With apologies for my long absence from ponderings of this relatively new life (with life seeming to get in the way quite often), I hope to be back a bit more regularly. I’ve had a few items come across my desk, my FB page, my twitter feed and my various voracious news reading that have begun to bring back some inspiration. That being said…my first need to post is one built out of sure outrage…with a hint of amusement that I can’t resist.
Since joining the ranks of the disabled, I have become keenly aware of the challenges that are faced by any who face these changes to their lives. Accessibility, employment, living life, economics…even having people believe you are as disabled as you truly are. Thus when I had several friends pass on this bit of news, I had some very mixed reactions to it.
You may have seen it if you follow me on FB, or pass by in the news, but it’s quite the story of both innovation, over-privilege and sheer gall. I’ve been to Disney recently. It was the first real trip that Shannon and I took with the wheelchair. We felt it was a good start to figuring how travel was going to work, by going to a place that was so accessible and worked so hard to offer even some advantages to those with disabilities. That trip was actually quite inspiring after the pain, the rehab, the rebuilding of body and spirit. It started before we even hit the park, with a conversation at the Orlando airport with a young boy who was being wheeled off for a dream trip on a Disney Cruise in a chair of his own. It was a brief shared moment, where this kid seemed to be so impressed seeing an adult in a chair just like his. Seriously, you have to see the strength in these kids…they put all of us to shame. It was barely 5 minutes of time with him before we went down our separate paths to departing busses…but it has stuck with me. I didn’t know what struck this child…but he was about to embark on adventure of his dreams. I shook his hand and wished him and his caregiver the best, before Shannon and headed on our own adventure.
From there I have to give Disney full credit. I am pretty sure I have spoken of this before, so I won’t belabor the point, but they do an excellent job of pulling you away from the world…and making sure that those of us with mobility issues have access to almost everything. Hell, I could have ridden the few roller coasters they have, but Shannon and I thought that unwise less than 2 months from surgery number 3. Next though…next time I’m not missing out on the aircraft carrier catapult launch at the Aerosmith ride. And yes there will be a next time. Which will still amaze a few people.
I was a Disney cynic for a very long time…and didn’t honestly think I had any reason to go back there after a trip with some friends back in…oh it had to be 2002 I think. The trip Shannon and I took in the summer of 2011 made us realize, that sometimes…its a quick and fun escape from the world. We look forward to going back with friends and family…and sharing the experience. That is something that Disney does very well. They don’t separate the disabled from their family…they let them partake of the rides in the same way. They let them enjoy the “advantages” the disabled get…keeping in mind all the disadvantages we have out in the real world. The trick is…quite often these so-called advantages aren’t really taking advantage of much. Sure, we often get to jump the long lines…but that is mostly because we have to skip portions of the lines that have stairs, or areas we just can’t get to, or when we need to use a special loading section. It does mean we get to get in quicker in a lot of the older rides…but the most popular and newest rides generally don’t end up with much time savings.
So reading the article linked above, about rich, over privileged families hiring disabled people to fake being family members to speed their way through these lines…well it certainly brought out a few reactions. On one side, I couldn’t resist joking with some friends that I was now open to negotiating my line skipping rate with them on the next trip. You see…the friends we have that we travel with ARE family to Shannon and I. Their children are our nephews…and I truly look forward to sharing the experience with them. To shooting my way through the Toy Story ride with that obscenely phallic device…really you just have to see it and the motion of it…not sure what Disney was thinking…but it was damn fun. I’ll leave it to Adam to remind me of the name of the ride. While I can joke though, that masks the deeper reaction.
I am absolutely outraged by this. Not with the disabled person who, I fully admit, showed the wherewithal to make some damn good money from a few over-rich fools. That person made some money…but in the process has hurt the rest of us who rely on that system to help our vacations. I can’t even begin to get into how angry it makes me that some mom’s think they are better than the rest and get to skip lines for their kids just because they can afford to pay for this fakery. That sense of the 1% syndrome deserves a rant all its own…but that rant really doesn’t have a place here.
My concern is more with how much more of a burden this will place on the legitimately disabled. In life, outside Disney’s walls of fantasy, the disabled have to jump through hoops in all aspects of life. We need to prove, constantly that we are truly disabled, that we aren’t faking it, or just trying to take advantage of a system. We need to chase doctor’s note, surgical notes, and send them to multiple governments sources as proof of what we are. As if just having someone show up and see our scars, our limitations, our need for just a little bit of help wouldn’t be enough. I don’t speak for all of course, but there are a ton of disabled people out there who live there lives and earn their livings without having to be on the public dole. They aren’t bilking the system, they aren’t wasting the public’s taxes. They are using options available to them that can help them be productive members of society. Everything from the ADP program that helps pay for mobility aids, to tax credits on renovations and health related items. They use these things to let them work, to help their families and to just live life. Yet, everyone of those programs, those “advantages”, requires hoops to run through because of the few who would take advantage of them.
This Disney abuse is just one more event that is going to hurt those with legitimate disabilities and their families. Disney is going to have to take steps to combat this in order to maintain the integrity of the system they put in place with the best of intentions. Inevitably, that is going to lead to more hoops that a disabled person, and their families are going to have jump through in order to prove they deserve them. A walker won’t be enough. A wheelchair won’t be enough. Will I need to carry my marriage certificate to share the escape from reality with my wife? What about those extended family members that I want to share it with?
This isn’t about taking advantage of the system for the average disabled person. This about escaping from the reality of our lives, our struggles, our battles, in a place where fantasies and adventures can come to life if you let yourself buy into it and push your cynicism aside. So, as I said to one of my cousins…hearing of this abuse of a few rich people on the system leaves me…perturbed. Perturbed enough to scrawl a rant of a thousand words that only a few will read. I also realize that those who have abused this system would read this and dismiss it…because since they have the money, what do they care.
I honestly hope that for their sake, they don’t ever have to actually deal with a REAL disability in their family. The escape from reality that a place like Disney can provide is just that…an escape. Then reality returns. They threaten that escape…and potentially ruin it for the rest of us…and unfortunately, I realize they wouldn’t care.
So, if you meet this geek on wheels in Disney, rolling around with my extended family…know this.
He’s not for sale.