A writer named Andrew Pulrang published a very thoughtful piece in Forbes about how society perceives the disabled. Specifically, Pulrang discusses how so many people who are able-bodied feel the need to determine who is disabled. This pertains mostly to those persons who are not obviously disabled. No one
would dispute the status of a woman in a wheelchair and on oxygen, for example. But what about another woman who seems to be walking fine and has no apparent signs of infirmity? Should the rest of us judge her for claiming to be disabled?
Parking Lots And Service Animals
As Pulrang writes, a lot of this judgment takes place in parking lots. For some reason, it deeply bothers abled people to see someone use a handicapped parking spot unless we can immediately detect the source of that person's disability. Another good example is service animals. Once more, unless the dog is leading a blind person, there is an ugly tendency to think that the dog owner is abusing her right to have a service animal.
Are They All Fakers?
People extrapolated from this to conclude that some or most or all Social Security disability recipients are outright fakers, or at least milking the system for financial gain. This thinking is still quite common, despite evidence to the contrary.
Suggestions For Doing Better
Pulrang offers some suggestions for doing better. These include expanding what we think of as disabling conditions and then not making uninformed decisions
about who is disabled. Pulrang further notes that we would be wise to believe that the people involved in determining who is disabled are doing a competent job. It adds little to the discussion to write off all the lawyers and judges and everyone else at Social Security disability as being fools who are conned by fraudsters. That kind of cynicism is toxic.
Judge Not. . .
The next time you have to walk a few extra yards in a parking lot, don't judge the person using the handicap spot. He could be faking, sure. But, I strongly suspect that he would trade places with you and gladly walk, free of pain, no matter the distance.
Another Interesting Take
The New York Times ran an article by a disabled psychologist with a similar theme that is also well worth reading.
Taken together, these articles are must-reads for the disabled and the abled alike.