Thursday, October 15, 2009

But you don't LOOK handicapped?!

When Dave and I went to our annual music festival getaway this year, I was thrilled to bring my little 2-wheeled electric scooter so that I could zip around the festival grounds. This is a huge festival, in the 10's of thousands of campers, spectators, etc., and we like to travel to various camps to play, so walking is out of the question even for the able-bodied, when weighed down with instruments.

I wasn't on the grounds for more than 5 minutes, renewing old friendships when up comes Barney Fife in his golf-cart, telling me that I couldn't ride my zippy little scooter! I said, "Even if you can do this?!" and proceed to unlock my knee, whip the leg around and put the bottom of my foot up to my ear. That little antic awarded me a trip to the security office where 3 Barney's looked over my scooter to be certain that it had a light and turn signals. Once I passed inspection and kept my witty rhetoric to myself, I was permitted to ride around the campground. For reference, bicycles, golf carts and other devices are permitted. My scooter is smaller than my bicycle.

After this interesting diversion, I went back to my friends, shaking my head. Just as I popped open a beer and sat back to enjoy the vacation and good company, up comes the original Barney. "Do you have some kind of thing you can hang on your scooter to show you're handicapped?" he said. I asked him if he would like me to hang a big red "H" around my neck or maybe tattoo it on my forehead? He said that I would probably get hassled less if everyone knew I was handicapped. I politely reminded me that he was the only one hassling me and that the cat was out of the bag.

Herein lies the rub. This is the same mentality that prevents coverage for anything that makes you more "normal," that provides mobility, that makes you more equal to your able-bodied peers. If I had shown up in a wheelchair and Dave would have had to push me around the fairgrounds, up and down the bumpy gravel roads, that would have been OK. After all, I'm handicapped, so act like it! Give me a cute little scooter and suddenly I'm a threat. What? I can't be mobile and handicapped?

Let's take it a step further. It's OK to provide a substandard "basic" prosthesis. I mean, what do you expect? You're HANDICAPPED. Get out the big red "H." Oh, this other prosthesis with all the bells and whistles prevents you from falling, allows you to walk fairly normally without being exhausted at the end of the day? Oh, sorry. We don't allow that. You're handicapped. Get used to it. It's OK to be mobile, but let's not get too mobile, or start acting like normal folk. You're handicapped. Act like it. Accept it.

That mentality creates language like this:

"If you elect to purchase a prosthetic appliance or device with deluxe enhancements or features such as electronic components, microprocessors or other features designed to enhance performance (God forbid we would want to enhance performance for an amputee!), 'the Plan' is only responsible for the amount that would have been allowed for a basic (standard) appliance. You will be responsible for paying the additional cost of the deluxe enhancements, electronic components, microprocessors, performance enhancements, comfort, convenience or luxury items."

Arms and legs are not a luxury. Why, when we can replace amputated breasts without question, when we can provide a penile implant to sire children, why, why, why can we not provide an arm or a leg? No prosthetic limb, no matter how advanced, will ever come close to the real limb. Are we not allowed the dignity of trying to be as normal and as functional as possible?

The festival was in Kansas and the offensive and discriminatory language above is out of the KS State Employee Health Care contract. Unfortunately, this language has not changed and is in the 2010 contract. Nothing has changed. But then again, you're handicapped. Get used to it. Accept it.


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