Protocol or Profiling?

By Katherine Magnoli

When we left off I had a glorious day on a fully accessible boat. Now, like all things in life what goes up must come down. Unfortunately, that is how my life has worked for as long as I can remember. Now, as I have said in previous articles, I absolutely love and celebrate being in a wheelchair. However, I also feel it is my duty as an advocate to speak about any injustices I may face throughout the day.

I had just gotten picked up by my transportation and my spirits were high after the lovely day I just had experienced. A day that had restored my energy and faith in how this world is going in a more positive direction. I felt this way because I saw a person with a disability who wanted to not only bring an inclusive environment to people with disabilities but make sure that those without could benefit as well. This was such a positive message that I didn’t even mind the rudeness from my driver when he picked up  my friend/co-host of Behind the Chair Douglas Longhini and I. I didn’t even complain when he strapped us in as if we were cattle, because I know that is protocol. None of this was a problem in my mind, what bothered me came about an hour later.

You see after we had finally reached our destination and I was free from the straps that had tied me down, I was eager to get off the bus. Therefore due to my stubbornness I decided to wheel myself onto the lift. Now, this is an act I have done countless times in my life so I really thought very little of what could go wrong. However, you can do something a thousand times and that one time that you think nothing can go wrong is when it does. I was wheeling fast, without a seatbelt when I took a spill out of my wheelchair while getting on the lift.  

Now, according to the website Federal Transit Adminstration or www.transit.gov, a person with a wheelchair is not required to wear a seatbelt if they are indeed strapped with what is called a shoulder harness, which I referenced earlier in the article when I mentioned feeling like cattle. Anyway, even though this is indeed the case and I repeatedly told him I was fine with no sign of bleeding, bruising or broken bones. However, my word continued to mean absolutely nothing to him and his boss who insisted I stay outside, in the blistering sun and wait to be seen by a paramedic. I was very disturbed by this because I was not feeling well from the heat and really did not see the need of this.

They, however insisted and told me it was protocol. This may be the case but to me it seemed more like profiling, let’s make sure we are covered so this girl in a wheelchair who most likely doesn’t work won’t have a reason to sue us. I find this highly disturbing because even if I wasn’t as accomplished as I am I still would not be that kind of a person. I feel strongly about this because I don’t think it is fair to stereotype an entire group of people based on a select few who may live that way. I on the other hand take  responsibilities for my actions and no where I had fault in this.

I also was very saddened by the fact that they demanded I stay outside and risk my health in order to see a paramedic, this is irony at his finest if you ask me. Nonetheless they got their way and I sat in the hot sun until my mother arrived and spoke to the dispatcher and told them she would keep an eye on me and if there was any need to go to the hospital she would take me. Finally, after speaking with her they let me go. This was another disturbing aspect of this incident because it felt as if my word was not good enough which I found quite offensive.

I just hope that one day with the help of my advocacy and those of whom I have and have still to meet who are working hard to break these stereotypes people with disabilities will as people and not money hungry lawsuit happy entities. Until then I will continue to do what I do and hope for the best.

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