Equality or Special Treatment?

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Yesterday Jay and I got into a debate about how society should treat the disabled. However, the conversation really started a couple of years ago after I heard his step-dad’s famous France story. His step-dad had polio as a child and, as a result, doesn’t have full use of his right leg. He walks around with a cane, but is still fairly mobile. Many years ago while in France he was waiting with his family (including Jay) in the long line up for The Louvre. After a very short time someone from the museum came rushing up to them (seeing the cane) and said that they shouldn’t have to stand in the long line up (out in the sun). They were whisked to the front of the line.

Jay argues that we should give special treatment to the disabled, old, or otherwise ill; I argue we shouldn’t. Now before you start to think I really am a bitch, let me explain. I think we should treat everyone equal, or as close to equal as possible. However, because we are all so different being treated equal often means being treated differently. So, I guess what I really mean is that we should all have equal opportunities in life. I believe that everyone should be able to visit the Louvre. If you are in a condition that prevents you from standing for long periods of time, or from standing in the sun, I 100% think you should be provided a chair, or somewhere cool to sit. However, why should the person in the wheelchair or with the cane not have to wait the same amount of time as I do? Doesn’t letting them skip the line scream “I think you are different?” Isn’t that what disability acts around the world are trying to prevent?

There is an excellent episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit that covers the American Disabilities Act (and handicap parking). You can watch it below:

While I may not agree with everything they say in the episode, they make many valid points. Sometimes I think as a society we get SO worried about making sure we do not discriminate, that we tend to overcompensate in the other direction.

As I mentioned in my previous post, when I was in university I was severely depressed. Because of this I didn’t always do my best work and often handed work in late. I could have gotten academic consideration, and in retrospect I wish I had. It would have put me on a more level playing field with the rest of my class. I didn’t because I was so worried that people (and myself) would think I was trying to get special treatment. As a result I had to stay an extra semester to bring up my grades so I could graduate with honours. Fast forward a few years to my vacation at Disney World. I planned ahead and got fast passes to space mountain. This is totally valid and even smart way of visiting the theme park. But, I still felt guilty walking past the LONG line of people waiting for the ride.

If you can’t walk I’ll build a ramp. If you can’t hear I’ll get a sign language interpreter. If you can’t see I’ll get you a seeing eye dog. But I’m not going to give you special treatment beyond what it takes to give us equal access or opportunity. That would be taking pity on you. I don’t want your pity so why would I hand it back out to you.

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