Gossip and entertainment sites were buzzing this week about fan sightings of Justin Bieber at Disneyland last Sunday, in a wheelchair, cutting lines. Fans shared social media photos, including the above, of the star. There was speculation that Justin did this to cut lines. There were other photos posted of him the next day, standing perfectly fine.
Let’s start with this: Celebrities do not need to “fake” disability because they can easily get preferential treatment at theme parks, and pretty much anywhere they go. Justin’s done a bunch of dubious stuff in recent years, but it just seems ludicrous to think he’d need to do this. TMZ reported that he was nursing a knee injury from basketball and only sat in the chair for a short time. They also noted that Bieber gets escorted in and out of the park, to avoid attracting a crowd.
Not that countless people haven’t tried over the years to pretend to be disabled. My husband knew someone, as a teen, who’d rent a wheelchair to cut lines at theme parks. Last May, the news broke that wealthy parents were hiring people with disabilities so they could bypass lines.
That abuse is one key reason Disney recently changed its policies for accommodating people with disabilities to a system that’s similar to Disney’s Fastpass one, in which a park attendant gives you a return time for a ride. So the second, and more key reason, this whole story can’t be true is that people in wheelchairs do not automatically get access to rides, or any additional leeway. Only wheelchair users who have behavioral or sensory issues or other disabilities might qualify for the Disability Access Service Card. But that wasn’t always the word being spread online. As The Wire said, “Everybody knows that Disneyland allows its disabled guests to cut the lines at any rides that can accommodate them, so, you know, congrats to Justin Bieber for FINALLY getting an advantage in life.”
Right. As if having a disability is ever an advantage. If you have a kid with special needs then you know what a constant uphill battle life can be.
The media is ready to jump on Justin Bieber for any move he makes, but it seems like he didn’t deserve this—and neither did people with disability. Bad reporting like this hurts kids like my son, because it spreads the misconception that people with disability “get away” with cutting lines. Some of them, like Max, dorequire accommodations at theme parks. He has cerebral palsy and can’t stand for long periods of times. He gets scared of crowds. I know of other kids with special needs whose bodies can’t properly regulate temperature, and so they can’t wait for long periods in heat.
Make no mistake: Accommodating our children isn’t special treatment—it’s leveling the playing field so they can enjoy parks in the same ways that other kids do.
No matter whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, it seems like there’s one thing to be agreed upon: Parents-to-be who find out their baby in utero will have Down syndrome deserve access to solid information and support.
Thanks to Chloe Kondrich, 11, and her father, Kurt, that’s going to happen in Pennsylvania. The two are behind new legislation known as Chloe’s Law that requires health care experts to provide women who get a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome with factual and supportive information from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
A former policeman, Kurt Kondrich has been a dedicated advocate since Chloe’s birth in 2003, when he and his wife learned that she had DS. He went on to get a masters degree in Early Intervention, and now works full-time on the Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention. Chloe, meanwhile, is quite the media star—her dad notes that she’s been in magazines, books and newspapers, and regularly mingles with politicians.
Between 60 to 90 percent of women who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis end the preganncy, according to a 2012 meta-analysis of 24 studies in the journal Prenatal Diagnosis. The evidence suggests that termination rates have actually decreased in recent years. It makes sense that worried parents who get support may be less likely to abort a baby with Down syndrome.
Chloe, who attends Boyce Middle School in Pittsburgh, reads at the same level of her sixth-grade peers. She stood with Governor Tom Corbett as he signed Chloe’s Law. As State Rep. Jim Marshall (R), the prime sponsor for the act, said, “We hope this will raise awareness to parents who may get the diagnosis and be initially afraid of what the result will be. I think it will raise awareness that their kid is going to be different, not imperfect. There really isn’t anything more perfect than a happy child.”
If you walked by the JCPenney in New York City, you might notice something a little different in the store window display. Something amazingly different. The five mannequins reflect physical diversity. Modeled after five real people, they include a woman in a wheelchair, a man with dwarfism and a double-leg amputee, along with a plus-size woman and a 6-foot-one-inch man. The mannequins are part of the store’s “When it fits you feel it” campaign, and were specially made for the TODAY show’s Love Your Selfie series, as Today.com reports.
As the parent of a child with disability, I love this. Traditionally, initiatives in support of body image (especially from the fashion industry) have to do with plus-size women. It makes total, wonderful, awesome sense to celebrate the physiques of people with disabilities, too. The more others can see people with disabilities in mainstream settings, the more they will come to think of them as being mainstream. Too often, that’s still not the case.
Model inclusion is also happening more frequently, slowly but surely, in advertising. Nordstrom’s July catalog, reports ABC News, includes a man with a prosthetic leg showing off running shoes and model Jillian Mercado in a wheelchair modeling boots (she made headlines this spring for appearing in a Diesel ad campaign).
The mannequins are on display through August. I think they should go on tour!
Want to encourage your child with autism to say what it is he wants? Hide favorite objects—in boxes, in a closet, anywhere out of reach–then wait. That’s one of several good tips from this video featuring Maurya Farah, a speech therapist at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey. It’s part of the Real Life Tips video series for kids with autism, sponsored in part by Kohl’s Autism Awareness. The tips apply to any children with verbal challenges.
A global wheelchair dancing competition recently finished in Beijing; the winners will head to the Asia Paralympic Games, which will be held in Korea in the October. It’ll be the first time wheelchair dance is a competition category in those games.
There were 116 contestants from eight countries at the competition including an 85-year-old woman, as reported on CCTV. Wheelchair dancing is a big-deal sport these days. If you have a child who uses a wheelchair, check into local classes, like the ones offered around the country by American DanceWheels instructors and The Dancing Wheels Company & School in Cleveland. Check out the video:
Competing is tough work; the dancers get blisters on their hands from gripping the chair’s wheels. The moves also take a whole lot of upper-body strength. But watching the video of the dancers in action in Beijing, all you see is their grace, technique and energy, along with the joy they take in their movement —exactly what any dancer aims to achieve.
For me, this is about great dancing, period. For some dancers, it’s much more. As one said, “The wheels are like my wings that help me realize my dreams and fly me to a bigger stage.”