk to help my circulation. Next, I have to put
my hands in a paraffin wax bath that workers' compensation paid for.
I then glove my hands so that I can have some warmth in them, and then
I drive to work. All the while, I keep in mind that when I use my keyboard
(and I just got a split one), my fingers are still going to throb.
For me a good day is not having my hands go numb. Then I try to repeat
the same cycle.
On weekends, I don't drive whenever possible. Tasks such as carrying
groceries are impossible. I pray for light because if I have to change a
bulb, the pain I face unscrewing and screwing in a light bulb is intolerable.
Perhaps if Justice O'Connor and her colleagues walked in my shoes and
the shoes of Ella Williams and other victims, they may have ruled differently.
But then they would find that many of my colleagues and I can't tie our
shoes. I use Velcro.
Carpal tunnel affects all aspects of a person's life, and the decision
in the Williams case appalls me.
American Federation of Government Employees Health and Safety Representative