I don’t like discounted movie tickets. No, that isn’t accurate. I actually love discounted movie tickets. As long as they are discounted for everyone. In fact, I try to go to the matinee showing of a movie I want to see whenever I can, just so I don’t have to pay outrageous full prices. What I meant to say is that I don’t like movie tickets discounted for me simply because I have a disability. And that is what happened when I was in North Carolina over Spring Break visiting a friend of mine. My caregiver and I went to a movie late one night. She got a discount by showing her student ID. And the woman at the counter gave me a discount because I have a disability.
On the surface it was nice, and I don’t want to diminish the kindness the woman at the movie theater was trying to extend to me at all. She thought she was doing a good thing and I understand that. I just don’t care for the feeling I get when stuff like that happens. There is a cold prickliness that makes its way to my soul when someone waives the cover charge at the local venue when I go a concert. It’s the same feeling I experienced when I was visiting mom and dad during a summer break from college. We went to the park one lazy afternoon, and I noticed a guy was looking in my direction every few minutes. Then he would look away. After a while, he came over to me with a look of pity in his eyes. Without a word, he handed me several one dollar bills. He tried to walk away, but I stopped him. I gave him his money back.
Don’t get me wrong, until I draw my last breath I will advocate for the rules and regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I believe wholeheartedly in ramps, braille menus and closed captioning. I find accessible restrooms and bigger parking spaces to be exceptionally helpful when I go out and about with my caregivers running errands or grabbing a bite to eat around town.
Those things make it easier to function, given that I am a wheelchair user and I must navigate the world differently than most. Accommodations like that level the playing field, so to speak, and give me the power to participate in society just like everyone else.
Discounting my ticket at a movie theater, on the other hand, sends me a different message. It says “You must really struggle to live the way that you do, and I am going to make your life a little easier by not making you pay as much to have fun.” That message is about pity, and it simply makes me ill. I know the people who do it have the best of intentions. I just get a bad taste in my life when I get the vibe that anyone believes my life is worse than theirs. Besides, if it costs everyone else a particular amount of money to see a movie or go to a concert, and I don’t have to be inconvenienced in order to participate, why shouldn’t I pay the same price as they do?
One night a few years ago a caregiver and I were talking about the kinds of music we like. A few days later, he told me that one of the bands that I had mentioned in that conversation was coming to Kansas City soon. But tickets were expensive. He wanted me to write to the ticket office and tell them I have a disability and ask if I could get tickets for half price so that he and I could attend the concert together. He was surprised that I was offended by the suggestion.
I explained to him that for all of my professional life I have advocated on behalf of people with disabilities. Whether I am speaking to a class of college students who want to be physical therapists someday or giving testimony to the Kansas Senate, my message is similar. I will tell anybody who will listen that, in my opinion, people with disabilities should be treated just like anyone else.
And I know that if I am going to be taken seriously, it has to work both ways. I have to say “no” to special treatment, no matter how well-intentioned it may be.
So I don’t like discounted tickets to the movies. Because my life is pretty great.
Getting respect from other people will always be much more valuable to me anyway.