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Disturbing Trends That Jeapordize the Rights of Disabled People

Updated on March 23, 2018
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a disability advocate with many years of experience working in the disability community. She is also a freelance writer.


As a writer who covers disability issues, I have been dismayed by the attitude of some towards special treatment for people with disabilities.

Unfortunately, some non-disabled people feel they are entitled to the best of everything. They are driven by selfish desires to be first in line or not to have to walk far across a parking lot. They don’t see and often don't care how their actions may be hurting others - including people with disabilities.

Pet owners are smuggling their beloved Poopsies into stores, claiming the little, yapping dogs that are nipping at everyone's heels are service dogs. Some people pretend to be disabled so that they can get the best seats in the house, be first in a line, or board a plane before anyone else.

These people resent the disabled when they get to meet a celebrity or sit upfront at a concert. While some people dislike special treatment, others seem to feel a sense of entitlement to the same accommodations that are given to people with disabilities.

Special Treatment or Reasonable Accommodation?

It is true that many venues such as theatres and concert halls offer special seating for people with disabilities. Sometimes, venues will reserve the front rows of seats for the deaf. Airlines will seat people with mobility issues first.


There are good reasons why people with disabilities get what seems like preferential treatment:

  • Some disabled people with mobility issues aren’t able to stand, so they need good seating to get a clear view of the stage or platform. They also need a wide, accessible aisle to travel in with ramps, if needed.
  • Airlines seat people with mobility challenges first for a number of reasons such as getting them safely settled in first without impatient people pushing at them to get to their seats.
  • People with service dogs depend on their animals for a variety of things such as guidance and warning about dangers. That is why they are allowed in places that pets are not allowed to go.
  • People with physical disabilities need handicapped parking because it is difficult for them to walk or travel long distances. Also, it is dangerous for someone in a wheelchair to have to navigate a busy parking lot.
  • Deaf people sit up front in reserved seating so that they can see both the speaker and a sign language interpreter.

What some people see as preferential treatment is actually reasonable accommodation, which in some countries is required by law. People who break the law by refusing to provide accommodations can be sued, and in some cases, forced to compensate people with disabiilities.

In the United States, all public facilities that receive government funding must accommodate people with disabilities under the Americans With Disabilties Act. The ADA federal government website provides more information and an online complaint filing process.

Disturbing Trends That Jepordize the Rights of Disabled People

People masquerading as disabled people in wheelchairs

There have been reports in the media that some non-disabled people masquerade as people in wheelchairs so they can take advantage of these accommodations. Unfortunately, this makes the owners of venues question whether people are actually disabled. This also means that access to one of a few spots available in certain venues is denied to a genuinely disabled person.


The media reports that some wealthy people would hire a person in a wheelchair who will fake being a family member so that their prescious darlings do not have to wait in long lines at theme parks like Disney World. This days, you can actually order a person who will impersonate someone in a wheelchair for a few hundred dollars online.

The Sun reports that some passengers in the United Kingdom are faking disability by using wheelchairs so they can whiz to the front of lines and through security lineups.This type of fraud hurts people with disabilities because owners of venues may start to be suspicious and question if disabled people are the real thing.

Fake Service Dogs

There are several types of specially trained service dogs:

  • Dogs trained to help blind and low vision people navigate the world and warn of danger
  • Dogs for people with severe hearing loss who can alert them when a doorbell or phone rings, or an emergency like a fire alarm
  • Dogs who assist people with physical disabilities with day-to-day tasks

The problem is that these furry family members may become stressed and obnoxious in strange places. Store and restaurant owners are already reluctant to allow service animals in for fear that customers will complain or have an allergic reaction. Business owners won't think much of owners of noisy, uncontrollable dogs who pee on their carpet. The poor dogs themselves will probably be distressed as well.


Disability advocates such as Marcie Davis, the founder of International Dog Awareness Week, are concerned that this practice could jeopardize the acceptance of service dogs in public places. According to USA Today, several states in the US are cracking down on fake service animals through laws against fakes in public places, but legislators admit that these laws would be difficult to enforce. The regulations would mostly be symbolic in order to educate the public.

Handicapped Parking

People get handicapped permits that allow them to park in handicapped spaces because they have mobility issues that make it difficult to travel long distances across parking lots. When physically disabled people get out of their vehicles, they are safer being near the mall doors than if they were navigating a busy parking lot. Also, handicapped parking spots are larger with lined space on one side so that a person with mobility issues or using wheelchairs can get out of a vehicle safely.

Many violators get away with loaning out permits to someone else or parking illegally because handicapped parking laws are not usually enforced. People ignore offenders.

In my town, there is a number on handicapped parking signs that people can call to report illegal parking. The problem is that callers are asked to give out a lot of personal information before a complaint can be filed. This policy is sure to discourage most people from calling in and reporting offenders.

Final Words

Pretending to be disabled in order to enjoy the few perks that exist for people with disabilities is not OK. When someone exploit them it means:

  • One less seat of the few seats reserved for people with disabilities in certain venues is available. In some cases, people in wheelchairs may be forced to go a less accessible route down narrow aisles or have to submit to the indignity of being carried
  • A shop or restaurant owner who would normally allow a service animal in will deny a blind man access because they had a bad experience with a fake so-called service dog
  • People with mobility issues are forced to park far from the mall entrance because all the handicapped parking spaces are full of cars without permits. This means that they either try to walk a long distance on a cane or crutches, or in some cases, manually propel a wheelchair and hope that a car will not hit them.

Many disability advocates fought long and hard for the right to have reasonable accommodation to access public places and bring their service dogs with them as guides. Let’s hope that some fakes don’t ruin things for everyone.

© 2013 Carola Finch


Submit a Comment
  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I am all for service dogs for people with all kinds of needs. People who fake their pets being service dogs, however, harm all of us because pets are not trained.

  • Kylyssa profile image

    Kylyssa Shay 

    4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

    Seizure Alert Dogs and Seizure Response Dogs are not fake service dogs. The SA dogs' breeds sometimes tend to be different from the standard breeds of dogs chosen for guiding, alerting, or mobility because any size or breed of dog can bark and alert people and because some dogs can predict seizures quite accurately and alert and/or assist before the seizure begins. Every dog that is a natural at sensing upcoming seizures is a very special, potentially life-saving treasure, even if you don't think it fits your idea of what a service dog should look like. People may also choose smaller alert dogs for convenience or for their longer lifespans among many other reasons. Just because you can't see the disability or the danger the service animal addresses, it doesn't mean no disability or danger exists. Just because the dog is a Dalmatian, mutt, or toy breed, it doesn't mean the animal is untrained. The same organizations that train what you consider real service dogs train seizure dogs.

    Why would you deny someone a potentially life-saving service animal just because they can see, hear, and walk most of the time?

    Nor are service dogs for emotional disorders fake service dogs. I know a woman who suffers from severe agoraphobia who literally cannot force herself to even go to doctor appointments for her serious health issues without her service dog. In the past, there were times she went days without adequate food because she'd run out and couldn't make herself leave to get more. Her service dog changed her life to one that includes leaving her house, taking herself to appointments and work, getting to the store to buy food, having friends, going out with friends, driving, and having a job. A profoundly blind person would be more functional than she is without a service dog. Again, just because you can't see the disability by looking at a person it doesn't mean it isn't real.

    Why would you deny someone such a vital improvement in quality of life just because they can walk, hear, and see?

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments, CraftytotheCore. I think more people in stores should be trained to allow disabled people in first. Some people these days are so selfish that they don't even think about how their actions hurt others.

  • CraftytotheCore profile image


    6 years ago

    Insightful Hub! It's disgusting at what extremes people go to in order to get ahead of someone that is physically handicapped.

    After being paralyzed in a hospital for 8 days, and going through painful neurological shock testing, then having physical therapy for months....I was well enough to walk with a cane in a grocery store. It was my first trip out to the store. I am not handicap, I just suddenly went paralyzed. Hemiplegic headache, flu shot...they never did figure it out.

    Anyway, my family was with me. We had about 4 things in a hand held basket that my husband was carrying. I was walking ahead with my cane and approaching a register. In a totally selfish, unthinkable maneuver, a young man about 20, ran past me and threw his hip to the left to slide in to the register before me.

    I stopped to figure out if he was trying to grab a diet coke or pack of gum from the counter. But he wasn't.

    It was hard to believe my eyes. He did that so the friend of his walking with about 200 items in an overflowing cart of groceries could cut in front of me to pay first. The friend was about 10 aisles away. I could have already paid and left by the time he got to the register. But the person blocked me from putting my basket up on the counter. And the cashier took the other person before me.

    I immediately hobbled to the courtesy desk and demanded that something be done. They took me very seriously and were not happy at all that the cashier allowed that to happen. There are a lot of elderly people in this area, and I can tell you that there are a lot of wounded war vets as well.

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for visiting, RonEfran. We have a permit because one of my elderly family members has difficulty walking, so I can relate.

  • RonElFran profile image

    Ronald E Franklin 

    6 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

    As one who has a handicapped parking permit, I really appreciate you highlighting this issue. I wonder if people can understand what it feels like to drive up to a location and find no handicap parking spaces available because several of them are filled with vehicles with no permit visible. Do such drivers realize that they often are causing actual physical suffering to people who are forced to walk further than they are comfortably able? Believe me, I would trade my permit in an instant for the ability to walk from the furthest corner of the parking lot!

  • Carola Finch profile imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments. Rayne123 thanks for taking the time to share. I certainly agree that accommodations are meant to help and are not special treatment.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    6 years ago from The Caribbean

    I am aware of the parking lot stories, but had no idea people would be mean enough to fake disability. Atrocious! Thank you for bringing this to out attention. Voted Up!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Your hub is great and I so agree with you.

    What really blows my mind is that handicap parking, I see it done all the time. I would feel so guilty if I parked in that certain spot.

    I have even said it out loud when they get out of the car, and yet they just give me a dirty look and walk away. Its rude. That bugs me the most.

    It is a mockery to the disabled. However be careful what you wish for.

    They want to be disabled and act like it, they may become the next "victim" sort of speak.

    I do not mean disabled are victims at all, (its just a figure of speech for karma I guess) I am very compassionate when it comes to these things. This spot was made for a reason and were so accommodations for the disabled. We should be helping them with pleasure and kindness.

    They do not ask for special treatment from what I experience anyway, they just ask for what belongs to them to help cope in their world that is not different than ours but harder to get around.


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