Sunday, August 12, 2018

"A Front-Page Insult to People With Disabilities"

A New York Times opinion piece (7/26/18) - thanks to JH for the heads-up on this one.

[T]he cover of The New York Post on Thursday — the 28th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act — was more shocking than usual. It promoted a damaging misperception about people with disabilities, on a day better suited to celebrating their progress in one of the most neglected areas of American civil rights.

The print edition’s headline, “WALK OF SHAME,” followed by the clarifying “‘Handicapped’ man suing NYC businesses spotted not using wheelchair,” told the story. A photo of a surprised-looking man — Arik Matatov of Queens, N.Y., standing in the doorway of his home — covered the page.

Mr. Matatov, The Post reported, had been threatening New York City businesses with lawsuits for not complying with A.D.A. accessibility requirements, demanding through a lawyer that they pay him $50,000 and pledge to build an access ramp, or else face a multimillion-dollar suit under the law. He reportedly visited these businesses in a wheelchair, claiming he was personally prevented from accessing them.

The new photos of Mr. Matatov standing were evidence, readers were to believe, that he wasn’t really disabled.

Whether Mr. Matatov is engaged in fraud would seem to be the story here — and sure, it’s possible that he is. But the bigger message being sent by the paper’s reporters and editors, intentionally or not, was troubling: If a person using a wheelchair can stand or walk, that person is not “really” disabled, and does not deserve protection under the A.D.A. Such a person must be a fraud.

That is an ill-informed and damaging misunderstanding of disability. An estimated four million people in the United States use wheelchairs, but many of them are able to walk or stand some of the time. Many have injuries or genetic conditions that are disabling, but that allow partial mobility — standing or walking or otherwise moving physically sometimes. Their wheelchairs are necessary to their lives and livelihoods, and they are without question legally disabled.

Please do read the whole text.


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