Know-Nothing Ablebodied People Suspect Disability Is A Scam


Wheelchairs

The CBS headline says it all: “Scammers Using Wheelchairs To Skip Airport Lines Legally.”

“When [travelers] see that the line is so long, they just ask for a wheelchair,” Evelyn Danquah, an attendant for Delta Air Lines, told the Times. She said she has seen some wheelchair fakers stand and walk away as soon as they clear security. Wheelchair attendants — whose salaries range between $9 and $14 an hour, with tips, help to maintain a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding the line-hopping strategy in hopes of bolstering their paychecks, the Times reported.

The tactic even spawned a new term among flight attendants: “miracle flights.” Where passengers use wheelchairs to board but abandon them when their planes land.

Kelly Skyles, the national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told the Times she believes travelers shed their wheelchairs because passengers in wheelchairs are the last to leave the plane.

“Not only do we serve them beverages and ensure their safety — now we’re healing the sick,” said Skyles, who is also a flight attendant.

Many people who the article implies are scammers, are actually not doing anything wrong other than failing to conform to ablebodied expectations of what disabled people look like.

I’m not usually bothered by the five-minute walk from when I get out of security to my gate in the Portland airport. But standing on the security line is much harder. First of all, it can easily take up to 20 minutes if the airport is crowded, so I’m standing for much longer. And even if it’s only five minutes, standing still (with occasional shuffling) is just much, much harder on me than walking is. My bad knee and heel, normally slight nuisances that I ignore while walking, sometimes scream with pain waiting on line.

In 20 years time, if my body keeps on degrading, I could easily imagine myself requesting a wheelchair for the security line, but standing up and walking once I’m past it – not because I’ll be cheating, but because I’ll genuinely be incapable of standing in a security line for 20 minutes, but nonetheless capable of walking for five minutes to my gate.

Similarly, boarding an airplane is simply harder work than deboarding. To board the plane, everyone lines up in single file and shuffles, shuffles, shuffles along the jetway. It takes five to ten minutes, and if several passengers are slowed down by hard-to-stow baggage it can take even longer.

In contrast, if you don’t stand until the aisle ahead of you is clear, deboarding is a two-minute walk down the jetway to the airport, which requires much less endurance. There’s no reason to assume that someone who is capable of deboarding by themselves, is capable of boarding by themselves just as easily.

Blogger Fibromyalgiaproblems writes:

This is ridiculous.

I’m not saying NO ONE fakes needing a wheelchair, because I’m sure it happens, but I seriously doubt it’s to the degree that is implied in this article.

I don’t use a wheelchair, at all, but honestly, if I were going to fly right now, I’d need one. I can’t stand in line for any extended period of time. Not that I’m opposed to “waiting” in line, I just certainly can’t stand in it. I get around it because I plan my life so that I don’t have to stand in line, when I grocery shop I do it with other people, and if the lines are too long when I’m there by myself, I just have to find somewhere to sit until they go down, because I simply can’t stand like that for 10-15 minutes.

(I’d also recommend reading the replies to Fibromyalgiaproblems posted here.)

In comments at Ethics Alarms, Jack suggests:

…a partial solution would be to charge something for the privilege, like the current cost of checking a bag. Would you object to that? It would probably not dissuade many cheaters, but some, and at least they would be partially paying for their deception.

But most of the people “paying something” would not be the cheaters! In effect, Jack’s plan would pick out disabled people and charge them extra for being disabled.

An alternative plan: When passengers buy a ticket, passengers will be asked to check a box if they want some passengers to pay an extra fee in order to prevent other passengers from cheating by using a wheelchair without need. Those who check off “yes” will be charged an extra $80 for a round-trip, which will go to a fund to reduce cheating.

If next to nobody would volunteer to pay the fee, as I’m sure would be the case, then only inexpensive anti-cheating measures will be used, such as printing a notice in tiny print on the boarding pass asking people not to ask for wheelchairs unless they have a need one.

The benefit of this plan is that the only people paying for it, will be people who genuinely find it worthwhile to pay extra for the pleasure of knowing that there’s an anti-cheating measure in place. That seems fair.

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80 Responses to Know-Nothing Ablebodied People Suspect Disability Is A Scam

  1. 1
    KellyK says:

    Shouldn’t the title be “Know-Nothing” rather than “No-Nothing”?

    [Correction made, thanks! --Amp]

    Anyway, I’d seriously much rather have someone cut in line than have someone who’s in pain be denied a wheelchair, charged extra for it, or assumed to be cheating.

    Good points too about standing versus walking and the length of time. I have some knee and ankle issues, and my ankle is much worse while standing than while walking, unless I walk for a couple miles.

  2. 2
    Ben Lehman says:

    I find this weird.

    Yes, there are cheaters. Of course there are cheaters.

    The question is: are the wheelchair using passengers making things considerably worse for everyone else? I think that’s almost certainly no. Generally speaking, there are 0-2 wheelchair passengers in a given security wait. This delays my security wait by about 5 seconds each, tops.

    Let’s say that an astronomically high 50% of people in wheelchairs are actually non-disabled cheaters. That means that, with a 10 second delay in security, I am helping a disabled person get access to travel that they would not otherwise be able to undertake. Is that worth ten seconds of my time? Obviously.

    As a note, wheelchair users on buses take considerably more time (probably 30-40 seconds) due to all the belts. I don’t begrudge them this, either, but I just wanted to point out that the delay for disability access in air travel is comparatively low w/ other forms of mass transit.

    I wonder if this stupidity isn’t based on the fact that, for rich people, air travel is the only form of mass transit that they take. Slight time delays for disability access are pretty much de rigeur in mass transit, but rich people may feel frustrated or annoyed because they’re just not used to the concepts of mass transportation.

    yrs–
    –Ben

  3. 3
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I love the part at the end of the article where the Airport Wheelchair Fakers are compared to a man who faked a disability to get $2.9 million in grants. That’s obviously the same sort of thing.

  4. 4
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Ben – My guess, based on no evidence but reading the original article, is that this is a “problem” that was “noticed” by a CBS reporter as he was standing in a long, slow security line and suddenly became aware that there are people in wheelchairs going past.

  5. 5
    Ruchama says:

    I’m puzzled by these people who seem to think that the only “real” disabled people who need wheelchairs are people who can’t walk at all, and that walking even a little bit is proof that they don’t really need the wheelchair. How do they think that these “real” disabled people got to the airport without a wheelchair in the first place? People who need a wheelchair all the time are, by definition, not the people who are getting a temporary wheelchair at the airport.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Ruchama, not to disagree with your larger point, but I do think some people who need a wheelchair all the time bring their wheelchair to the airport. Once at the airport, they transfer to a temporary airport wheelchair and check their own wheelchair to be put in the baggage section of the plane.

  7. 7
    Ruchama says:

    Good point. I’ve seen people do that, but I’d forgotten about it.

  8. 8
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Ruchama – they are, actually, because airlines don’t allow you to use your own wheelchairs past security. This is partially because you need to check in the wheelchair so that it can travel with you, and partially for security reasons (it’s a lot easier to hide something in a wheelchair than in one’s clothes, and much harder to search).

    (edit – oops, Amp beat me to it)

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    I have to confess that when I heard about this I presumed that those folks were scammers as well. When you live near O’Hare and Midway, air travel news gets big play in the local news shows. But the points made here about waiting in line, etc., do make sense to me.

  10. 10
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Well if the airlines or airport *wanted* to get strict about it they could say if you show up with a walker or wheelchair then you check that and we’ll get you one of ours. If you do not check in a wheelchair or walker you do not get one of ours. I have taken air trips escorting my elderly parents and they really can’t walk to the gate nor stand in line, they just can’t. In fact my parents missed a connecting flight because when they deboarded there were no assistants with wheelchairs to meet us as we got off the plane. It was a big fat mess I’ll tell you. So for those people who really need a wheelchair they really are inconvenienced by cheaters. And because they make you check the wheelchair you are then at the mercy of the airlines and have to just plain sit and wait.

    So since I have BTDT I would like stricter rules as then there would be more wheelchairs available for those who are dependent on them. My solution would be to have stools on wheels that you can scoot through the security line on, or maybe some benches every little way through the line. Libraries have them, a round stool on wheels that once you put weight on them the sides come down and contact with the floor and they are stable. They could have mobile stools available.

    Also what you could do, and I have no objection to this at all, is have the people in wheelchairs wait line line like everybody else and go through the security line. The attendant using the airport/airlines wheelchair puts you and your baggage at the end of the line. Once you pass through security you wait until they make their rounds and pick you up and take you to your gate.

    See it is an inducement to use a wheelchair because you get through security quicker. Take away the inducement by having the wheelchair people wait in the security line. If you are in a wheelchair you know how to propel yourself in it. There really is no reason that I can determine for moving wheelchair people up to the front of the line to get through security right away, other than the convince of the airline/airport wheelchair attendants not wasting time in line. People in wheelchairs can wait like everybody else, my parents would not object to going through the security line like everyone else. The point is, it IS a problem. It is a real problem when so so so many are using wheel chairs because then when my parents need one they are not readily there.

    I am talking waiting an hour for a wheelchair when deboarding. And likewise we have waited a good 45 minutes to get one after check in. I have taken them on several trips so I know. I often thought they are making us wait so that it is very inconvenient in order to discourage anyone from requesting a wheelchair, you’ll get sick of waiting so you will get up and walk. I do think it is a problem and I have offered my solutions. Even after waiting all that time my parents still tip the attendant who pushes them, and generously. After waiting an hour I am not so sure I would be tipping, but that is my parents.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    It is a real problem when so so so many are using wheel chairs because then when my parents need one they are not readily there.

    What evidence do you have that this is caused by “cheaters” and not by, say, lots of disabled people traveling?

  12. 12
    StraightGrandmother says:

    My experience of having extensively traveled for 35 years. That is all I got. There were always wheelchairs provided from the airlines. But the number of people I see being wheeled around now far far far exceeds what it used to be. Even allowing for an aging population. That’s all I got.

  13. 13
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I don’t think this stems from the fact that some folks need wheelchairs. I think it stems from the fact that because they’re in wheelchairs, folks get to cut the line–and having a disability that requires a chair really says very little about your ability to wait in line. The fact that this tweaks some folks is pretty understandable: waiting in line usually sucks for pretty much everyone, so it doesn’t seem fair. People are very big on fair.

    But the problem is caused by the airport, not by the folks who need a wheelchair. If the airport would make wheelchair users wait in line like everyone else, then nobody would be tempted to adopt a wheelchair as a line-cutting measure.

  14. 14
    Elusis says:

    Straight Grandmother, is there any possibility you’re engaging in the same thing the reporter is doing, the very thing that Amp wrote this blog post to critique?

  15. 15
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I can’t see a problem, in principle, with making people in wheelchairs wait in line. I agree that it will remove the attraction of wheelchairs to anyone who is a true cheat, i.e. someone who has no disability at all but wants a shorter line expereince.

    But.

    From a practical point of view, that also means that the few wheelchairs that are available will be occupied for a lot longer. Right now, whether someone is a cheat, or whether someone has a disability that prevents them from standing in line but allows them to walk, if they *only* use the wheelchair for the five minutes it takes them to go from check-in until they are wheeled through security, then the wheelchair is available in five minutes. Make them wait ten minutes in line, then the wheelchair is now unavailable 15 minutes.

    So it’s not at all obvious to me that this suggestion will result in greater wheelchair availability.

    If airports don’t have enough wheelchairs to accommodate everyone, have them buy more wheelchairs.

  16. 16
    marmalade says:

    It’s my understanding that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids service employees from asking about the nature/severity of peoples’ disabilities – for rather obvious reasons.

    For example, I work at a park . . . if someone walks into the visitor center with a animal (whatever it is), and we say “no animals allowed in the visitor center” and they say “well it’s a service animal for my disability” then there’s nothing we can do about it. I can’t say “Prove it! Right now! HOW sick are you really?? Show me your papers.” There are cheaters in this, yep.

    There was a nicely balanced article in the NYT about this a couple years back (can’t find the link, soz) – people taking their service animals (including parrots, iguanas, chimps) to the grocery store and cafes and such, ‘cuz these people really actually needed the animals in order to feel ok in public, but other people really actually felt icky about having a chimp at the grocery store.

    Anywhooz, legally at least it seems like the airlines have to accommodate everyone who wants a wheelchair – cheating or no. AND it seems to me not ok for airline employees to be making the call saying “nope, not disabled enough, you gotta stand in line with everyone else.”

    I suspect that the cheaters are few and far between, and I predict with the aging of the baby boom generation we’ll all have to get a little more patient with peoples’ physical limitations in public life.

  17. 17
    Elusis says:

    You know, I had surgery about 10 days ago. Laparoscopic, which the doctor assured me meant I would be back to “normal activities” in “about a week.” Which turned out to be more or less true, except that of course a week wasn’t enough time to get my energy levels back, or to avoid having days where I have pain at different incision sites (especially in the lower left, which is where I’m told “they put the camera so there’s lots of stretching and pulling.”)

    Two days ago I went to IKEA on a Sunday. Bad idea when you’re functioning at your normal baseline; worse idea when you’re recovering. But I had a series of errands I wanted to do which could all be done in a small geographic area that happened to include IKEA, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to get there any other day for quite a good while, so I went.

    The IKEA near me mostly makes use of a big, detached parking structure that is a goodly walk from the main entrance. I could tell when I drove down the entrance ramp that it was likely to be packed to the gills, almost certainly without a space near the elevator on any of the four floors.

    However, right next to the building (and still a medium hike from the entrance if you have mobility issues) is a small lot that is half disabled parking (where you’d need a placard, which I don’t have), and half “family parking” for people with small children. I looked at the line for the garage, checked in with the pinching and twisting in my abdomen, and decided to park in a “family” spot. I shuffled around the store very slowly, hanging on to my cart and taking a couple of rest breaks as needed, including one for more Tylenol and ibuprofin, then brought my spoils back to my car.

    The whole time I was tensed up waiting for someone to say something to me, to criticize me for taking a “family” space without having any children. Didn’t happen, but who knows what people thought in the privacy of their own heads.

    Fuck ‘em.

    Every time an article about parking in the SF Chronicle gets posted online, there are a jillion cranky comments about how many disabled placards there are in the Bay Area, and how they can park for free for any length of time at any meter (which I actually agree should not be the case, FWIW). And of course there’s the usual flood of “… well I saw this person park in front of the gym, and then walk right in with no trouble….” I always think of my friend K, who had rheumatoid arthritis and severe endometriosis and pulmonary hypertension and fibromyalgia, and who didn’t look “sick” or disabled but thank goodness she had a placard when she could still drive because she only had so many spoons and walking the length of a parking lot wasn’t worth her having to sleep for the next 36 hours and miss out on time with her husband and her friends before her illnesses killed her at age 30-something.

    (Also, I totally get the “shuffling/standing hurts more than walking” thing. Street fairs and the like can be miserable for me, because my bad knee and my hips haaaaate the “shuffle, stop, shuffle, stop, shuffle, adjust slightly right, avoid someone thoughtless, come to a short stop to avoid stepping on someone, shuffle…” routine.)

  18. 18
    KellyK says:

    It’s my understanding that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids service employees from asking about the nature/severity of peoples’ disabilities – for rather obvious reasons.

    For example, I work at a park . . . if someone walks into the visitor center with a animal (whatever it is), and we say “no animals allowed in the visitor center” and they say “well it’s a service animal for my disability” then there’s nothing we can do about it. I can’t say “Prove it! Right now! HOW sick are you really?? Show me your papers.” There are cheaters in this, yep.

    If I recall correctly, the ADA only protects dogs (and miniature horses, though you can refuse access to a pony if you don’t have space or there are safety issues). It also is limited to service animals that do tasks or perform work, which doesn’t include comfort/emotional support animals. You *can* ask if it’s a service dog and *what* work or tasks it performs.

    And service dogs have to be under control. Any animal that isn’t under control (gets into things, growls at people, barks during a movie or lecture) can be kicked out after you give the person one chance to bring them under control. An animal that isn’t housebroken can also be kicked out. (It’s up to the person whether they want to just leave or come back without the animal.)

    More info here: http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

  19. 19
    KellyK says:

    If skipping the line is only a wheelchair shortage issue, the simple solution is for airlines to buy more. Another possibility is to have wheelchair users wait in line, and if you run out of wheelchairs, then skip the wheelchair-user who’s waited the longest through, so you have one available again.

    Incidentally, I find it kind of hilarious that the problem is the wheelchair user and not the ridiculous security procedures. You know, if we weren’t all taking our shoes off and people weren’t arguing with TSA agents about whether they could take their empty water bottle, the line would move a lot faster.

  20. 20
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Elusis, if you could have brought someone with you to IKEA to help you you could have used the nice wheelchairs IKEA provides. I pushed my aunt through an IKEA a year ago she was 89 years old at the time. A very cool woman she always liked contemporary furniture a Mid Century Modern gal, and had been receiving the IKEA catalog for years, I’ll never forget how happy she was just being able to get out and have someone take her through IKEA. They even have extra wide wheelchairs at IKEA, which I am glad we took as it gave space to hold her purchases.

    But back on topic.

    Straight Grandmother, is there any possibility you’re engaging in the same thing the reporter is doing, the very thing that Amp wrote this blog post to critique?

    It’s possible but I have offered my honest assessment. I tried to put my biases aside and think back to my travel over the years and it is my impression that there are way way way more people using wheelchairs at American airports than there used to be. You do not see this phenomenon in the European airports.

    How to provide for those who, while not wheelchair dependent, would have their health better preserved by sitting through the line? Simply have self serve wheelchairs at the security area and cycle them through that area only. And for what it is worth I do think that there is a percentage of people given the choice of getting to sit down and have an unpaid (by you) attendant push you around and jump to the head of the security line, I do think there is a percentage of people who do that because it is a good deal. I don’t work in the industry so I can’t say what that percentage is, but based on the high numbers of people who are now in airline wheelchairs compared to prior years, based on my own travel experience, I agree with the article that there are cheaters. Providing wheelchairs in the Security Area and having everyone wait in the Security Line would improve the travel experience for those who simply can’t travel without wheelchair help. Do you have an idea how frustrating it is to deboard the plane and be told you have to wait, and after waiting an hour be told they are sorry but there is simply a very high demand and not enough wheelchairs? And while you are waiting you miss your next flight? My suggestions are offered to help people who need help, not to deny people who need help. If you can’t make it through the Security Line standing and shuffling, I understand that and I think there should be wheeled seating available for you in the Security Area. But jumping the security line for everyone in a wheelchair is an inducement to people to use the wheelchair service for that purpose only. It hurts the disabled, and I have not judged people by their outward appearance if they need a wheelchair or not. I am simply saying the demand is way way way up, I agree, it is my opinion that a percentage are cheaters and because of that, my disabled parent have been hurt by that, that increased demand. Everybody waits in line, eliminate the inducement, everybody benefits.

  21. 21
    Robert says:

    I am occasionally afflicted by genuinely crippling arthritis in my feet and ankles. While a flareup persists, it can range from painful to impossible for me to walk. I surely wish that there was a handicap placard for people like me, who periodically are bona fide recipients of differential treatment, but who most of the time should be held to the ordinary standard.

    But – shameful admission – if I had such a tag, I would use it when able-bodied and in a rush, or if my feet hurt just a little bit, or if the lot was crowded. Yes, that makes me a scumsucking bastard. But I also doubt that I am unique in my malevolence. Disability can be real, and the world can also be full of lazy scammers; there’s no conflict.

  22. 22
    marmalade says:

    Hey KellyK, thank you for that info! My experiences are a couple years old, looks like those ADA Revised Requirements from the Justice Department clarified the issue well. Nice.

  23. 23
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    In comparison to the other costs incurred at an airport, it seems like wheelchairs would be almost free. They last for years; they require almost no maintenance, and I strongly suspect that the basic airport-type ones can be bought for about $1000 or less in bulk (though I admit that to be a WAG.)

    Seriously: Why not just force the airports to buy more damn wheelchairs? 50-100 more per airport would probably do a hell of a lot to solve the problem. that’s, like, one plane worth of gas. Then you can make folks wait in line, which also 100% solves the “cheating” problem.

  24. 24
    Elusis says:

    Elusis, if you could have brought someone with you to IKEA to help you you could have used the nice wheelchairs IKEA provides

    I didn’t need a wheelchair. And if I’d had someone with me, I could have had them drop me off at the door and then go park. I’m single. I didn’t, so I adapted as best I could.

    I tried to put my biases aside and think back to my travel over the years and it is my impression that there are way way way more people using wheelchairs at American airports than there used to be.

    Yes, but my question wasn’t “how do you know there are more people using chairs.” My question was: is it possible that you’re attributing this increase in the use of chairs to “cheating” without any evidence to confirm this belief, in the same biased way the original reporter was doing, which is exactly what Amp wrote this post about?

  25. 25
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Elusis,

    in the same biased way the original reporter was doing

    But Elusis, you do not know if the reporter was biased at all. I am not biased. I could fill the rest of the page citing background to validate that I am not biased. I am 1,000% Pro Disabled and have been my entire life, largely because of my parents. The way they raised me and trickle down the way I raised my children.

    You are assigning biased on the head of the reporter and questioning me if I am not doing the same thing. You simply cannot deny me my observation and experiences. I got experience with this both inside and outside the United States and the number of wheel chairs in my observations are way way way up. I mean Europe isn’t anywhere near this and in Africa non existent.

    To repeat so you can stop asking, and this will be a copy paste,

    My experience of having extensively traveled for 35 years. That is all I got

    You don’t know that the reporter is not about my age having air extensive miles under his/her belt stretching back decades. Why would I misstate my impression? What purpose would that serve?

  26. 26
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    SG, I think Elusis means that you may be biased regarding your assumption that there isn’t an increase in use of wheelchairs by the disabled.

    If you think on it, there are multiple ways you can see the issue:
    a) There can be a higher %age of disabled people in the population, whether due to age, injury, medical condition, or something else. More people using wheelchairs.

    b) There can be a reduction of the “social wheelchair cutoff,” in that people who used to stand in line in agony rather than face social stigma now feel comfortable getting a chair. Personally, I see that as a good thing. Again, more people in chairs.

    c) There can be more passengers per wheelchair, i.e. the growth of air travel may not have been matched by a growth in wheelchairs. more people in chairs.

    d) You can be suffering from selective perception and/or confirmation bias. This is REALLY common. If ABC did an episode on “Trending: Young Asian Women Wearing Yellow Hats!” then everyone would start looking for young asian women wearing yellow hats, and whether or not the #s increased, the # of people who noticed it would increase.

    e) You may be inaccurately reevaluating your memories. For example, it may always have been that 30% of chair users will also walk at some point in their airline trip. Perhaps cheating has now increased that to 33%. The mistake would be if you now assume that all 33% of those folks are cheaters.

  27. 27
    Ruchama says:

    I’ve also found that the US seems to be better than much of Europe at providing access (like, several European friends of mine, from several different countries, had never heard of grocery stores having those electric carts for people to use), so people in the US who could either stand in agony or ask for a wheelchair are more accustomed to asking for the wheelchair than similar people in Europe might be.

  28. 28
    Elusis says:

    Straight Grandmother, the whole point of Amp’s post was that you cannot look at someone and evaluate whether they “deserve” to be in a wheelchair or not. You seem to feel like your disability advocacy makes you somehow immune to biased thinking, to the very mistake he pointed out that the reporter is making. I am challenging you on that.

    I consider myself a strong anti-racist white ally, but I experience racist thoughts and assumptions on a regular basis, some of which I’m aware of and some of which I’m not until it’s brought to my attention.

    I *am* a queer person, and a fat person, and a woman, but I experience heterosexist, sizeist, sexist/misogynist thoughts and assumptions on a regular basis. See above.

    I sometimes *am* a person with invisible disability issues (bad knee, vertigo attacks, hearing loss, recent surgery which is temporary but still disabling) that need accommodating, and I still have ableist thoughts and assumptions on a regular basis. About people in exactly the situation described in the initial news report among others.

    What I’m baffled by is the fact of your reading Amp’s post, and then posting a reply that engages in *exactly the same thinking errors and biases* that he pointed out in the post itself. “I see a lot of people in chairs, and I don’t believe all of them need to be there, and it annoys me.”

  29. 29
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Gin-And-Whiskey- Of course a) b) c) d) e) are all possible. Sure any, or a combination of those are a possibly. However you have to add that it is not just me, not just the reporter, the airline staff themselves are suspicious of cheaters and they work in the industry every day.

    Elusis, I am not looking at people and trying to determine if they “deserve” a wheelchair. I come to my conclusions from a different approach, I come to my conclusions based on the high number of people in wheelchairs at airports. Because of the high volumes I see now compared to how it was in the past and the ability of people to jump the line because they are in a wheelchair I make a conclusion based on sheer volume that there are cheaters.

    This is easy enough to test, if the airlines/airport ran an experiment we would know the answer, because at this point the answer is unknowable. It could be a) b) c) as gin-and-whiskey nicely laid out. Does anyone here object to people in wheelchairs waiting in the Security Line?

  30. 30
    KellyK says:

    However you have to add that it is not just me, not just the reporter, the airline staff themselves are suspicious of cheaters and they work in the industry every day.

    Sure, but working in the industry every day doesn’t make them disability experts, and a lot of their reasoning seems to be based on “If someone can deplane without a wheelchair, they must be cheating.”

    Does anyone here object to people in wheelchairs waiting in the Security Line?

    Not if it’s done in such a way that it actually reduces wait time for wheelchairs, rather than increasing it. If you just have wheelchair users wait, without buying more chairs, each chair is occupied longer. So, unless there’s a *lot* of cheating, that seems likely to make your parents’ situation worse, not better.

    Also, the set up for security lines in some airports doesn’t seem to me like it’s terribly wheelchair-friendly. I haven’t flown recently enough to recall how wide the dividers are, and I’ve used a wheelchair all of once in my life (and have no idea how well the airport loaners handle tight turns). But, if wheelchair-users have to wait in line, then the lines need to be set up to accommodate those chairs.

    Actually having enough wheelchairs, with or without having wheelchair users wait in line, seems like the way to go to me.

  31. 31
    CaitieCat says:

    I use a cane every day of my life, and thus can “walk”, in some descriptions of the term. But, despite my obvious serious difficulty with walking while hauling heavy baggage, I have, in fact, been told by security people that I cannot access the short line for disabled people without a wheelchair. Basically, they said I wasn’t disabled enough (*shakes fist at Philadelphia airport staff*).

    So, yes, when I go through security, I use a chair, and I go through the short line. And I pre-board the plane, walking with my cane. Because waiting in the lineup for twenty minutes while every jerk in front of me tries to wrestle their comically-oversized luggage into the bins near the front of the plane, while they sit at the back, is completely beyond me.

    And then when I leave the plane, having secured seating near the front, I get off quickly, and without the chair (though I do take the little shuttle cars from gate to luggage claim).

    So I’m probably one of those “cheaters”. There’s no way on this green earth that I could stand through a line of forty or fifty people doing the Safety Dance at the checkpoint. I’d be in absolute crying agony by the end. But I can stand long enough to get off the plane, without a line of people in front of me. And I can walk to the bathroom, with my cane, without a wheelchair.

    So tell me, Straight Grandmother, how exactly you would “just know” I was or wasn’t a “cheater”?

    Maybe we could just try treating each other in good faith, and just feel sorry for the small number of people who reckon they need to scheme and cheat and be a chancer to get through life. Sure, those few are “getting away with it”. But the solutions would generally (like the whole stupid security theatre act in the first place) be far worse than the problem.

    Buy more freakin’ chairs for the airport. Set up a charity, if you’re so bothered by the “cheaters” taking away the chairs your folks needed, to buy more chairs. But seriously, punishing all people who say they’re disabled, so we can nail a few of what we suppose to be (without evidence) “cheaters”? Estupidissimo.

  32. 32
    Penelope Ariel Ponyweather says:

    ” So tell me, Straight Grandmother, how exactly you would ‘just know’ I was or wasn’t a ‘cheater’? ”

    ——

    This is kind of funny to watch. Straight Grandmother is saying something else, but the usual suspects keep accusing her – in mocking, denouncing, kind of insulting ways – of claiming that she can pick out individual cheaters.

    Round and round again.

  33. 33
    CaitieCat says:

    Sure, she didn’t say it – except she did, in the sense that she made her so-called “neutral” comment about there being a lot more people who need wheelchairs now compared to back in the day, and that this is only in the US, and that this is on a post describing an article which is specifically accusing that there are more people using wheelchairs because they are cheating.

    So no, I don’t think anyone’s missing her actual point, except possibly you, and I think you’re being disingenuous; that she dressed it up as a sort of “neutral observation”, and hedged it round with her protests about how she’s totally an activist for people with disabilities, utterly failed to camouflage the essential “Yeah, cheaters suck, and I can tell who the cheaters are” nature of her comments.

    - signed, if it matters, “Queer Grandmother”

  34. 34
    mythago says:

    Because of the high volumes I see now compared to how it was in the past and the ability of people to jump the line because they are in a wheelchair I make a conclusion based on sheer volume that there are cheaters.

    I hope you didn’t sprain an ankle jumping to that conclusion.

  35. 35
    StraightGrandmother says:

    CaitieCat

    “Yeah, cheaters suck, and I can tell who the cheaters are” nature of her comments.

    I suspect there are cheaters but no one can tell who the cheater are. Didn’t I say

    This is easy enough to test, if the airlines/airport ran an experiment we would know the answer, because at this point the answer is unknowable.

    There is nothing I have said that would lead any of you to believe that I go around to airports trying to ferret out cheaters. Like I give you the once over and think, “hmmmm I bet she is a cheater” It is not possible for anyone to do that. All of you have described in great detail how you need a wheelchair even though it might look to others like you do not.

    As Penelope Ariel Ponyweather says, is this now like round 3, or is it 4?

    As I said it could be a) b) c) like gin-and-whiskey says or it could be cheaters like the airline staff think it is, and as I suspect it is, based on the increase in volume I have seen for myself.

    Now if you want to keep writing that I am scrutinizing individual people at airports I guess you can keep writing that, but I will keep writing that I am forming my opinion based on the overall high numbers of people I see in wheelchairs at US airports now, compared to prior years. I made no points at all about people wanting a wheelchair to go through the security line but walking off of the plane without one. The reporter and the airline staff made that point but I.did.not. See I believe that people could need a chair to get through a security line but not necessarily need one once they deboard. People with disabilities have limits, they can do X for 10 minutes but not for 30 minutes. So all of your comments to me giving me examples of this are inappropriate because I never made that argument. My suspicion comes rather from the overall high increase in the number of people using wheelchairs.

    Actually I don’t even see why we have to have those long lines at all. Why not do it like the deli counter at the grocery store, take a number and have a seat and when you see your number light up on the monitor go to the front. Ikea does it that way in their returns area. It’s nice. I would like to close with again another repeat, and kindly do look for the word unknowable-

    This is easy enough to test, if the airlines/airport ran an experiment we would know the answer, because at this point the answer is unknowable

  36. 36
    StraightGrandmother says:

    I’ll tell you what in 2 months I will be making and intercontinental round trip which will have me boarding and deboarding at 7 separate airports, I’ll observe and report back.

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    KellyK:

    Also, the set up for security lines in some airports doesn’t seem to me like it’s terribly wheelchair-friendly. I haven’t flown recently enough to recall how wide the dividers are, and I’ve used a wheelchair all of once in my life (and have no idea how well the airport loaners handle tight turns). But, if wheelchair-users have to wait in line, then the lines need to be set up to accommodate those chairs.

    I suspect this is the main reason for having wheelchair users bypass the main line. If the lines had to accommodate wheelchair users, then they’d have to be wider and have wider turns, which would cause the entire line to take up significantly more space, which the airports don’t want.

    CaitieCat:

    But the solutions would generally (like the whole stupid security theatre act in the first place) be far worse than the problem.

    Very true. I really wish I had thought to say this in my post.

    Straight Grandmother:

    Actually I don’t even see why we have to have those long lines at all. Why not do it like the deli counter at the grocery store, take a number and have a seat and when you see your number light up on the monitor go to the front.

    This is a little off-topic, but I’m good with that, because I’m interested in questions like “why are the lines so slow” and because we’ve had over 35 comments at this point.

    I suspect there are two issues here, space and time.

    It takes a lot more space to set up seating for several hundred people than to have a line with switchbacks for several hundred people.

    And if you let people sit until they are called, then some of them will be reading or on the phone or something and miss their number, and other people will be slow movers who take a while to stand up, gather luggage, and cross the floor to the security station, etc.. I suspect that, unpleasant as lines are, they are quicker for moving hundreds of people through security stations than the deli system would be.

    What would really speed things up is more TSA employees and more stations. But that would cost more space and more money.

    Another thing that would speed things up is just getting rid of some of the more pointless security rules.

    Failing that, it’s possible that in the future, better technology will speed things up. For instance, better scanners that wouldn’t require luggage to be put on a belt, or people to stop and hold their hands up, might enable people to just walk without pausing through the security area, which would speed things up a lot.

  38. 38
    Grace Annam says:

    Straight Grandmother:

    I am not biased.

    I would just like to state, for the record, that I, too, am completely unbiased. Sometimes people have a hard time believing it, but there it is. Probably they wrestle with it because their biases prevent them from admitting to themselves that such people as Straight Grandmother and I are possible. Completely and totally without bias.

    No credit due; it’s just the way we were born.

    Grace

    P.S.: If you disagree, you need to check your biases. Because the problem certainly isn’t on our end.

  39. 39
    Penelope Ariel Ponyweather says:

    I am the same as you, Grace Annam. Not only unbiased, which we both clearly are, but also quietly superior to others, which is also clearly obvious.

    Our quiet, yet certain superiority gives us the capacity to mock others – without even addressing the asserted argument – because their positions are so clearly wrong! I can honestly say that I also engage in that behavior – with my powerful discernment capacity – and am learning more about myself from you.

    Kind of a small world that we share so many characteristics.

  40. 40
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Here is one more reason why I suspect there are cheaters. I should have maybe written this up earlier but oh well. When our son was in middle school his buddy invited him a a major league baseball game, his parents drove. They picked up our son kind of late and they dropped him and the friend off and the friend had a sleep over. I casually asked them if they had trouble getting a parking place since they had left, in my opinion, so late. Well the little boy pipes up and say, “Oh no when we go to the ballpark we always take my grandma’s car because she has handicapped plates so we get to park right up at the front” Let me tell you I was floored, just floored. If there was a family I would have never suspected of abusing handicapped parking this would be the family. Both parents sang in the church choir, the mother a Masters Degree RN was an instructor at a local technical college teaching nursing, and just the way they conducted their lives I would never in a million years thought that these parents would actually do that. The next day I asked my son if the grandparents went to the game and he said no. Can you imagine? I still remember this over 20 years later because it made such a huge impression on me that this family would cheat on handicapped parking. I never looked at them the same again.

    Then in the downtown of our major metropolitan area there was a crackdown on people with handicapped plates taking up absolutely every single handicapped space around the Court House for 2 blocks around. Other handicapped people complained because they could never utilize the handicapped spots as they were always taken, so the police investigated. They watched people pull up and park and then they approached them and checked the drivers license of the driver against the handicapped plates or movable handicapped phacard and it was overwhelming, I mean overwhelming, the number of cheaters there were, I seem to recall like 70% to 80%, something like that, 70% to 80% of the people were taking up handicapped places were using the placard of a relative. They weren’t disabled at all!

    It is indeed hard for me to fathom this but there it is. There really ARE people who WILL cheat on the disabled, and their cheating ends up harming disabled people. And it is interesting the people who do that, like that family I knew so well, during the parking investigation there were cops cheating!

    It is unknowable but I am still highly suspicious that because of the inducement of jumping the Security Line there are cheaters taking up wheelchair space and attendants time, because I see such a huge increase in people using the wheelchair service at airport compared to prior years.

    And if I have any biases it would be for the disabled as my daughter got an absolutely free ride to college because she was disabled. I have other disabled family members including one completely blind, so I guess if you want to jump on me and say I don’t have any biases, that I simply MUST have biases, then my biases would be for the disabled.

  41. 41
    CaitieCat says:

    LOL, shorter SG: “I can’t be biased, my $CLOSE_ACQUAINTANCE is disabled!”

    Reasons, right now off the top of my head, that I can come up with to explain greater wheelchair use in airports without needing to assume it’s all about the cheaters:

    1) the population is aging. Simply, more people need chairs.

    2) security theatre; not a feature fifteen years ago, is a major feature now. Then I wouldn’t have needed one; now I do.

    3) social acceptability of being disabled. There’s a lot, a LOT, less social pressure against being disabled: result, more disabled people willing to show that they’re disabled in public, instead of suffering with less viable accommodations.

    4) easier travel: yes, security theatre, but also airlines with personnel trained to deal with travellers with disabilities, better equipment and infrastructure for us, meaning more of us are simply able (/irony) to travel.

    Is four enough? The offensive part, Straight Grandmother, is that you appear to be assuming (based on your anecdata) that the greater numbers you’re sure you’re seeing (see also confirmation bias) are due to people cheating.

    I say that assuming that is an ableist thing to do. And further that the humane, and human, thing to do is to take people in good faith, and allow for the fact that there will always be grifters and chancers and slackers, and that changing the way things run because of them rather than focusing on accommodating the people with disabilities – who are a much greater percentage of the people using those chairs, whatever your anecdata might say – is inhumane, cruel, and shortsightedly unintelligent. People with disabilities, especially when reasonably accommodated, contribute more to this society than will ever be taken away by grifters and chancers, and even considering punishing us (by making accommodation harder) – particularly given the coterie of g&cs who happen to drive Benzes and BMWs and work on Wall Street, and who continue to get away with far more horrible behaviour – is outrageous.

  42. 42
    KellyK says:

    SG, first off, everybody has biases. You do, I do, we all do.

    Also, no one is arguing that there are *no* cheaters. Every group of people has a certain number who take advantage. The really ableist things are:

    -Assuming you know someone’s cheating by looking (which SG has not done, but the airline employees mentioned did, with their stupid “miracle flight” comments).

    -Assuming that cheating is responsible for an increase in numbers when there are tons of explanations that don’t rely on a surge in cheating.

    -Assuming cheating is responsible for longer waits and inconveniences (rather that faulting the airlines for not buying enough chairs to meet demand).

    -Being willing to make travel disproportionately harder on disabled people in order to avoid inconveniencing able-bodied people (e.g., only giving wheelchairs to people who check a wheelchair or show up with a cane, making wheelchair users navigate narrow lines with switchbacks).

    -Expecting people to “prove” that they’re disabled before being willing to grant them accommodation, and viewing accommodation as a gift or privilege rather than a right.

  43. 43
    Ampersand says:

    Caitiecat, please don’t start posts with a derisive “LOL.” Thanks.

  44. 44
    mythago says:

    @StraightGrandmother, the problem is that you’re making a very strange logical assumption: ‘I have noticed there are more people using wheelchairs, therefore there are more cheaters’. Off the top of my head (assuming your observation is correct about volume) I can think of many non-sinister reasons for more people using wheelchairs: more accommodations for wheelchair-users, so that those folks are more likely to fly in the first place; changes in procedure by airlines as to how wheelchair users are boarded, so they are more visible; cheaper flights that mean more people overall use airplanes, which would include wheelchair users (there wasn’t Southwest everywhere when you and I were kids); increased security measures so that wheelchair users are having use airline wheelchairs rather than rolling their own, as it were.

  45. 45
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Everybody is simply repeating what gin-and-whisky said (and said much nicer) which I have agreed is a possibility. But I also agree that this big higher percentage I am seeing, there are probably cheaters in there. I do think there are, and it makes me mad. What I think is unknowable is how much is a) b) c) (again reverting back to gin-and-whiskey) and how much of this big increase I see are cheaters. This is unknowable without testing. I can’t venture a guess I really can’t, but I can tell you I was shocked, shocked in my home town when people were so mercilessly taking up those handicapped parking spaces around the Court House when they were not even handicapped and were simply cheating, the number was really big it was like 70% or 80%, in there.

    And by he way, my daughters disability you could not tell by looking. I’m not one of “those” people who are suspicious of everybody who doesn’t look handicapped. It is just that the increase at the airports is so big and so obvious I know there has got to be cheaters in there, even for allowing for a) b) and c).

    Chicago IL
    Here, here are a couple links
    http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/15560321-474/editorial-crack-down-on-handicapped-parking-cheats.html

    150 Tickets Issued Schaumberg IL
    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/12/19/police-crack-down-on-handicap-parking-space-misuse/

    Erie PA
    http://www.goerie.com/erie-parking-authority-to-crack-down-on-handicapped-parking-rules

    Berkley California
    http://berkeley.patch.com/articles/berkeley-pd-to-crack-down-on-disabled-parking-signage-abuse

    St. Louis One sweep 67 Violations
    http://fox2now.com/2012/04/01/disabled-parking-crackdown-illegal/

    Folks it is not a giant moral leap to go from misappropriating handicapped parking places to requesting a wheel chair so you don’t have to wait in the Security Line at the airport. It isn’t that big of a moral leap and this saddens me.

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  47. 46
    CaitieCat says:

    My apologies, Amp, to you and to Straight Grandmother, you’re quite right. That was rude of me, and I’m sorry.

    This is a very personal issue for me, having literally been forced through the long line more than once because my cane and pale, cold-sweating form weren’t “disabled enough” (and yes, I quote), so I’ve literally paid in pain for this bullshit assumption, also made by the reporter in the cited article.

    Not reason enough to be rude, though, so: I’m sorry.

  48. 47
    Ampersand says:

    This is a very personal issue for me, having literally been forced through the long line more than once because my cane and pale, cold-sweating form weren’t “disabled enough” (and yes, I quote), so I’ve literally paid in pain for this bullshit assumption, also made by the reporter in the cited article.

    Totally understandable! Thanks for being so nice about being moderated, and no worries.

  49. 48
    Elly says:

    As an invisibly disabled person, I don’t disagree with SG that some cheaters may exist. Not nearly as many as the article’s author thinks, but still maybe some. However, the problem I have is with the choice both the reporter and SG are making to focus on that issue, even though SG (probably unlike the reporter) knows about the stigmatizing impact that a focus on the risk of cheating tends to have on non-cheaters whose disabilities aren’t obvious to the people around them.

    SG has said she would never jump from a general consciousness of the possibility of cheating to a suspicion that any given individual was cheating. I assume she would also not want to support general cheating-prevention policies that would have punitive consequences for people with real disabilities. However, encouraging the issue of cheating to the forefront of people’s minds pretty much guarantees that lots of other people who are less tuned in to the nuances of the situation will go ahead and make those bad assumptions and advocate those bad policies. Sure, accepting that there may be cheating, and choosing not to worry about it, has some costs (like having to buy enough wheelchairs to cover not only the increase in actual disabled passengers, but whatever extra increase comes from cheaters). However, focusing on cheating also has costs, and those costs are visited disproportionately on people with disabilities instead of shared by everybody.

    So, my feeling is that even where you know cheating is a possibility, you tend to do more harm than good by trying to make an issue of it. The better approach is just to advocate for everybody to get the resources they need. You can look at the cost of accommodating a few jerks as modest overhead that’s worth absorbing in order to make the system more user-friendly for those who really rely on it — and then put the issue out of your mind and go ahead and assume good faith. Maybe not ideal, but the alternative, making a big issue of cheating, winds up harming the very people you’re trying to protect. Really and truly, it’s just not worth it.

  50. 49
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Others & CaitieCat no problem, the conversation got skewed early on and we got sidelined on tangential issues for a while which I think we have cleared up.

    Back on topic in reply to Elly,

    You can look at the cost of accommodating a few jerks as modest overhead that’s worth absorbing in order to make the system more user-friendly for those who really rely on it…
    and
    the alternative, making a big issue of cheating, winds up harming the very people you’re trying to protect. Really and truly, it’s just not worth it.

    I think differently. I want to quantify the problem first by testing. I am not so sure that it is, a “FEW jerks”. I guess I am more suspicious of my fellow man than the rest of you. I admit that my suspicions probably go back to my discovery of that family, that what I thought a morally upright family taking grandma’s car to the ballpark so that they could park up front in the handicapped spaces. In fact after I went on the internet and googled “crackdown on handicapped parking”, if anything, I am even more suspicious than I was at the start of the conversation. I am not easily convinced that there is but a few cheaters and why punish the needy to rout out the “few”? I want to quantify the problem, and I truly do believe it is a problem, and then decide. I could be wrong, testing would show me that I am wrong. I think the best and easiest test would be to make people in wheelchairs go through the security line like everybody else and unattended. Only provide attendants to the line and then after you have cleared security. Provide plenty of wheelchairs in the Security area. At check in if anyone asks for a wheelchair tell them that they are available at the Security Line, or they can wait at check in for one to be delivered. Others may come up with better test ideas but unlike most everybody else here, I do want to test and quantify. I am not for expansion after expansion as I think this only encourages cheating and ends up hurting the handicapped.

    Take my handicapped parking example. What IF in my home town the city instead of doing an investigation (testing) of the people using the existing handicapped parking places around the Court House which were constantly full, what if instead of doing an investigation (test) they simply made more handicapped parking places? See that doesn’t solve the problem. The next part of what I am going to write I don’t want you to think of it as being made in a selfish manner, it is just the facts. If my city had simply made more handicapped parking places around the Court House they would have had to take spaces from the non handicapped spots. This then would cause a backlash against the handicapped. If you were not handicapped and were looking for a regular parking place and for literally 2 blocks around the Court House 80% of the parking places were handicapped many people, in fact most people I think, would begrudge the handicapped. This is why I think just continuing expanding wheelchairs at airports without testing (investigation) is not the right approach.

    I think it is only a tiny minority of people who begrudge the handicapped a service that has the appearance of an advantage over the non handicapped. BUT when people see 50 wheelchairs going through Security lickety split which then makes their wait that much longer there develops resentment against the handicapped. And I have already given you an example of my family missing a flight because not enough wheelchairs and attendants were on hand, I do think that the number of wheelchair users at airports has hit such a critical mass that it is time to step back and test. After testing then decide.

    One more point, the wheelchairs are provided by airlines, I would change that. I would make the airports provide the wheelchairs. And I would permit family members or traveling companions to push the wheelchairs. The way it works now is you get a wheelchair AND an attendant. Sadly now both my parents need wheelchairs my mother 100% of the time and my father anywhere he needs to walk more than 220 to 300 ft without having a chair to rest at. But just with my example instead of having 2 attendants I could push my mother while an attendants pushed my father, that eliminates in our family the need of one attendant. My guess is that the airlines have every wheelchair attended because they want the wheelchairs back. If the wheelchairs were provided by the airport instead of the airlines and there were plenty of them all over, there would be no need to have one attendant for every wheelchair and there would be plenty, plenty of wheelchairs for everyone who needs one.

  51. 50
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Straightgrandmother – when it comes to parking places, I agree with you; in most places, parking spots are a very limited resource, and as such it is important that if there are special slots dedicated to populations with special needs – whether it be disabled people, or families with young children, or anything else – that there’s some enforcement that only the intended population uses them. It is simply not feasible to just increase the parking spaces.

    Wheelchairs at airports are a different issue. There’s nothing stopping the airports/airlines from buying many more wheelchairs. They should probably do it regardless of the amount of “cheating” going on. So I don’t think the cost of cheating is the same in this situation, nor the benefit of enforcement. As for the issues of who owns and operates the wheelchairs, and the status of attendants, I think you make good points, but they are somewhat tangential to the issue of “cheating”.

  52. 51
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Eytan Zweig,

    It is simply not feasible to just increase the parking spaces.

    Wheelchairs at airports are a different issue. There’s nothing stopping the airports/airlines from buying many more wheelchairs.

    That is a good point about the difference between finite parking places and mobile wheelchairs. But the way the system is now it is simply not about adding more wheelchairs, for the current system provides a wheelchair AND an attendant. And providing more wheel chairs doesn’t that actually act as an inducement to cheat, to jump to the head of the line, because now it is even easier than before? I think I am about done unless somebody has a further point of view I remain highly specious of wheelchair cheaters at the airport and I would love to see some testing done. Remove the inducement of wheelchair line jumping to the front of the security line and see what happens. Fewer cheaters means the available wheelchairs and attendants are then freed up to serve the disabled.

  53. 52
    Elly says:

    @SG: So you’re okay with the fact that your “test” would entail longer waits for wheelchairs for people who actually needed them (because they’d be tied up for the extra time people spent sitting in them while waiting in line), with the fact that it would require lines themselves to be redesigned to accommodate the width and turning radius of the wheelchairs, and with the fact that you’d be promoting a “we’re cracking down on cheating” climate that heaps stigma on the rest of us. To you, stopping the cheaters is worth whatever unfortunate consequences it has for everyone else. You insist that it would somehow benefit people with disabilities in the long run, and you don’t care that those of us who have disabilities feel otherwise. At best, that’s a paternalistic attitude that says we aren’t capable of identifying and setting our own advocacy priorities and approaches. At worst, it suggests that you just don’t really care about us, and are willing to throw us under the bus to satisfy your own priorities. Either way, it means that, despite your protestations to the contrary, you are no friend of the disability community. Maybe that’s okay with you, though.

  54. 53
    Ampersand says:

    I understand and agree with the arguments against SG’s proposals.

    However, I want to remind everyone here to please focus on attacking proposals and positions, and don’t accidentally slip into attacking SG personally. (This is not a reaction to any one particular poster; it’s a reaction to my fear that this thread may become a bit of a pile-on if we’re all not careful not to let that happen.)

    Regarding “testing,” in principal I’m all in favor of picking an airport or two and trying to find a reasonable way of actually measuring without creating a great inconvenience to people. I think it’s always better, when possible, to operate with more information rather than less.

    But I can’t imagine what such a test would be, or how it would work. It’s not like there’s even any universal agreement on what “disabled” IS, or how it is measured. Furthermore, I’m having trouble imagining a test for disability that wouldn’t be intrusive, to say the least.

    So although as a general rule I think it’s always better to try and have more and more accurate information, as a practical matter I don’t see how that’s achievable here.

  55. 54
    KellyK says:

    Regarding “testing,” in principal I’m all in favor of picking an airport or two and trying to find a reasonable way of actually measuring without creating a great inconvenience to people. I think it’s always better, when possible, to operate with more information rather than less.

    But I can’t imagine what such a test would be, or how it would work. It’s not like there’s even any universal agreement on what “disabled” IS, or how it is measured. Furthermore, I’m having trouble imagining a test for disability that wouldn’t be intrusive, to say the least.

    Yeah, I agree with this. It’s really easy to measure handicapped placard cheating. Either the person for whom the tag was issued is in the vehicle parked in the handicapped spot or they’re not.

    But there’s no agreed-upon definition for needing a wheelchair in an airport. I don’t think the test StraightGrandmother suggests is appropriate because it’s going to pretty heavily inconvenience handicapped people in order to get that information. For that matter, testing in a way that results in a wheelchair shortage can physically harm people. Take the situation SG encountered with her parents, make it happen a bunch more often, and how many people who can walk, but with pain, are going to be stuck limping through the security line to make their flights because there’s no wheelchair for them?

    There might be a way of identifying how much of a problem exists, but I’m not sure how you would do that without creating a greater problem in order to find out.

    Also, even if you can accurately determine the scope of the problem, how do you crack down on cheating without further stigmatizing, inconveniencing, and harming people who are disabled? Amp’s whole point was that you can’t tell by looking, and that a lot of the time people think, “Ha ha, I’ve caught someone gaming the system!” when all they’re really seeing is someone who doesn’t conform to their expectations.

  56. 55
    Ruchama says:

    Yeah, I agree with this. It’s really easy to measure handicapped placard cheating. Either the person for whom the tag was issued is in the vehicle parked in the handicapped spot or they’re not.

    And even then, there are some questions. I know someone who has a handicapped sticker because her four-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy. She got a ticket once for parking in a handicapped spot without her daughter in the car. Now, she was parking there in order to go into the building and pick up her daughter, so her daughter would end up in the car in the spot eventually, but since she wasn’t in the car when her mother pulled into the spot, the mother got a ticket.

  57. 56
    Elusis says:

    Yeah, I agree with this. It’s really easy to measure handicapped placard cheating. Either the person for whom the tag was issued is in the vehicle parked in the handicapped spot or they’re not.

    I wish it were so, but if you believe the commenters on Bay Area media forums (fora?), there is an epidemic of people being issued hang tags who don’t “deserve” them, so they can park all day at meters for free*, mostly city employees. The same attitude prevails as with the “miracle” comment from the airline employees above, that if you aren’t visibly, seriously disabled, you don’t deserve to have a tag.

    (I again insert a comment I’ve made here before: that I wonder to what degree public animus against city/county/state/federal employees correlates with the timeline of effective racial integration of government employment, because the stereotypes “lazy, overpaid, and cheating” are essentially the same as stereotypes of people on welfare, and the public perception – incorrectly – is that the majority of people who receive welfare are African-American.)

    *A benefit which, again, I disagree with and would like to see ended.

  58. 57
    Penelope Ariel Ponyweather says:

    “… and the public perception – incorrectly – is that the majority of people who receive welfare are African-American …”

    —–

    My understanding is it fluctuates year to year as to who the “winner” is – the numbers are about the same in absolute terms. But the real kick is that blacks are about 12.7% of the US population. So they should be represented at about that level in the welfare statistics. But they aren’t.

    I don’t know why people try to use an “absolute numbers” argument with vastly disparate populations. It can only be an agenda or …

    If the Manson family moves into a city and “only” commits 10 murders in a year – whereas the general populace commits 200 murders – it gets to be a really silly argument that the general populace is more dangerous than the Manson Family because the general populace has committed more murders. There are a lot more people in the general populace.

    I mean, people really don’t understand that? Should I explain it in more detail?

  59. 59
    mythago says:

    I remain highly specious of wheelchair cheaters at the airport

    Indeed.

  60. 60
    KellyK says:

    I wish it were so, but if you believe the commenters on Bay Area media forums (fora?), there is an epidemic of people being issued hang tags who don’t “deserve” them, so they can park all day at meters for free*, mostly city employees.

    Wow, you read the comments on media articles? You’re a braver woman than I am.

    Okay, cheating by using someone else’s tag is easily measurable. Cheating with a fake diagnosis is indistinguishable from “cheating” by not “looking disabled enough.” I do agree with you that free parking at meters is excessive and not really related to the need for handicapped access.

    Interesting point about race and government workers; I wonder if there is a connection there.

  61. 61
    Grace Annam says:

    Penelope Ariel Ponyweather:

    Should I explain it in more detail?

    Please don’t.

    Grace

  62. 62
    Elusis says:

    Wow, you read the comments on media articles? You’re a braver woman than I am.

    No, just less smart. :-/

    I have managed to break the habit of “having” to click through to the full comments on articles about race, poverty, and the homeless, just to thumbs-down every horrible comment someone makes, in order to… (accomplish absolutely nothing, waste a lot of my time, and not actually feel better afterwards.) It wasn’t easy.

  63. 63
    marmalade says:

    Thanks Daisy! that’s the one.

    2006? wow, I couldda sworn it was just a year or two old ;-)

  64. 64
    KellyK says:

    Yeah, every once in a while I wade into comment threads. Regret it every single time.

  65. 65
    KellyK says:

    Thoughts on the emotional support/service dog article:

    “I had never heard of emotional support animals before,” said Steve Hanson, an owner of 12 restaurants including Blue Fin and Blue Water Grill in Manhattan. “And now all of a sudden in the last several months, we’re hearing this.”

    The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.

    I think this is incorrect about the DoT ruling. Service dogs do work and perform tasks to mitigate ADA-defined disabilities. Putting anxiety and depression in a separate category implies that those can’t be disabling. (I’m going to take a wild guess that the article writer has never experienced a panic attack or known anyone who was suicidal.)

    The actual difference is whether a dog actually does work or just provides comfort by being a dog. People with mental health-related disabilities can and do have service dogs, but being a service dog entails more than just being a comforting presence. (One of the dog bloggers I read has a daughter with severe OCD. Her dogs do things for her like bring her objects, point to things, and distract people who get in her personal space.)

    “The D.O.T. guidance document was an outrageous decision,” said Joan Froling, chairwoman of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a nonprofit organization representing people who depend on service dogs. “Instead of clarifying the difference between emotional support animals who provide comfort by their mere presence and animals trained to perform specific services for the disabled, they decided that support animals were service animals.”

    But now, because the 2003 Department of Transportation document does not include language about training, pet owners can claim that even untrained puppies are “service animals,” Ms. Froling said. “People think, ‘If the D.O.T. says I can take my animal on a plane, I can take it anywhere,’ ” she said.

    Funny how the DOT is to blame for people willfully misunderstanding their guidelines. It should be apparent from “transportation” right there in their name, that that’s their area of authority. For that matter, there *should* be more allowances for emotional support animals in travel and lodging, because there’s a huge difference between having to be without emotional support at a store or restaurant and not being able to travel at all. Someone who does okay without their dog for an hour may not for a week or a weekend.

    I think the ADA’s 2010 guidance clarified a lot of this stuff, based on the confusion between emotional support animals and service animals.

  66. 66
    Kay Olson says:

    I used to fly several times a year but haven’t since pre-9/11. I realize security is quite different but has it changed so much that wheelchairs can go through the regular lines? This is a question not just about physical spacing of the lines but the ability of metal detectors to see around the wheelchairs. Unless the technology is exceedingly advanced, the reason for the separate line is the invasive pat-down by security. As a lifetime wheelchair user, I always was directed to a separate line because I had to wait there for a female security officer and get felt up. (Yay for the fast line and getting groped, sometimes really offensively!)

    SG’s proposed solutions are a bit cruel, really. Just because an individual can walk from curbside to check-in without a wheelchair doesn’t mean they can make it to security where I guess there will be an extra line people needing wheelchairs would have to stand in to get one before getting in the security line? Requiring canes, walkers and chairs as proof of disability is a pretty limited (and, imo, offensive and maybe illegal) litmus test as well.

    And while I sometimes checked my electric scooter at check-in and sometimes was allowed to drive it to the gate (thus minimizing my monopoly on an airline chair when I’d brought one of my own), the times I was required to check before security were truly miserable. No, I could not move myself in an unfamiliar chair. I required the attendant. You can’t take a disabled person’s customized mobility and strand them without an attendant to prove some quantitative point.

    And while waiting in line appears at first glance egalitarian and just (if even possible given security protocols), on the other side of security are restrooms that are really the last practical chance for non-walking people to pee until they get to the next airport. (!) And who has the restroom advantage for getting in and out quickly and making it to the gate on time? It ain’t the girl who has to use the disabled stall. And, the airline may even delay non-disabled boarding until she finishes her pit stop and pre-boards first, since that aisle chair hurts less toes, elbows and knees in an empty aisle.

    Also, I really really hate the term handicapped.

  67. 67
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Kay – the reason wheelchair users can now possibly go through regular lines is not that the technology improved, but that invasive pat-downs have become ubiquitus enough that you don’t normally have to wait for an officer, there will be several there already.

    Not that I support the suggestion, I’m just pointing out it’s more plausible these days than it was pre 9/11.

  68. 68
    Kay Olson says:

    That makes sense. Do they have the mirrors to look underneath chairs and scooters at each line too?

  69. 69
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Elusis says:
    I wonder to what degree public animus against city/county/state/federal employees correlates with the timeline of effective racial integration of government employment, because the stereotypes “lazy, overpaid, and cheating” are essentially the same as stereotypes of people on welfare, and the public perception – incorrectly – is that the majority of people who receive welfare are African-American.)

    My understanding is that the perception of government servants as lazy, overpaid, and cheating has been around pretty much forever. It applies in lots of countries, too.

    Interesting thesis, but I don’t think it’s correct.

    w/r/t to “incorrect public perceptions” huh? It’s obnoxious to go shouting it out and it’s rarely accurate to reach related conclusions from that, but if you mean AFDC the fact is actually true. (Whites are on AFDC at a bit over half of the rate expected given their population; Hispanics are on AFDC at roughly the level expected given their population; blacks are on AFDC at a bit less than twice the rate expected given their population.) This goes firmly in the “true things that it is unpleasant to say” category, so sorry.

  70. 70
    StraightGrandmother says:

    I could never support testing that involved approaching or analyzing individuals. That would be dehumanizing. Just look at the many comments here from ppl who really need a wheelchair at the airport but that this is not obvious to others (testers for example). I am not for tesst that would limit ppl to those with a doctors excuse or a handicapped parking placard, anything like that, I am against testing or challenging individual people.

    The test would be to have handicapped people move through the Security line, remove the inducement and see what happens. OR if they don’t actually move through the line they have to wait the amount of minutes it would take them to go through the line. Again this would be a test and not universal rules everywhere, and the test should be done at a really busy airport that experiences long wait times to get through Security. Apparently I am much more suspicious of my fellow man than most ppl here. I figure if they’ll take parking places and go through premeditated actions to do so, it is not a big leap to requesting a wheelchair to get through the Security line quicker at the airport. There are a lot more ppl using wheelchairs in my opinion than there used to be. I would not take any actions without testing and quantifying. The only test I can think of that does NOT involve evaluating individuals would be the test of removing the time advantage at Security and see what happens. I don’t see anything wrong with telling ppl at check-in that they can wait for a wheelchair there and that there are also plenty of self serve wheelchairs at the Security line. Having self serve wheelchairs at the Security Line sure beats waiting around a good half hour or more by the check in area if your disability does not prevent that possibility for you. I am not for continued expansion of wheelchairs without testing. I really want to see the needs of the disabled met to a high standard and this can’t happen if there are a bunch of cheaters gaming the system. I suspect there are but I don’t know, nobody knows, and that is my point. Let’s find out.

  71. 71
    KellyK says:

    Unless the technology is exceedingly advanced, the reason for the separate line is the invasive pat-down by security. As a lifetime wheelchair user, I always was directed to a separate line because I had to wait there for a female security officer and get felt up. (Yay for the fast line and getting groped, sometimes really offensively!)

    Based on this, I’d hazard a guess that very few people fake a disability to get through quicker, at least not more than once. I personally would rather wait twice as long to even *reduce* my chances of being patted down that invasively. (If I have to choose, I’ll take the body scanner option and hope people aren’t making too many god-awful comments about my basically naked pictures.)

  72. 72
    Grace Annam says:

    Straight Grandmother:

    I never looked at them the same again.

    I wouldn’t have, either. I can think of a similar incident involving a member of my extended family, where they did something I regarded as unethical, which I never would have predicted.

    and it was overwhelming, I mean overwhelming, the number of cheaters there were, I seem to recall like 70% to 80%, something like that, 70% to 80% of the people were taking up handicapped places were using the placard of a relative.

    I suspect that this sort of thing varies from area to area. I don’t know if that was a special case or not.

    I take a particular glee in issuing handicapped parking tickets. Around here, it’s harder to find offenses than most people would suppose. Part of the problem is that people who have a hanging tag often forget to hang it up where people can see it. So an interesting dynamic ensues: someone calls in to complain about an illegal parking. I arrive, and rather than issue a ticket to someone who is, in fact, handicapped, I peer in the windows to see if I can see a placard. Often it’s down near the gear shift, or between the seats. If I can see one, I don’t issue. I suspect that sometimes the person who complained is watching, and wonders why I’m not writing a ticket, but I’ve never had someone come up and ask me.

    If I can’t see a placard or a plate, of course I issue the ticket. At least half the time, the owner of the car arrives at the station to shamefacedly apologize for not hanging up the placard and to ask if we couldn’t void the ticket, which of course we do upon seeing the placard.

    So I suspect that the rate of abuse varies wildly. No idea what the variables are. I would wildly guess that local culture is a stronger variable than, say, size of fine or likelihood of getting a ticket, though I suspect those would contribute significantly.

    Take my handicapped parking example. What IF in my home town the city instead of doing an investigation (testing) of the people using the existing handicapped parking places around the Court House which were constantly full, what if instead of doing an investigation (test) they simply made more handicapped parking places? See that doesn’t solve the problem.

    I agree, but I don’t think the cases are parallel, as Eytan points out more eloquently than I was about to.

    My main concern in proposing solutions, or testing toward proposed solutions, is that the costs (time, energy, inconvenience, fees) not fall on people with disabilities. They already have to fight all kinds of crap just to get through the day (society’s pernicious assumptions, a built environment constructed thoughtlessly at best, etc.), and I’m not interested in adding to the load.

    So, before I signed on to any solution or even testing of the problem, I’d want to consult with people who have experience being disabled, and find out how the proposal would impact them. I strongly suspect that it would be a very thorny problem indeed to actually, successfully, ensure that the weight of the solution did not fall disproportionately on the very people who are already at a disadvantage in this situation.

    To any people who are disabled who are reading this: I’ve tried to talk about this topic well, but if I have screwed up and said something ableist and you are willing and able to take the time to tell me, I’d like to know.

    Grace

  73. 73
    marmalade says:

    o.k., so I wasn’t gonna post anything more on this thread, but o…m…g… I had the absolutely worst day at the San Francisco airport today and I was keeping an eye out for all those nefarious cheaters.

    I arrived an hour 10 minutes before my flight expecting to drop off my bags, clamber through security, pee, sit, and walk on the plane. As usual.

    Anywhooz, as I got off the shuttle the line for check in wound round and round and round and round and round. I was over 90 (!) minutes in that frigging crowded line, shoving and pulling along my two heavy bags filled with work gear. And THEN I had to wait another 4o min for security. I didn’t take the opportunity to pee, because every one of the restrooms I passed in the entire place also had long lines.

    Now I’m blessed with very good health so far, but good grief that tested my physical and mental endurance. I don’t know how people do it who have pain from standing, lifting, walking. But as I was looking around at the people-packed scene I saw only two people in moving chairs – both chairs were obviously their own. So. No cheaters. Anecdotes don’t make data, of course, but I wonder how solid that reported information is. Maybe someone trying to make a news story outta nothing.

  74. 74
    Walker says:

    Though the CBS article failed to mention it, the original Time article this was based on talked about how it’s hard to tell who’s scamming and who isn’t because being able to walk across the terminal isn’t the same as being able to stand in line for half an hour. But because it happens as often as it does and because it’s obvious in some cases, those who work at the airlines have a good idea that a large number of people are using the wheelchair service as a scam.

    Thankfully there doesn’t yet seem to be any plan to charge for the service, which would be unfair since most of the people who use it are genuine

  75. 75
    KellyK says:

    But because it happens as often as it does and because it’s obvious in some cases, those who work at the airlines have a good idea that a large number of people are using the wheelchair service as a scam.

    Knowing that it happens at all and knowing that it’s a large number are two very different things, though. And encountering one obvious cheater probably creates suspicion toward everyone else who could possibly be.

    I wonder if social pressure is more effective towards that kind of cheating anything else. I’m not talking about appointing yourself the disability police and giving people grief about using accommodations (the world *really* doesn’t need anymore about that nonsense), but about speaking up when someone brazenly admits to cheating. The family that used Grandma’s parking placard obviously didn’t feel any shame about admitting it. Presumably, that kind of thing is socially acceptable somewhere, or at least they thought it was. But if every time they mentioned it, someone said, “Seriously? What the heck is wrong with you?” maybe they would think twice.

  76. 76
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I think the issue with parking placards is that they’re a physical object. I think people work on the premise that you need to have a disability to acquire one, but once you do, it’s yours to do with as you wish, including transfer to other people. They simply don’t think about *why* the placard was awarded in the first place.

  77. 77
    StraightGrandmother says:

    Kelly,

    The family that used Grandma’s parking placard obviously didn’t feel any shame about admitting it

    .

    No the fine “upstanding” church choir singing parents never admitted it. It was their young son, middle school age, who gave me the lowdown. After the ballgame his parents dropped off the boy and my son as the boy was sleeping over.

    I am really interested in marmalade’s account of her recent travel through the San Francisco airport. Marmalade that sounds like a horrible experience. But I am heartened by your report in all that time of only seeing 2 wheelchairs.

    In several weeks I”ll be taking a lengthy trip touching down at 7 different airports. I’ll report back my experience. My instinct says the reporter is probably right, but I am fully prepared to be wrong. In fact I hope I am wrong. But we’ll see, I will be totally honest in reporting back my experiences.

  78. 78
    KellyK says:

    No the fine “upstanding” church choir singing parents never admitted it. It was their young son, middle school age, who gave me the lowdown. After the ballgame his parents dropped off the boy and my son as the boy was sleeping over.

    Ah, okay. I missed that part. Did you say anything to them about it?

    Also, as far as reporting experiences, I’d recommend writing things down as you see them, if that’s feasible. Memory isn’t necessarily reliable, and I’m sure seven different airports are going to blur together a bit.

    Off-topic, I hope your trip goes well!

  79. 79
    Jackie says:

    I wonder why there are people listening to adults who insist upon their right to behave like naughty brats. I can hear them going, “*points at person walking out of their wheelchair* Look look everyone, they’re CHEATING! I’m telling the airline attendant! I’m telling the newspaper! I’m going to see that EVERYONE has to be FAIR!”

    We won’t respect this behavior in children, so why do we give it attention when it comes from adults. Particularily with the discriminatory aspects of this. I don’t mean Alas, I’m glad they brought it up as a social justice issue. I just find it amazing, these “adults” need a time out, not their voices being heard.