Thursday, April 1, 2010

Getting the Special Treatment: April Fools

Years ago a friend, also a wheelchair user, and I went to Disney. We were told that they no longer allowed folks in wheelchairs to go to the front of the line on rides because people had abused that rule. Apparently some rented wheelchairs or some such thing so they could get into rides more quickly.

As a result, we found ourselves at times on steep ramps, with my friend clutching onto the railing and, because I didn't have the grip, putting her chair behind mine so I wouldn't go backwards into the folks behind us in line, who kept standing right behind us, oblivious of the effect of gravity on a wheelchair. It was both exhausting and unpleasant for both of us.

Every now and then, a youthful employee would see us on line and gesture for us to go to a flat spot in line where we could wait out an equivalent amount of time, whispering "I can tell those chairs aren't rented".

"Yeah," my friend muttered at one point. "And neither are our disabilities."

Yesterday, as I crawled into my van twice - and had to use a manual chair for a short trip- because the van accessible handicap parking was all taken, I thought about all the assumptions our society has about so called special treatment. I thought about it when I got home to discover that my power strip wasn't working and I had no lights or a way to recharge my laptop without, once again, crawling around and attaching duct tape so I could manage to plug in things until Meredith could get over.

I've determined it's rather like April Fools day, this special treatment myth. The idea that leveling the playing field by giving you a larger spot to park so you can actually get out of your car with your wheelchair is something people envy seems like a bit of a joke when you need it to get out of your car. The fact that letting someone go to a flat spot in line because the line is on a steep hill and that means clinging to a rail for life for a half hour or more otherwise is seen as a way of "getting around a rule" is, at the least, odd. (Very interesting how no one who protested us leaving the line ever found out we just waited around on flat ground the same amount of time as others, but assumed we were put in front without waiting.)

Don't get me wrong. When people go out of their way to make special accommodations, I'm grateful to them for their time and graciousness. But it's the way it's seen by others that needs to change.

Until it does, getting any special treatment will continue to have such a downside that it may outweigh its benefits. Which is why crawling carries its own dignity at times that maybe the nondisabled don't understand.


Matthew Smith said...

A few weeks ago the Disabled Feminists had a pick over a song about "special treatment", about the treatment of Australian Aboriginals. They re-wrote it, with the exception of two verses which remained relevant, from the point of view of people with disabilities.

FridaWrites said...

Very true--I've waited for restrooms on ramps outside before and been unable to hold my position (scooter kept sliding back). It's only fair for us to wait in such a way if all the ableds have to risk toppling like dominoes too--or no one does. Of course, we are risking toppling them like dominoes, but they don't seem to notice the risk to them.

It's a pet peeve of mine that other disabled people park in the van space when another one would do.

zellie said...

It seems to me that someone should point out to the people in charge of disney world that recquring people in wheelchairs to cling for dear life in keep from rolling down inclines not only inconviencies and endangers the wheel chair users, but anybody else who happens to be in line around them. The fact that it is difficult for you should be reason enough for them to change their policy, but if it's not, they should think about what would happen if someone in an electric wheel chair were to loose their grip and start mowing down the people behind them.
p.s. while theme parks have never posed a problem to me,I know what it's like to require "special treatment" to function the same as other people.