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Politics : So You Want A Disability?


If you have a disability, you have probably heard people say that it would be cool to have a disability because then they’d be able to ride around in a wheelchair, park in the front of the parking lot, etc. If you’re like me, this annoys you. I have heard this line a lot. If you’re like the people who make these comments you might need some perspective. For the purpose of this article, I’ll focus on wheelchairs but I encourage any person with a different disability to write in the comments or spread this around.

If you want to be in a wheelchair be prepared for a lot of extra expenses. Most wheelchairs cost about the same as a used car. Also be prepared to remodel your house top to bottom. Be prepared to deal with damaging your paint around your house. If you’re renting, pray for an understanding landlord. Be prepared to repair your own wheelchair. Be prepared to get your car refitted with a lift. Unless you qualify for government assistance, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. This is not counting medical bills, by the way.

When you go out, it gets fun. You’ll have to call ahead to make sure the restroom is accessible. Even if the guy on the phone says yes, you might find that it is less accessible than previously indicated. Some places just slap a bar on the wall and call it job well done whether or not a wheelchair can get in. Accessible bathrooms will not be something you will take for granted. Even things like an event geared towards people with disabilities may not be accessible.  Assuming the bathroom is accessible nine times out of ten it will be occupied by someone who is not actually disabled.  Parking lots will also be a fun experience. You will no doubt deal with that one guy who will park over all of the available handicap spots for his “five minute” beer run at least three times a month.

For some people, this means "quick stop parking"
For some people, this means “quick stop parking”

All of your events with friends and family will have to be planned with you in mind and deep down you will always wonder if they resent you for it. You will wonder if they talk about you behind your back wishing they could go to a different place from the accessible place. It takes its toll psychologically.

Finding a job will be hazardous. Even if you have a degree, you’ll have to get through the Human Resources person who assumes an employee with a disability will be an unproductive employee/lawsuit waiting to happen. You’re also limited as to what you can do so a lot of jobs are off limits.

Be prepared to deal with a lot of stupidity. The 7-11 cashiers will scream in your face. The waiter will ask the guy next to you what you want to order. The people at the airport will treat you like luggage. By the way, don’t bring an expensive wheelchair. You’ll be lucky if it survives the flight. Sometimes, you’ll deal with people treating you like a leaning post. Kids and sometimes adults will walk up to you and bombard you with uncomfortable questions including ones about your bathing suit area like it’s nothing.

Most of all, prepare to deal with “the glare. “ The glare that says “Oh Lord another cripple is about to hold us up.” Every time you get on a public bus and the lift comes down, some people will always glare at you. Any time you go somewhere and some accommodation is required, you’ll get the glare. You may not notice it but it’s there. It may be from the guy in the line behind you. It may be from the disgruntled bus riders. It may even be the employee. They may not visibly express their dislike of you but you’ll feel it.

A picture of a wheelchair accessible bus. Instigator of many "glares"
A picture of a wheelchair accessible bus. Instigator of many “glares”

They think you are not human. They think you are a waste of tax dollars. They’d rather you just go back inside. If you don’t believe me check any story where disabilities are concerned. Count how many comments it takes before someone says “And how much money will this cost?” Look at all the vitriol directed at every piece of disability legislation. Or for that matter, any article about disability rights on a mainstream news site.

Think people with disabilities have it so great? Think again.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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