Friday, May 8, 2015

A woman in a wheelchair wins treadmill, internet gets up in arms

Here's a story that's been spreading on the internet until someone from my Foundation's crew sent me link. Can you believe it? A woman  in a wheelchair won a treadmill on a TV game show. At first you might think, "Wow, this has to be one of the most awkward moments on camera". Can you imagine the contrast: a machine designed to utilize the body parts many people with disabilities cannot use. The initial reaction is to blame the producers and the sponsors- "Why would they do that?" "Isn't that insensitive? But then my reaction might surprise you. I don't really get what the big deal is. Yes, it does play up a bit like a South Park episode, but haven't we crossed the line with the political correctness with stories like these?   If you ask what she could do with a treadmill I can tell you- she can sell it, give it away as a Christmas present, have it stand in her living room as a conversation piece or use it as a dogie walker machine. But most importantly, she can ask for a cash value of the prizes she won- as it is most often the option on a show like that. And that's assuming that we know anything about her level of mobility, because it might just as well be that like many people in wheelchairs she has some limited use of her legs and might be able to use it herself. How is it different from a man with obesity, a heart condition or diabetes winning gym equipment. Or a couple getting a furniture set for their living room that clashes with everything and that they will never use.? The only difference is that it's obvious from the get go that the prize might not be the best fit for the player. I can't speak for the woman, but I know fully well that there are things in this world that I can't use or where not designed for me because of my condition. And I'm not offended by it. Hey, I don't drive and still wouldn't turn down a free car. What should the producers do. Prepare a long questionnaire on what they can or can't do, what they like and what they wouldn't like to win in the off-chance that someone gets offended? Switch out every prize before each person gets to play to make sure nobody feels bad? Or do we just do it with people in wheelchairs. Yes, at first it looks a bit funny like a badly drafted comedy. But then when you think about it, people who make a big deal out of it are the one with the problem if they think the showrunners did something wrong. Because they assume that for a person in a wheelchair, being in it is a touchy subject and every reminder of activity and walking must be offensive.  Here's what I think: I'm in a wheelchair and if somebody gave me a valuable piece of equipment, like skis I'd be overjoyed and laugh all the way to the bank. And, here's a bit that might shock you- there's a lot of equipment that I do or have used. We've had a stationary bike in our house for years. In order to know what a person can or can't do you'd need to know what their condition and extent of mobility is. You really shouldn't assume things just because you see in a wheelchair. And even then. don't assume that a person reacts to their own disability the same way you do from the outside. The treadmill producer sponsored a show to advertise a product. A pretty valuable investment if you ask me- they did nothing wrong. Yes, they happen to make a product that I personally wouldn't have a use for (although many of my friends in wheelchairs do walk they get tired easy), but taking this personally in any way is absurd. If my mom won rollerblades on a show like this it wouldn't mean she'd be skating across town the next day either. Now if a woman in the chair was asked to give the treadmill a go right there on the air, that would have been inappropriate. Or if there was any evidence that they matched her with this product on purpose. To get the laughs or the drama. Otherwise it's no different from the trips we will never take, the electronics we'd never use, supplies of food we don't even like. The problem in my view is more with the people who framed this story as offensive. There's one positive out of all of this. It gets people to stop, wonder and care: Is this OK. Sometimes they will arrive at the wrong conclusion.

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