Equal But Different?

By Ellen Hierl

It is great to get a discount, just ask any senior who gets their meal at a discount or the AAA member who benefits with reduced admission when on vacation. We like to find bargains when we are shopping and often brag about the deal we got. In some instances, the people we support are given discounts or even free items with the only criteria for this discount being they have a disability. Let me be clear, I am referring to discounts that would not be given to the person if they did not have a disability.

At first glance, I tend to think this is great.

Many people with disabilities live at or below the poverty line.

They have very little income and the extras of life, not to mention some of the basics of life, are beyond their reach. Going to a movie can take up their entire entertainment budget for a month, so getting a free pass because of their disability enhances the quality of their life. I have no doubt that the people who offer these types of discounts have the best intentions in mind. They know that what they offer is out of reach for the people they are giving it to.

But is giving free or discounted items or services, with the only criteria based on the person having a disability, a benefit?

We so often talk about helping the people we support to be part of their community like everyone else. Does giving special privileges and benefits not available to anyone else fit into that philosophy? Does it not in fact set people apart as different from others in their community? Does the benefit of expanding their horizons outweigh this?

To be honest, I struggle with this one.  I’d love to know what you think.

3 Responses

  1. I agree that it is a struggle, but then I ask myself things like:
    -Why can’t the people I serve get jobs like everyone else so they could afford to do things like go to the movies?
    -Why is it that one of the first places Congress looks to cut funding when there is an economic crunch is the Programs that help us to suppport the people we serve in becoming independent and/or learning to become more participative in the communities they live in?
    -Why are the people we serve treated as Less than the rest of humanity?
    -Why have we not asked the people we serve what they need and what they want in life and then allowed them to have the avenues to actually achieve these things?

    I could go on and on, but the fact is the world simply looks at the developmentally disabled as a “less than” people and until we see them as basic humans who have the same wants and needs as the rest of us we will always be in a position of providing “free things” or “discounts” because that is all we are allowing them to be. THey are a “discounted” population rather than real loving, capable, feeling, talented, and faithful people whose wants and needs are the same as the rest of us.

    Rather than spend time trying to figure out whether giving discounts to the people we serve is the right thing to do we should be asking teh communities in which we live why the developpmentally disabled are not more visible and involved in the full life of the community.

    • I agree with you totally. It is these situations that make helping people be full members of the communities difficult. Personally, I find this as one of those areas where I could argue for both sides of the issue and make good arguments.

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