Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kanye West Stops Concert Until He Gets Proof That Disabled Man Uses a Wheelchair


I've been seeing this moment circulated around a lot of social media recently, under a variety of headlines.  Some people believe it is being blown out of proportion because "Kanye didn't force the man in a wheelchair to stand up and dance," as some headlines might lead readers to believe.

However, as a disabled person, that's not what I take issue with.  I doubt there is anyone with a physical disability who hasn't been in that awkward situation where we're in a large audience and the audience is asked to stand up.  It's just one of those things we learn to deal with.  We realize that we can't and wait through the National Anthem, with our hand over our heart, hoping Lady Liberty will understand we mean no disrespect.  Maybe we sit a bit straighter, if possible, trying to convey that we respect the moment, the country, the speaker, too.

That is not the issue.

The issue is that Kanye West took it a step too far in sending a body guard out to the audience to prove that the man who didn't stand up was in fact in a wheelchair, after complaining about how long he had to wait to continue his set.

How completely mortifying.

No one should have to prove the legitimacy of their disability, especially at a public event they paid to attend.  It's hard enough for us to get to public events like concerts in the first place.  (Not saying this for sympathy but because of simple logistics.)  We have to be sure there is accessible seating available, find a vehicle big enough to carry our wheelchair (if we can't drive.)  And we have to hope that when we get to the venue, it actually is as accessible as it says it is.  Are its elevators big enough?  How about its restrooms?  Does its accessible seating have room for you and a friend or two to sit or do you all have to split up, and still try to enjoy the night?

The sad thing is, when I heard about this, I wasn't shocked.  I wasn't surprised.  Because things like this happen far too often.  This isn't about singling out Kanye West, it's about able-bodied people recognizing that they don't have the right to demand to authenticate our circumstances and the state of our bodies before their public event can continue.

How many people at that concert used crutches or a cane?  Or no mobility aid at all but for whom standing for an entire song would be utterly exhausting?  See where it gets grey?  Not all disabilities are visible.

So, next time, I hope Kanye West will simply invite his audience to stand, and leave it at that.

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