"Travel hacks" are supposed to make life easier, but a persistent "hack" is making travel (and plain ol' existing) much harder for disabled people.
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TRANSCRIPT OF “TIK TOK, MAKE IT STOP”
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MALE VO [00:03]
This is Bad Attitudes.
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Hello friends and strangers! Welcome to another episode of Bad Attitudes: An Uninspiring Podcast about Disability. I’m your host, Laura.
The Ableds are why we can’t have nice things.
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As always, I want to remind you that disability is not a monolith. My experience as a disabled person is going to be different from the experiences of other disabled people. I am one voice for the disabled community but I am not the only voice.
A friend of mine recently shared an article from the London Telegraph in which the chief executive of Heathrow Airport blames a TikTok “travel hack” for the chaos at airports this summer. The hack in question? Pretending to be disabled so you can move through the airport more quickly.
The article reminded me — not that I had forgotten — of a similar practice in the Disney parks.
What. The. Fuck. Are you TOO GOOD to wait in line? Where do you have to be that is SO IMPORTANT that you take advantage of services for disabled people? No where, that’s where. NO WHERE.
The Ableds will claim with their dying breath that the disabled don’t need or deserve necessary accommodations, but then take advantage of the few we DO have. And for what purpose? Literally so they don’t have to wait in line. THAT’S ALL. The Ableds are foaming at the mouth to accuse ACTUALLY disabled people of faking their disabilities for pity or sympathy or attention, but the ones perpetuating actual fraud are NOT disabled.
I’m begging you. Make it make sense.
It’s bad enough to do the thing in the first place, but then to go on social media and BRAG about it? And, on top of that, ENCOURAGE other people to do it, too? What are you gaining? Oh, I know. ATTENTION.
That can be the only motivating factor. The people who are making these videos and suggesting these “hacks” on social media don’t benefit from other people taking advantage of the systems in place to help disabled people. It’s not like there’s an affiliate program. They don’t get a kickback for making a referral. The only thing they can POSSIBLY gain is attention and the validation from other cretins like themselves who thank them for these “hacks.”
Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You are so FUCKING BLACK.
I’ve been working really hard on myself the past couple of years to overcome my internalized ableism and not jump to conclusions when I see someone who doesn’t, quote, “look” disabled. But people like this make it so difficult! And they are why I will continue to make snap judgements in certain situations when I see someone taking advantage of disability accommodations. For example, if I see someone at a fair or amusement park pushing a wheelchair filled with their bags or coats or prizes, but not an actual person, I’m full-on judging them. And I don’t feel bad about it.
And you might say, “Well, Laura, that’s not the right attitude.” But when it comes to situations like this, I don’t give a flying fuck about having the right attitude. Because, a lot of the time, having the “right attitude” means allowing yourself to be a doormat and I won’t do that. I won’t allow myself to be a doormat and I won’t allow the collective disabled community to be a doormat.
It is exhausting to constantly be the bigger person and to let things go. And, frankly, it’s how we end up with abuses like this. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, individually and collectively, if we don’t push back, certain people will continue to take advantage of the systems that are in place. Airports know this is happening. Theme parks know this is happening. But there is almost no way to enforce any kind of consequences because, in the US at least, it is illegal to ask for details about a person’s disability. Which is as it should be. I shouldn’t have to PROVE I’m disabled enough to access accommodations.
Which is, of course, a catch-22. We can’t ask for details about someone’s disability to determine if they actually need a wheelchair in an airport, but because we can’t ask for details, we can’t prevent fakers from taking advantage of these services. So what do we do?
I’m really asking because at this point all I’ve got is interrogating people who seem a little sus. And I don’t predict that will go over well.
There is one consequence that is out of all of our hands. I think it would behoove these people to be reminded how close they are to being disabled themselves. Literally, you are one car accident, one slip and fall, one illness away from permanent and irrevocable disability.
Consider Christopher Reeve. Christopher Reeve was LITERALLY Superman. He was rich, famous, handsome. He had what most of us would consider a charmed life. But, with one bad day on a horse, he could no longer even breathe on his own. Do you think you’re better than Christopher Reeve? Is your life more charmed than Superman’s? If nothing else, Christopher Reeve’s accident proved that disability could come for anyone at any time.
One more thing. I bet you dollars to donuts the videos promoting these “hacks” are still up on TikTok. TikTok and other platforms will fall over themselves to remove videos where disabled people — especially femme-presenting — even suggest at being sexual, but videos that promote actual fraud? Meh. Let’s just leave it up.
In fact, I searched the user mentioned specifically in the Telegraph article and, as predicted, his video showing him faking a limp to access a wheelchair in an airport is still available. I reported it for hateful behavior, but I doubt it will make a difference. We absolutely have to hold the individual creators accountable for their behavior, but we have to hold platforms like TikTok accountable, too. By allowing this kind of content, they are implicitly supporting the behavior of their creators. I can almost guarantee that, if asked for a statement, TikTok would say they unequivocally do not support this kind of behavior or content creation, but should we believe what they would SAY or should we believe what they ALLOW?
The best thing we can do is, if we come across some of these “travel hack” videos, is to report them to the platform. If enough people report them, it might actually make an impact. If you wanted, you could even go so far as alerting airports or theme parks that these individuals have a history of defrauding companies by pretending to be disabled. Is this feasible? Probably not. But I love the idea of making these assholes’ lives a little more difficult.
Realistically, nothing I say is going to make an impact on these people. The level of entitlement is astronomical, and entitlement doesn’t go away with a stern talking-to. A few of them will probably grow out of this behavior, but not everyone behaving this way is young enough TO grow out of it. Plenty of whole-ass adults with kids of their own will do whatever they can to game the system.
But, people who pretend to be disabled to get out of waiting in line aren’t “gaming the system.” I’m all in favor of “sticking it to the man,” but they aren’t harming big corporations or billionaire assholes. Their behavior affects individual disabled people who are left in the lurch because the accommodations in place for them are being hoarded by people who don’t need those accommodations. I’ve heard so many disabled people called lazy, but, really, who’s lazy?
No one likes waiting in line. I don’t, and I get to sit through it. But manipulating the system isn’t a viable option. You cannot go through life so entitled that you are willing to walk over anyone and everyone in order to make things imperceptibly easier for yourself. It will bite you in the ass eventually. I only hope I’m there to see it. And laugh and laugh and laugh.
Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you in the next one.
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