It’s the chicken and egg question all over again…

An article in the New York Post reveals that wealthy families have been hiring handicapped tour guides to get them ahead of the line at Disney World.  For an hourly or daily rate, these families are accompanied by an adult in a scooter who takes them to a special entrance that gets them into the rides without the pesky wait period that plagues the rest of those attending the park that day.  This service, apparently, costs them less than the VIP passes offered by Disney.

One argument being made is “hey, a job is being generated!”  Another argument is “hey, the ‘disabled’ are offering this service.”  To both I say: WHAT?????  REALLY?????

J has never been to Disneyland.  He’s been to Knott’s Berry Farm…many years ago.  He insisted (in that way that J has of insisting and beseeching with his big puppy eyes) on riding the GhostRider, one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world.  Because J was so insistent, Dada took advantage of skipping ahead of the line and off they went.  The park was pretty full that day, and no one made a fuss about J, TGG and Dada going ahead escorted by a park employee.  They got on the ride and I could see them from where I was standing, waving at what must have looked like ant-sized me way down below.

Two minutes later, a pale, shivering J was escorted off the ride by Dada and TGG.  Their shirts were wrinkled from where J had clung to them tightly, so tightly that the fabric was wadded up into a little protuberance that didn’t quite flatten out until we rode the Bigfoot Rapids and got so soaking wet that wrinkles were the least of our worries.  From what Dada and TGG yelled at me (thinking that they were speaking in a normal volume because J had alternately screamed his head off in their ears during the ride,) J had not realized the horror he was in for until the first dip in the ride.  That’s when he said BYE…and it was too late.

Lesson learned: rides look a lot less scary and more thrilling from the ground.  J never again has wanted to ride on something that isn’t either completely horizontal (like the merry go-round) or vertical (like the Ferris wheel in the kiddie section of the park.)  Anything that looks like it might gather speed, J turns away from or finds a bench to sit on while Dada and TGG go on the ride.  I spend a lot of time pointing at the ride, telling him about what might be happening up there and trying to isolate which screams are coming from Dada and TGG.  J eats cotton candy, looks around to find the next innocuous thing to ride on, and then steers us in that direction.  Because he got to cut the line to ride in the roller coaster that one time, we have decided that it’s best to make him wait with everyone else and thus have the chance to think twice about what he wants to do.

At the County Fair in Orange County, CA, J decided that he was officially toilet-trained (he was 8) and that he didn’t need his Radio Flyer wagon to move around.  This meant we towed the wagon around the whole day for no reason other than no one wanted to go back to the car to store it “in case J changed his mind.”  When we returned to Knott’s Berry Farm a few years after the roller-coaster incident, J didn’t even make a move in its direction, and we patiently waited for our turn on each of the rides he wanted to explore.

The same happens at restaurants.  We wait for a table.  If J gets fussy, we find a place less crowded to have our meal.  If we’re at the store and J gets upset waiting in line, one of us takes him out.  At the movies, we don’t expect to be ushered in before the rest of the crowd just because of J.  The only place where I really prefer having a clear-cut waiting time is at the doctors’ or dentists’ office, and that’s because I know that J will get anxious if the wait is too long and he has time to anticipate whatever it is they’re going to do to him once inside.

“The ‘disabled’ offered the service, and made money…there are no losers in this proposition!”  I beg to differ.  We are the losers; those of us who don’t play the system that way end up being measured with the same yardstick as those who do.  “That is absurd!”  No, not really.  This question is legitimate, and consider the implications of the scenario I’m describing to you: we have to report any income J receives, and this -if it exceeds a certain amount- affects his disability benefits.  We need to keep strict records of what he spends, how he spends it, and this reflects on his benefits, too.  They counted, when we applied for his disability benefits, room and board as an income, and we had to provide them with a letter stating that J pays rent and buys groceries so that he would receive his entire allotment.  When the time comes, J will no longer be considered a dependent for tax purposes and will have to file his own tax return.  Every two years or so, his status as a disabled person will be reviewed to determine if he is still eligible for benefits.

A person who “rents out” their disability to help others skip the line should then be obligated to report the income generated in this fashion and be taxed for it, shouldn’t they?  I don’t have a problem with -as one person put it- “making a buck out of rich people with no patience to wait in line,” but if we are trying our best to help our child adjust to the world as it is (which is NOT DESIGNED to accommodate him,) I find it hard to advocate this type of “business” without wondering how it affects a population that is already deemed by many as “dependent on the government,” or “filled with a sense of entitlement.”

I don’t think it’s right for the wealthy parents of neuro-typical children to teach their brood that it’s fine to hire a handicapped person to help them skip the line at Disney World, but I also don’t think that being handicapped should BE a business.  Being employed, generating an income (regardless of how small it is,) having an occupation…they give individuals like J a sense of pride and accomplishment that boosts their self-esteem and helps them move forward.  Using a disability or handicap to cut in line to benefit rich people who don’t even seem to understand how demeaning this is?  That just strikes me as wrong…

Any thoughts???


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