Of all the problems affecting people with disabilities, non-disabled people pretending to be disabled in order to steal our privileges and accommodations strikes me as more of a moral issue than one of real harm. It seems like a favorite theme for the mainstream press, though, maybe because it's the sort of injustice that anyone can understand. At least this article deals with the fact that it's not so easy to catch cheaters. Wheelchairs in airports aren't just for people who can't walk, and a person who gets up out of a wheelchair to walk the last few yards onto a plane isn't necessarily faker. Imagine the chaos and humiliation if airline employees were empowered to grill everyone who asks for wheelchair assistance about what, exactly, the nature and severity of their disability is. I'd rather let a mildly arthritic lady use a wheelchair she might not, strictly speaking, need than have to carry around a notarized note from my doctor.
This is a great example to help flesh out how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies in inherently physical professions, like professional sports. Diabetes may or may not affect a pro football player's performance, and should be judged on a case by case basis. It's refreshing to see a news article that seems to understand this and ask the right questions, even if doesn't provide answers.
Here is one reason why it's a mistake to judge a person's disability on appearance, or recognize only the most severe conditions. Arthritis can be a very real impairment, but very hard for the average person to assess just by looking. The sheer numbers of people with arthritis, and its connection with age, should also affect how businesses understand their responsibility to make their places accessible.
My father was an opera lover. I remember hearing James Levine's name announced on public radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera every weekend in my childhood. I didn't know he had been sidelined by spinal injuries, but it's great to see that he's figured out ways to return to the podium. It would be nice if all workers with disabilities were as well accommodated in their jobs.
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