NJCDD Council member Regina Tegeler wrote two comments to the previous blog. One was about the theme of that blog on beginning a discussion about picking up the pieces from the past several difficult years and continuing the efforts to improve opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. Her on-target comments about that are under that post.

She also sent some thoughts about another topic. I decided to include those here as part of my post and build on her foundation. As you can see it is about the accommodation policy changes at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida and its broader connection to fraud in general at the expense of people with disabilities and the rest of the public. Like Regina I think it is a problem of that broader unfamiliarity many people have with their neighbors with disabilities and with what those scams might mean for them.

ReginaTegeler Family Member New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities – Posted on Sunday, October 13, 2013

I wrote this for a group of friends and family members who know how much my son loves to go to Disney with our family. Part of the experience has been a policy that has been remarkably friendly towards people with disability. This policy has been scammed by non-disabled individuals to the extent that Disney is re- tooling the entire program. The program 60 Minutes aired a segment on the cost of Social Security Disability Fraud. This is what I wrote. Maybe some people have some feelings on this to share.

Scammers- To those of you who are applying for Disability because you have no job and your unemployment has ended. To those of you who think it’s fine to use Grandma’s disability parking placard when she is not with you. To those of you who Scam Disney that you are disabled but are not. I invite you to our life. I invite you to visit our family, meet our wonderful son. Talk to him, play bingo with him, listen to him. Be his audience when he plays the piano, finishes the dishes, the laundry, bowls with Special Olympics. See his smile when he accomplishes these things. Help him get his jammies on and brush his teeth and listen to him thank you for his wonderful day. One day is all I ask. Then you will understand. Then you will not scam because it is only then you will know that your scam simply costs all of us too much.

I couldn’t agree more. People by and large are decent and want to do the right thing. When we see individuals scamming a system it is generally because they aren’t thinking about why it was put into place, who it is supposed to be benefitting and the consequences their actions may have.

The same is true with more specific forms of discrimination.

It reminds me of part of a favorite holiday story as we move into that season. The ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge two pitiful children representing Ignorance and Want. Both are worthy of our concern but the ghost cautions the old miser to be especially wary of the boy Ignorance.

It may be useful to lobby Disney to go back to an easier, more open access for patrons with disabilities. Certainly a case can be made for that. They might also consider taking steps to alleviate the waits for their non-disabled customers, even if it means reducing the size of crowds and profits in the name of better service. What a concept.

It is also useful to help watchdog other vital services, such and health care and Social Security, so that the even low levels of fraud don’t risk compromising the whole systems.

But in the end I believe Regina has it right in that the most effective tool for cutting down on scammers and other forms of discrimination against people with disabilities is to inform other people about who you and your families are. Put a face and a personality on the often faceless Person with a Developmental Disability. Break through the ignorance. It’s a lot easier to take some nameless person’s place in line than it is to bump Regina Tegeler’s wonderful son, face to face.

We need more of that here in this space too. But I’ll need your help. Keep those comments coming.

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Disability in Focus