Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sidewalk SUVs

It seems that some people have decided that even walking is too much exertion.

And for many who are fifty (or more) pounds overweight, it probably is. So today's article in the Wall Street Journal , which describes the boom in sales of disability scooters for the mere convenience of strolling about Minnesota's giant Mall of America, various mega-stores like Walmart, or large public venues, like Washington DC's national mall, should be a wake-up call to all of us. That's right - these scooters aren't being used just by the disabled, but also by the healthy, some of whom are opportunists who would rather buy cheap tickets in Las Vegas and be "put right in the mezzanine with the handicapped people" or "ride all day and dance all night."

But this all comes at a cost to our health and society. Much the same as the tradeoffs we make in our national passion for gas guzzling SUVs. Pride Mobility Products, one of the largest disability scooter manufacturers, began supersizing its Jazzy, Maxima and Celebrity-X models to meet the growing girth of Americans - and certainly for our obese disabled patients, this makes sense. But the increased numbers of these scooters being used because people are "just lazy," has the potential to malign the truly disabled.
"It's kind of bad for the cause," says Janna Starr, director of disability rights and technology for United Cerebral Palsy, a non-profit group. She says it also puts companies in the problematic position of judging who "deserves" aid and encourages them to assess disabilities - which can be hidden - based on appearances.
But it goes beyond this. It reinforces the lack of importance we place in our personal health, and provides an egregious display of our selfishness toward others when we use these to forward our own agendas simply because we're too lazy to move or too cheap to buy a full-priced ticket in Las Vegas.


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