Cultural swab

I want to be very clear on this point: I do not get any special treatment while travelling because I look disabled.

Pre-boarding is not a perk. It is a way of getting slower travellers out of the way of the able-bodied so that boarding a plane doesn’t take half of forever. I may get on the plane before you do, but I also get off after you do. And I don’t get to my destination any faster; we’re still on the same plane.

I mention the special treatment idea, because in conversation with a wide range of people over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered a common assumption that the disabled get things handed to them, including jobs.

I promise you, it does not work like that.

Those believing the visibly disabled get special treatment and privileges might expect I had an easier time than anyone else going through airport security.

Before my sticks had even fallen to the conveyor belt, a security agent picked them up, asked if I needed the sticks to walk through the metal detector, and when I said No, I could limp those few steps, he spirited the sticks away: –We have to swab them for chemicals that could be harmful to the plane.

The sticks are hollow. I am guessing that the security agents were checking them for weapons or illegal substances.

I allowed dismay to show on my face as I lost sight of my sticks. Then, after I walked — lurched — through the detector, another agent told me I had two options: get my hands swabbed, or get a pat-down.

Why a pat-down is thought to be the equivalent of running a scanner over someone’s hands, I do not know.

I held out my hands.

Both my hands and my sticks passed inspection. By then, my hips were wobbling. I got my crutches back and continued on my trip.

A friend travelling to Halifax last month had to submit to a pat-down while agents swabbed her wheelchair.

If anything, I wonder if the visibly disabled mightn’t get a little extra attention.

At least, my security screening is an onerous and tiresome as anyone else’s.

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