Friday, April 4, 2014


Krystyna Janda, Polish Actress famously awarded at the Cannes Festival, caused quite a stir recently. She expressed a longing for the times when women were treasured by men. When it was in bed taste not to hold the door for a lady, or pull a chair or help with a heavy suitcase. She wrote a piece about the stronger sex after a man she was traveling with on a train refused to help after she asked him to put her suitcase in the overhead compartment. He did say he had a back issue, but what offended her was the fact that he didn't apologize for it. Criticism followed. Why should a man apologize for having a bad back?- some readers asked. For most- it turned into a discussion on gender equality. Why should a man assume a macho position if a woman is neither struggling or weak or elderly just because some antiquated tradition dictates it? Wasn't the women liberation movement all about having the weaker sex finally seen as equal, able to fend itself without a man's permission or assistance. Janda's stance came across as her saying- I need a big strong man to come and save me, because I'm not able to do it myself. It's not as if she tried to and lacked strength, she just assumed a man must do it for her and expected it to an extent she went online to do about it. "She just wants it both ways"- one user observes- "Equality when it suits her, special treatment when it's convenient".And it got me thinking about all the times that you could have accused of a similar attitude. I dedicate my career to promote disability inclusion. I started a nonprofit that's dedicated to promoting a positive image of people dealing with impairments. I wrote countless essays about how much I want to be treated just like anybody else. How the wheelchair is not really limiting me and with my skills, dedication, hard work ethic and drive I could compete with just about anyone. How I hate the word "special" in special needs. How I don't need to be pushed and most of the time I'll get there - even if it takes longer. Yet, I have to say- I didn't mind skipping the lines at the Universal Studios theme park because it allows wheelchair users to do so. It saved my family hours of waiting time and although I didn't have any medical condition that could have worsened if we waited with everybody else. I don't mind when I get to go into a crowded movie room when all the sits are taken. When I get a free upgrade on a domestic flight, because it's more convenient for the airport staff to sit me in the business class than carry me to the back of a plane. That public transit is either cheaper or free. That I can renew my passport at 50% off. Or that I have special sitting at a theatre. That if I miss a bus I get to have a minivan pick me up. That a lot of times when I'm waiting in line people invite me to get in front of them. None of those situations are in any shape of form emergencies related to my disability and yet- I enjoy them- I admit. And yes, I'm sure that there's a "his life must be so hard" justification for most of the times I get something extra and get singled out. And yet, I don't mind it. Nobody likes to wait in lines and with a 40 minute wait at Universal we would have done anything not to be like the others passing out in the heat. I don't mind the little perks, but I don't expect them. I don't have that "Move! I'm in a wheelchair" attitude. Some of my friends do- one of them even convinced a man at a cinema box office that the five friends I came with are there to assist me and should go in free. I'm pleasantly surprised every time it happens. Human beings are complicated. And I guess - since I can never be truly like others anyway, I don't mind being treated differently when it's something good- since I'm seen as different anyway.

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