This article seems like a first draft of a better editorial, on a topic that may or may not be all that important. Tuttle loosely ties together two fairly recent disability "issues" … people pretending their pets are assistance or therapy animals so they can take them anywhere, and the Disney World line-jumping scandal … and one notably more perennial problem … abuse of handicapped parking permits. My overall reaction is to think, "Yup, that's cheating right there", but it just doesn't make me very angry. The consequences and effects on people with disabilities aren't really spelled out or dramatized. Obviously, these things do hurt people with disabilities, but not nearly as much as employment discrimination, lack of accessibility, or … for many … being stuck in a nursing home or other institution just so they can get help to get out of bed, wash, and go to the toilet. I'm also surprised he didn't fold in the hue and cry over people supposedly scamming Social Security Disability. I think that's a similarly overblown problem, but it does fit the apparent theme … how "ethically challenged" people are these days. Finally, it would have been helpful if the article at least tried to understand how people think about these kinds of cheating. What do they tell themselves in their minds that makes it okay?
Like a lot of disability-related news stories, this article does a great job of dramatizing the issue it's focused on, but leaves a fairly obvious followup question unasked. If the Principal can't navigate her whole school because she now uses a wheelchair and they haven't installed a lift, what did they do with any kids they must have had now and then who used wheelchairs or crutches? They even noted that the Principal's original office was, "at the top of the stairs", and that kids loved to drop in visit with her. Well, disabled kids can't have done, can they?
The thing is, the answer to these questions might possibly be worse than most readers would guess. Knowing a little about how educational decisions are made in New York State, my guess is that grade-school-age kids in that district who use wheelchairs or crutches are sent to a regional BOCES … a separate facility for vocational and "special education" classes. I hope not. I hope that at least some of them have classes moved to accessible floors, or that the school tries some other ways to accommodate them, but if they won't help the Principal get to her office, I'm doubtful that they'd be all that creative with "a few" disabled students.
A few letters in response to last week's "60 Minutes" story on suspicions of widespread cheating and corruption in Social Security Disability. It's good to see that the story is getting at least some well-deserved flack from viewers.
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