On Facebook, bias simmers below the surface

Who should have access to disabled parking spots is always a hot-button issue.

Who should have access to disabled parking spots is always a hot-button issue.

I haven’t visited a Disney park in years, but I admit that being escorted to the front of the mile-long lines at the most popular rides made the experience bearable. (I’ll explain some other time why I’m not attracted to theme parks, Disney or otherwise.)

But those Manhattan moms who hired disabled “guides” to get them preferential treatment at Disney World in Florida, have ruined it for all of us. Once a New York newspaper broke the story of the shameful scam, Disney reviewed then changed its access policy.

Theme parks aren’t the only place where faking a disability has become a problem. A month or so ago when I was flying out West, some ticket agents told me they’d noticed an uptick in people requesting the use of airport wheelchairs so they can be escorted to the gate and boarded before the walking passengers. The agents believed that more than a few didn’t need the wheelchair or the service.

So where does that leave the legitimately disabled? Under suspicion, I predict.  And the object of backlash.  A recent series of postings that showed up on my Facebook page tells the story:

First post: The problem with flying to Portland International Airport – half of the people on the plane come with wheelchairs.

Second post:  And you know they just did that on purpose.

Third post: Wrap your ankle with an ace bandage, hobble, call to ride on the golf cart and you can be one of the crowd.

Fourth post:  My favorite part of the Arizona airport is the handicapped part of the parking lot. It’s basically the whole lot. And the area reserved for walkers – another parking lot.

The “conversation” stopped when I reminded my Facebook friend  that from my seat, the comments sounded an awful lot like disability bashing.

Oooops,” was his reply. (Yes, he’s still my friend on and off the Internet. Hopefully he’ll exhibit some heightened awareness if the topic comes up again.)

I fear there’s going to be more bad attitude directed our way. It crops up when “who has the right to park in handicapped parking spots?” is debated in communities.  I once wrote an opinion piece criticizing Madison Square Garden for its lousy handicapped seating arrangements. I received many emails from readers criticizing disabled people for “demanding special privileges.” A few emails even hinted that society would be “better off if ‘we’ just stayed home.”

That’s not going to happen.

I’m wondering, though, have you seen any sign or experienced disability bashing lately?

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