Yesterday I woke up with the thought “should people with disabilities get special treatment?” This was brought on by a tweet I recently read. I can’t remember what the tweet said word for word but it was along the lines of Oscar Pistorius spent his whole life fighting to be included now he wants special treatment because he’s going to jail. At first I thought how mean and rude, you have no idea what people with disabilities go through but I decided to step back and look at the post objectively. I then realised this person has a good point to make, a very valid one if I may add! Whilst still on the Oscar issue, last week a friend asked me why I have not written about the trial and my response was “I did not follow the trial.” It is true though, I did not follow the Oscar trial not because of his disability but I know nothing about law and whatever opinion I was going to have about the trial or his sentencing was going to be based on somebody else’s opinion.
Going back to the question, should people with disabilities get special treatment? Growing up all I ever wanted in life was to be “normal,” for people to see me past my disability. I have to admit I was very juvenile in my thinking, I used to think the world was this happy and accommodating place but truth be told it is not. I never wanted special treatment because of my disability, in fact I really HATED it every time someone gave me special treatment. I recall when I was 16 going to obtain my national identity card with my mum and twin brother and getting angry at my mum when she asked people to allow us to go in first instead of standing in line. I was so angry and expressed this to my mum, my argument was I could stand in line for hours, it was no problem. I did not want anyone to feel sorry for me. If everyone else was lining up why couldn’t I? Was I entitled to special treatment?
Last year I attended a comedy event with a group of friends where I received special treatment because of my disability. We arrived quite early because we wanted front row seats. We climbed what seemed like a never ending flight of stairs only to get to the top to be told to go back down because the doors for our show had not yet opened. As we made our way back down the stairs, one of the event team members told us we could go in first and get front row seats when the doors opened but we had to use the service elevator which was located on the other side of the building. I was all up for this cause frankly speaking I was not up for climbing those stairs a second time. We followed this lady to the elevator and true to her word we were let in first when the doors opened and got front row seats. Some people were shocked as we walked past them to get into the venue as they stood in line. They just could not understand why we were being let in first yet they had been standing in line for half an hour. Now whilst I understand their frustrations, they could not understand mine. This was an old building which only had a service elevator which was not open to the public so the event staff really did us a huge huge favour by allowing us to use it before and after the show.
So should people with disabilities get special treatment? I say yes and no. In order to answer this question one has to look at the context of the situation. The first scenario did not require me to get special treatment even though I did because I could manage to stand in line for as long as I had to but I still got the special treatment. In the second scenario, I truly believe I deserved the special treatment because of the context ie it was an old building that had no elevator open to the public. Many of the times people with disabilities may come across as always wanting special treatment but that’s just because the world we live in was not designed to accommodate us. I am at a point in my life where I want special treatment in fact I EXPECT special treatment. If I get onto the bus, tram or train I expect to sit on the reserved seats for us and if there’s someone there, I expect them to give up the seat for me. This is not to say I expect special treatment in every situation, absolutely NOT!!!!
Special treatment should be applied in situations where there are clear barriers that prevent a person with a disability from living an independent life.
I want to live an independent life but I have to be realistic to accept that there are numerous things that I cannot do so therefore if the special treatment can make my life easier then I’m all for it BUT I should never get special treatment just for the sake of it.