I for one, am a big, big fan of public brouhahas involving people with disabilities. They seem to pop up almost weekly nowadays. Just a month ago I wrote here about the NPR story exposing all the “undeserving disabled” who are like pigs at the public trough, living it up on disability payments like we were breeding a nation of Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowskis. That was, not surprisingly, a gross exaggeration bordering on a lie. A few months before that the story du jour was all those lazy, conniving, fully ambulatory travelers who weasel their way into a public wheelchair at the airport so they can get on the plane first. That happens to be true but on what scale, no one really knows. Both of these are good news stories with legs because, not to make too fine a point, they instantly p**s people off and give them something to harangue about around the dinner table.
“Why, this is disgusting, these low lives ripping off the airports (or the government) like that! Marge, I am telling you, never trust the so-called ‘disabled.’ I say they are all a bunch of freeloaders and we ought to deport them to Canada! Pass the potatoes…”
Well, the latest disability outrage comes from the New York Post, a newspaper justifiably famous for bending, stretching, and exaggerating the truth to sell papers. The headline says it all:
Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides
so kids can cut lines at Disney World
And you didn’t have to read the Post to hear about this. It was re-posted a zillion times on Facebook and the like, usually with a comment like….”That does it. I have officially lost all faith in mankind!”
The gist of the story is that fat-cat New Yorkers take their kids to Disney World like everyone else, then hire a rent-a-crip in a wheelchair to accompany them so they can wave the disability flag and instantly go to the front of the line for the Jungle Cruise or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. With such a special-needs pal in tow, you get to go to a special ride entrance and not stand around for two hours like those other poor slobs. Too bad Mom and Dad saved quarters for years so that the kids could finally get to Disney World and have a truckload of fun. They can wait in those endless queues like everyone else…except for me and my wheelchair-using “cousin.”
Is this really true? Well, it sounds true, doesn’t it.? It’s simple logic. One, everyone hates rich people. Two, everyone hates New Yorkers. Three, of course such hateful, me-me-me kind of people would do something lowdown like this. They have the money. They can do anything!
My own first thought upon reading this story came from a wheelchair user’s point of view: what a great way to make some cash! People with big bucks call you up and pay you, what, $300 or $400 a day, plus per diem, to tool around Disney World, free, take free rides, eat free churros until you puke, and then receive a nice fat tip for being so darn friendly to all the people scowling at you for cutting in line. The Disney World people couldn’t accuse you of faking it – you are clearly disabled. And how do they know that Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III and little Muffy aren’t your in-laws from Scarsdale? You are just providing an “escort” service, except in this case, you don’t have to have sex with a stranger at the end of the day.
I know, it still seems like something unethical and un-American, especially at the populist playground of Disney World. For those of you who will stay steamed about this injustice for weeks, I have some good news: it isn’t true! I found a six-page blog on line by a fanatical Disney-World-obsessed adult who had a dozen reasons to poo-poo this scandalous report. She listed 48 different rides at the four DW theme parks that are wheelchair-accessible and so the chair people and the walking people use the same line, however long. She also points out that the Post only featured one New York mom who found one disabled tour guide to pull off this scam. It’s exactly like finding one welfare mom who says she has 10 kids when she only has five and deducing that all moms on welfare double their number of dependents.
Whether it’s true or not doesn’t really matter in the end. To use Stephen Cobert’s famous word, it has enough “truthiness” to be believable. Besides the always-popular disabled “Beating The Odds” hero who climbs Mt. Everest, it’s about the only way people with disabilities make the news these days. We are a convenient excuse for all kinds of scams. Does the outraged public pity us for being taken advantage of or resent us for creating the conditions that the scam artists can exploit?
Hey, I’m going to Disney World!
© 2013 Allen Rucker |
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The Best Seat in the House:
How I Woke Up One Tuesday and Was Paralyzed for Life