Does getting a disabled person ID card change anything?
© Chona Kasinger / Disabled And Here
Does a disabled person ID card change anything?
Is a disabled person ID card worth it? For all its perceived benefits, a disability ID card still relies on others to accommodate you. This article is about the author’s first experience with an official “disabled person” card
I have a flashy new card in my wallet. It arrived a few weeks ago.
It says, “Disability Card” and is Valid only upon presentation of ID.
It’s worth gold at the airport – not once did I have to wait on a line that was really way too long for me to stand in, and I didn’t end up with my feet killing and my knees aching!
Its value is more unstable on the bus. I rode standing up, and I was so exhausted I actually started nodding off and brushed against the lady in the seat nearby. She yelled, “That’s really bothering me!”
When I asked, can I please sit down, the lady just sneered and said, “Uh, no.” And when I showed her the card, she said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m in the same situation.” And maybe she is. And honestly, if it was me in that chair, I wouldn’t have gotten up either, and I’d feel totally justified for it.
But her attitude was so acidic that when I asked her neighbor the same thing, it really seemed like the neighbor felt pressured to say no – as if giving up her seat for me meant surrendering, giving in to a bully.
My card is also worth a 30 percent discount at the movie theater. But not quite as much among strangers, roommates, and sometimes even friends. As it states in large friendly letters, the decision whether or not to accommodate the cardholder is up to the person (or organization) to whom you are presenting it – you can’t force them.
It’s stamped and signed, but it’s not an automatic ticket to consideration. It’s got my name and my identification, but it does not require the person behind the glass to believe me when I say, I can’t.
It doesn’t prevent people from pitying me (even though I’m a badass!) or envying me for all the wrong reasons. It doesn’t force people to see me as a complex human being who is more capable of some things (i.e., solving complicated math problems) and less of other things (i.e., an ‘easy’ hike). It only says, we have it on good authority that this person, in some way or other, is disabled – take that as you will. It leaves the choice in their hands with no guidelines or explanations.
Most of all, it doesn’t come with a reminder of how difficult it is to ask for help. It doesn’t broadcast that trickle of cold shame when you ask the security worker if you can skip the luggage line, the heat in your face as you wonder whether you really need assistance, or if you’re just being dramatic, or the pounding of your heart while you try to lift your own suitcase for several minutes before finally asking for help and hoping you picked a nice person.
It doesn’t provide a diagram of how the words “Can you help me?” float to the tip of your tongue, and you swallow them repeatedly in a cycle of self-doubt so that by the time they finally come out it’s almost too late.
I wish my card came with all those things, but it doesn’t. It just comes with a choice. A choice for someone else.
Now, sometimes I enjoy having a deep conversation and sharing the intricacies of life with an invisible illness.
But sometimes all I can say is, “Can I please sit down?”
Liora Sophie is an Israeli writer with a B.Sc. in mathematics and education.