Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Welcome to First Class

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Welcome to First Class

Article excerpt


You have got to hand it to the Canadians. Give them a round puck and some wood sticks, and they create a national game. Give them some bad guys, and they call out the Mounties. Give them some ice-laden tundra, and they call out the sled dogs. And give them some bad deals for their citizens with disabilities, and they call out the Supreme Court.

In a recent decision by the Canadian Supreme Court, they required the airlines to offer a free extra seat to passengers with disabilities who require a personal assistant or wheelchair storage. They also included passengers who are functionally disabled by obesity.

The decision, a first for the world, supports the "One-Person-One-Fare" regulation that was previously adopted by The Canadian Transportation Agency.

In an article by Matthew Little of the Epoch Times newspaper, the mixed response was not surprising: "Response to the decision has been mixed, according to blogged responses on news Web sites. Comments have ranged from praising the decision as an act of compassion to criticizing it as granting unfair privileges to people with irresponsible eating habits. Others suggested that the cost of an extra seat for an attendant should be paid for by public healthcare."

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities celebrated the decision and was "thrilled to see the removal of another long-standing barrier to our mobility and travel."

The rest of the Canadian transportation industry (bus, train, ferry) has long provided the free extra seat for those requiring it. In so many ways, the Canadian maple leaf is far more impressive than an olive branch.

This exciting and reaffirming decision can elicit many responses, ranging from the legal definition of disability to the concept of special accommodation, and they all require pallets of drums of ink. My obtuse perspective deviates from these considerations to the questions of "how much of us is us?"

The idea that a person with a disability is entitled to pay for one seat when he or she actually takes up (by additional flesh or assistive titanium) two seats begs the question, Where do we begin and where do we end? If we roll onto a plane as one, then we are basically the footprint we were in the jet way. If our expansive boundaries are off the charts, aren't we still on the one chart that still counts the most? The one place that no growth chart ever placed someone was off the human chart. All charts have points along a path, but the path is for all.

These are philosophical questions not courtroom cross-examination questions. …

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