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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Summer Work: Disney Here I Come

I love to read the New York Post. It is the epitome of tabloid journalism. The NY Post has no redeeming value aside from funny headlines and good coverage of my favorite hockey team, the NY Rangers. I am very careful not to read the news or what passes for the news. Today I was amused to read an "exclusive" article, "Rich Manhattan Moms Hire Handicapped Tour Guides so Kids Can Cut Lines at Disney World, by Tara Palmeri. The article is so dreadful and meaningless I refuse to provide a link. Just use your imagination--that is good enough for NY Post journalists. The article prompted my good friend friend Stephen Kuusisto to write a post on his wonderfully imaginative blog Planet of the Blind. Gawker, Jezebel and the Gothamist "reported" about the NY Post story. Better yet, Wednesday Martin, a social anthropologist discovered the scheme.  Martin has a new book out, Primates of Park Avenue, and works as a writer. She has a PhD in comparative literature from Yale University. How this makes her an anthropologist I am not so sure. But we are dealing with the NY Post, facts are optional. What I loved about this story is the effort to make it sound as though a lurid under ground economy exists. I am here to tell you yes we crippled men and women cheat. We steal. We manipulate. We are, in short, human beings. Oh, the horror!

The NY Post story had me on the floor laughing when I read about "black-market Disney guides" and the existence of a "rogue guide service". But wait there is more--yes, this service is available to only to  "Manhattan's private School set". The inside information is passed around in a "ritualistic manner". You cannot make this shit up. Investigative journalism in the world of Ruppert Murdock. We are doomed!  Now I could get ornery like my friend Steve Kuusisto did, (, and with good reason. Like Steve, I too am upset what he calls "able bodied outrage" over the myriad of perks we people with a disability supposedly enjoy. But not me, no sir, I am not mad, angry, or upset. I see an opportunity. The real question for me is do I want to react as a heartless capitalistic pig or as an outraged person with a disability. A third options exists too--have the Society for Disability Studies investigate the matter. The SDS meetings are going to be held--you guessed it--in Disney Land. Sorry, but I cannot help but keep on laughing. Let me explore the possibilities.

First, heartless capitalistic pig option. Dream Tours, identified as the "black marketers" charge $130 an hour and charge $1,040 for an eight hour day. I will undercut Dream Tours. I will put on my pathetic cripple costume and look particularly needy. But wait there is more! I will charge a flat fee of $1,000 and include free sun screen. But wait there is, you guessed it, even more. I will provide PBJ sandwiches and juice boxes. For medical emergencies we can use Disney's readily available epipen for bee stings. Bees love those juice boxes kiddies. Nothing but the best for tawny well heeled parents from Manhattan. Sorry, Nobu is a bit out of my realm of experience.  Just think how hungry you will be after eating nothing but a soggy PBJ like your maid made when you were little. 

Second, outraged cripple approach. This is not a money maker. Think of this as an Americanized Survivor episode minus the exotic location. I get to travel with the Manhattan family to Florida. We can wait and hope an Access A Ride bus shows up to take us all to JFK. Sorry no limos for the crippled. I fear NPR would broadcast yet another story about how disability is in reality a total scam. Upon arrival we hope the elevator works. A big if but today we are lucky.  We get to wait in line to hand off our luggage to friendly airport workers. Of course, none will speak with me because I have the cripple plague. After waiting in line for over an hour we make our way to the gate. The agent is of course is thrilled to see a crippled family member. We can observe the delighted gate agent spend 10 minutes entering obscure codes into the computer and inform us we will "pre-board". Needless to say this will not go well. The trained professionals that arrive late are disinterested, have no clue what they are doing, and do not speak a word of English. Overlooking these mere inconveniences, we board and then get to watch every single person exit the plane upon arrival and wait and wait and wait and wait... Um, and wait for similarly well trained employees to get off the plane. Of course this assumes my wheelchair was not damaged because the crew insisted it be stored in the belly of the plane. Somehow my privileged crippled status and multiple perks r.e. airport travel will not go over well.

Three, an investigation performed by the SDS. Oh God save me. First, we will need to organize a committee. The committee will create a panel discussion. 19,000 emails will exchanged by interested parties and posted on every listsev known to humankind. One year later the committee will reconvene to discuss the panels findings. The results are not conclusive. Another panel will be formed, papers presented and 29,000 emails exchanged. A new president of the SDS will take over and declare the approach used to date was ableist from a Foucaultian perspective. Yet another panel will be formed. More papers delivered, 39,000 emails will be exchanged. A report will be issued five years later. It is a wonderful report. By God, it is a publishable quality report that puts a dagger in the heart of social and economic inequality. Temple University Press is thrilled. The acquisition editor is thrilled. The report is edited by all parties involved and sent out for scholarly review. Two years later the reviews come back. This is important work. Editing is needed but we are good to go. The revisions take two years, warp speed in academia, and nearly a decade later the SDS weighs in. Disney should consider the symbolic significance of creating a line for people who have atypical bodies. This questionable policy could cause people unfamiliar with disability culture to resent the presence of the other.  The SDS implores Disney to reconsider their approach to difference.  Perhaps a committee could be formed. 

Satire, you gotta love it. Apologies to all.


Jo Kelly said...

LOL Bill!

FridaWrites said...

I enjoyed this.

Someone I think the real upset behind this is that some people are getting privileges others aren't--people are already upset about PWDs going to the front of the line, nevermind that the process is meant to keep the lines speedy for all so Disney doesn't have to stop the rides separately each time a different wheelchair user gets on.

But think how rich we could be! I just laughed.

FridaWrites said...

I meant "somehow I think." Good gravy, I've been sick for several days and the words aren't coming out right.

Moose said...

Yes, there are plenty of people out there who see any benefit for the disabled as something they can't have, and so they want it for themselves. The sad truth is that there really are people out there who will pretend to be disabled to get what they think are "benefits" of being disabled.

Some time ago I read an article about how able people use the mobility scooters at the big amusement parks (like Disney) because it let's them "save energy" so that they can last longer at the parks.

One of the more common ones is those who demand a wheelchair at airports because those go through a special security line. I've read and heard tale after tale of people insisting they need a wheelchair only to get through security, jump up, and run to their gate.

I've personally had to sit and wait extra time at airports (I always get there at least 3 hours too early) because the wheelchair that was coming for me got reallocated for someone who claimed they needed it sooner. Did they really? I don't know.

And I'll never know. The fact is that the downside to anything that helps the disabled will be abused by the able, and it's all but impossible to separate out the truly disabled from the entitled asshole who thinks they've found the pot of gold.

As someone who lives on SSDI in the US I hear this all the time: people - often random strangers - who think that I am collecting unfairly (always phrased as "My Tax Dollars!!!!) and not really disabled. Are there cheaters in the systems? Sure. There are selfish jerks everywhere.

To me, the most amusing thing about that article -- I did read it -- is the idea that handicapped people ride around in "motorized scooters that have a handicapped sign on it". Riiiight.

Penelope said...

There are two things that make the entire article even funnier:

1) WDW has it's own private VIP tours available that are less expensive.

2) The perception that using a wheelchair or some other disability-related accommodation at Disney gets you through lines faster is just plain not true. There is the pass that Make-a-Wish families get which will front of the line some families. There is a pass that can help people with invisible disabilities that are not general mobility/stamina related to wait in areas that are more appropriate to them or allow things like avoiding stairs or using a stroller as a wheelchair for kids. Then there are the accommodations for people who use wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, and other visual mobility aids which are fewer and fewer as they've mainstreamed most lines. In general the perception comes from people who think there's a faster service when there isn't (and it can definitely add to your wait time to use any of their accommodations at some attractions).

FridaWrites said...

Moose, the line in the article about people with handicap symbols concerned me--I was worried that Disney was making people mark themselves as disabled somehow to differentiate themselves from people who are "saving energy."

I can't imagine why anyone would want to go through the wheelchair airport line.

Pretending to be disabled is illegal in many states; I don't know about federally. That complicates this Disney scooter issue to me--if some of the users are claiming to be disabled rather than saving their energy.

I should have put privileges in quotation marks--I meant perceived privileges as opposed to access.

Also have to wonder if those who ride around at Disney in scooters believe that everything is that accessible.

william Peace said...

Moose, It is my wish we could eliminate the connection between the word "special" and "disabled". "Special education, special services, special passengers, special seating, special entrances and every derivation imply special treatment or an advantage in some way. Of course we know this is not true but it prompts a knee jerk reaction. Americans deeply value the idea we are all equal. Everyone knows this is not the case and is in reality something we aspire to. The very word undermines this. So yes, people who know nothing about disability think we are getting a perk we do not deserve. Again, this is not true but accounts for some cultural disconnection.
Penelope, I would not got to Disney under any circumstances. Disney bothers me from a cultural standpoint--especially the princess myth. Regardless, some people with a physical disability do indeed need to be accommodated. The creation of a separate line is thus a reasonable accommodation.

Unknown said...

That's the funniest thing I've read for quite a while.

Thanks for making my day!

Shannon said...

One of the "special perks" that non-disabled people seem to resent most is accessible parking.

As for Disney World, I went there in 2001 with family members and I waited on line just like everyone else, and no reason why I shouldn't because I'm sitting down all the time anyway. It's a different story if someone is ambulatory but has a hard time standing for long periods.

I don't understand the envy of wheelchair users at the airport. We go through a different line because we can't go through regular security. We have to get a pat-down (would the non-disabled like this?). Sure, we get on the plane first, but get off it last. And using the bathroom on a long flight is a huge problem.

I have been in very few situations where I was allowed (or required to) go to the head of the line because I use a wheelchair. The thing that bothers me the most about lines is that non-disabled tend to cut in front of me because they apparently think I am not really waiting on line (even though I obviously am).

pblock8 said...

This is so funny, especially the insider's view of SDS. Didn't I drag you into all that! Mea culpa, but I don't regret it for an instant. What a fabulous conference we had in Denver last year!

william Peace said...

Shannon, The policy regarding security lines at airports is not consistent. I have waited on very long security lines and been escorted to the front. This makes planning hard. Do you budget an hour for the security line or not?
Pblock8, I am by no means an SDS insider! I have attended in the past and it has not been a positive experience. I do not understand how disability studies became utterly divorced from disability activism. I am weary of thought provoking analyses of obscure literary texts. Yes, the work produced and presented is interesting but how does it relate to rampant unemployment, institutionalization, and the lack of accessible housing.