Legoland are Judge and Jury of my child's disability
This week I emailed Legoland enquiring if my cerebral palsy daughter was entitled to receive free entry into the park as Disneyland Paris were offering this summer. Legoland emailed saying the disabled child will pay full price ticket but the registered carer can be admitted free of charge and given a “ride access pass” if I provide the right documentation. In case you don’t know the “ride access pass” is a pass to jump the queue if you’re disabled. I was told, “Documentation is required, and some questions will be asked…”. When I asked what kind of documentation is needed their reply, “A valid proof of disability would be anything that states the disability, such as a letter from your doctor, a diagnosis letter, or any letter from an official organisation or hospital.” I asked if a blue badge is not proof of disability? Or alternatively could I bring my daughter’s certificate from DWP stating her award for disability? No. It’s not proof enough. Legoland said, “If you are interested in claiming our ride access pass, we do require a proof of disability that states what the disability is.” It was this line that threw me, “ states what the disability is“. Why does Legoland have to know exactly what the disability is? Legoland emailed this morning explaining why, “Some disabled guests are not eligible for our ride access pass so information is needed so this can be determined.” Legoland have their own criteria on deciding how worthy someone’s disability is.
Legoland: Judge, Jury, and Executioner
What’s wrong with an organisation deciding for themselves who’s disability is deserving? Here’s how I see it. Disability and the allowances for different disabilities is decided in our society by a democratic collective. There are cheques and balances set in place in our open society and the criteria for who qualifies for disability and at what level is open to all of us as a society to scrutinise, to voice and change as a political community. Who scrutinises Legoland’s disability criteria? Who are the people in Legoland who decide which disability is deserving, who checks their individual bias? What are the qualification of Legoland’s personnel to make such decisions? Can we see their criteria? How do we know if it’s a fair one?
Legoland: The Higher Power
How have the personnel at Legoland come to possess a higher power than our own society’s system? Our system is not perfect, it is open to abuse (will discuss the ‘cheats’ below) but our criteria is not kept behind an organisation’s office door away from the public eye. In our society we set the rules on who qualifies as disabled. Legoland over-ride our collective decision and judge by themselves who’s disabled and who is disabled enough. Imagine if Legoland required to know our ethnicity in order to decide which parts of the park we were allowed to visit.
Someone with amputee arm shouldn’t jump the queue
This was the argument someone threw at me yesterday. The criteria on who qualifies as disabled has to be set as a whole by a society and not by one individual or individual organisation. I think it will be a hostile poorer society if as individuals we are allowed to decide if someone fits our own personal view of disability. An unease comes over me to think in our society people are encourage to judge disability on sight.
If I can just flip the argument over and put it this way. Some might think an individual with an amputee arm shouldn’t jump the queue. (assuming they want to they may not) Following that argument through I would say my daughter should not jump the queue because she uses a wheelchair, she is after all sitting down, resting, why should she jump the queue? This applies to any child in a wheelchair and obviously applies to say blind children and so on. In fact when you think about it, no one should jump the queue.
Disabled: “don’t have it so bad!”
“Hey, they’re only missing an arm” I was left wondering if missing two arms would qualify jumping the queue? My daughter with only ‘mild’ cerebral palsy doesn’t have it good. She really doesn’t. She can do so much more than some severe disabled children but that’s not the measuring stick against which we say she “doesn’t have it bad”. The measuring stick is against someone who’s able. We can say as a family who see her struggles 24/7 that she has it hard. Everyone in the family including siblings are affected by the disability of that child. How hard a disability is is for the individual to say, not by someone standing in the queue to judge nor by the private criteria of a company. The way I see it either provide a disability policy and have an inclusive policy or don’t provide one.
The disable “CHEATS”
This is something that is a hot topic in this country, “cheats on benefit”, “disability cheats”, it’s favourite headlines of certain newspapers, it feeds the frenzy, so many cheats out there, all around us, they must be stopped. At all cost. Disneyland announced this week the change in their disability policy on queue jumping because of “cheats”. The disabled cheats are a small minority. Those who cheat the disability benefit system and those who abuse their disability status at Disneyland are a minority. This is not the majority of disabled people. Why make the majority pay because of it?
What I see happening is the disabled treated across-the-board as potential “cheats” and therefore the majority must suffer because of the few. If this is how it’s suppose to be why don’t we implement this strategy with other very serious issues? For example the terrible cases of the minority of parents who starve/abuse their children to death. Why don’t we as a whole society put a system in place where everyone who wants to be a parent undergoes a series of psychological tests before conceiving to decide who’s fit to be a parent. The majority should pay for the sake of the few.
Privacy is a fleeting thing when you have a disability. You don’t have it if you’re in the system or with people that are part of your care. My middle daughter may have the appearance of having privacy to the outsider but her epilepsy robs her of certain privacy and at times dignity. As a disable person, does Legoland and other theme parks need to know exactly what the diagnosis of a disability is?
The disability system is dam awful, apart from endless hospital appointments (a few below), the system has often let both of my daughters down. As a mum your time is spent chasing continuously, chasing treatments, appointments, services, always chasing and often fighting. It’s draining. One day they will have to do it themselves.
This, if I haven’t made it clear is not about getting a free ticket or jumping the queue. The first time we visited Disneyland Paris this summer we paid for all of us because we didn’t know about the free ticket. We don’t expect things. It took 6 years to apply for a blue badge. It has taken me this long to accept it, to accept disability, and this is not because I was or am in denial, far from it, I have always pushed, complained officially and unofficially, demanded for the right treatment for my daughter. There’s no denying her needs or her disability. The acceptance is an emotional one. I find hard to express why it’s so emotional, and I don’t think I’m articulate enough to express why. This little girl more than anything wants to twirl and dance, and she gets frustrated and angry at herself when she can’t and falls over trying. Last week she asked, “when you were little mummy were you disabled?” I said no, she said, “Oh I thought everyone was disabled when they were little”. Maybe if we were we would be the better for it.
If there is to be a disability policy have one that is inclusive and open to scrutiny.