Each Wednesday, I post my response to a question from the Redefining Disability Challenge. This is my response to the eighteenth question in the Challenge. As usual, I am not looking ahead to future questions, so I may inadvertently address some topics which will come up later in the Challenge.
Here is this week’s question:
Have you experienced preferential treatment because of disabilities? Preferential treatment means situations where you were treated better or differently from your peers even though there was no valid reason.
Yes – there are “disability perks.” And whenever I can, I work them for all they are worth. These may not be considered “preferential treatment” but they are definite advantages I would not have if I didn’t have my disability. In random order, here is my list of ten disability perks:
1. I (almost) Always Have Parking
Yes – it’s obvious. But I know I never have to worry about parking out in no man’s land when I go to the mall. Even at holiday time, I know I can find accessible parking. You walkers will just have to park waaaaaay at the end of the lot and dodge the crazy drivers on your walk in. Now, there may be times when I need to park in a smaller lot and someone has already taken the accessible space. However, parking is something I usually don’t have to worry about.
2. I Never Have to Do the Dishes
I am the youngest of six sisters. When we get together at my parents’ house for holiday meals or family celebrations, we put the extra leaves in the table to accommodate the sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. The extra table length prevents me from accessing the kitchen to help wash all of those dishes we create during our meals. So, my family members get stuck with clean up and I get to play cards with my nephews. Being the “baby” has perks.
3. I am Never Asked to Help Friends Move
Let’s face it, my ability to do heavy lifting is limited. So, when friends need to pack boxes and carry them somewhere, I am never asked to pitch in. I have used my van to help transport their belongings, but that does not involve manual labor.
4. I Always Have a Comfortable Seat
Waiting in line; watching a parade; enjoying a concert – I know I always have a place to sit and I know the seat will fit my frame. I think I remain on the invite list for Thanksgiving dinner at my sister Caroline’s house because I bring my own chair. All of the other chairs are taken, which makes me wonder if I’d be encouraged to start bringing my own chair if I didn’t already do so.
5. I Get to Board First
Have you flown Southwest or any of those budget airlines with open seating? Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are in the group which boards last, good luck getting an aisle or a window. But if you use a wheelchair, you board before everyone else. Which means I always sit in the very first row, in the bulkhead, with lots of leg room. If you’re nice to me when we are waiting to board, I may tell the flight crew you are my companion, which means you get to board with me.
6. Sometimes I Get to Go Backstage
Older buildings weren’t built or designed with wheelchair access in mind. So, there are times I need to use a back door or alternative path to gain access. When my friend David and I toured the White House, we got a sneak peak at the kitchens. I’ve actually seen MANY kitchens in my quest for access. Few were as clean as the White House kitchen.
7. Occasionally I Get an Upgrade
In 2006 I went to visit my friend Crystal in Nebraska. One of my planes was a small regional jet, and due to a delay I was late in boarding. Rather than move already seated passengers, I got to sit in the empty first class compartment.
8. I Gained Public Speaking Skills at a Young Age
I first appeared on television when I was eight years old for a local broadcast of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. Say what you will about their use of pity to raise funds, but my involvement with them as a child taught me how to behave on camera, how to interview, and how to speak extemporaneously in front of an audience. These are skills I continue to use in my career.
9. I Never Have to Worry About Blending In
People notice differences, so whether or not I want attention, I will be seen. You will easily spot my shiny red chair. But if I want to be remembered as more than just a chick in a chair, it is up to me to make sure you remember more than just my chair.
10. People Think I’m Nice
And for the most part, I am. But I can be a tad bit wicked sometimes, and I like practical jokes. Somehow, this naughty streak surprises people. At least, those who don’t know me well. Perhaps they don’t think the chick in the chair can be naughty. Little do they know….