Kanye West and Ableism

This video from September records Kanye West saying, “I can’t do this song, I can’t do the rest of this show until everybody stands up. Unless you got a handicap pass and you get special parking and s**t.” After he and the crowd pressured these folks to prove that their bodies would not allow them to stand, he said, “Alright,” and jumped into his next song.

Now, wait a minute. I just have a couple thoughts.

Kanye and the fans at this concert didn’t think first.

By saying “handicapped pass” and “special parking and s**t,” that makes it sound like the wheelchaired life is the high life because you get special treatment. It sounds like an ableist mindset. That inconsiderate vibe bled into the crowd as they starting booing and chanting, “Stand up, stand up!” One fan even shouted, “F*****g stand up!”

At this point in the video, I wanted to throw up.

The people chanting and booing assumed that the people holding up their fun were perfectly able to stand but just chose not to. If it’s at all possible that someone has a “handicapped pass,” don’t start chanting “Stand up!”

Kanye and the crowd put the spotlight on the people sitting and were even laughing at them. Those sitting couldn’t be like everybody else, and were made out to seem like a hindrance.

Why did those fans have to prove they couldn’t stand? And why didn’t they have better seats?

After an uncomfortable minute, Kanye said, “I’ve never had to wait this long to do a song,” while his bodyguards went to confirm the fans’ disabilities. “Now if he is in a wheelchair, that’s fine,” he said.

Well, if they had better seating, Kanye might have been able to see from the stage that the fan was in a wheelchair.

1410580478574_wps_2_man_waving_prothetic_limb
fan waiving a prosthetic leg (via Daily Mail)

One fan even had to waive their neighbor’s prosthetic leg in the air for proof. Maybe it’s just me, but you should never have to detach your leg at a concert then waive it in the air just to get the artist to keep singing. And look at the photo above – those fans are way up there. If you have removable legs, you get the front aisle.

Some people, like Kanye, may think that those in wheelchairs and with prosthetic legs get special treatment. The only reason for that is because the world is tailored around “normal” folks who can stand and walk. If we were all more wheelchair-friendly and if places were easily accessible for all types of people, “special treatment” would just be everyday life.

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