Reaction to this incident throughout social media and in numerous publications was swift and condemnatory. West, in return, lashed out at the media. But in fact, although West's celebrity magnifies the story, the bigger issue here is that his demand that his fans prove their disability is entirely typical.I finish the piece with these thoughts:
Every day, in every context, people with disabilities get challenged to prove how disabled they are. This constant questioning isolates people with disabilities, increases stress and shame, and can lead directly to verbal or even physical abuse
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, to claim disability is to ask for reasonable accommodation -- accessible buildings, more time on tests, audible formats for books, Social Security disability payments, and more. Too many people seem to regard the request to accommodate as a burden and meet such requests with suspicion. The not-disabled exercise their privilege by demanding that people prove their disabilities; then, all too often, proof just generates pity, not understanding or inclusion.
By demanding everyone rise, by calling out the disabled members of his audience even as he grudgingly tolerated their inability to stand, West was being totally normal. If you think what he did was wrong, remember that the next time you are tempted to stare down someone walking from a handicapped spot at the grocery store. Remember that the next time someone managing pain can't make it into work. Remember that the next time a student needs a little more time on a test.
I like to think about disability, especially physical disability, as overlapping spectrum that people might move along it as conditions change or just when they've used up all their spoons (read about the "But You Don't Look Sick" spoon theory here, it's a useful analogy). It's more complicated for intellectual/development disability because one doesn't want to normalize "typical," but that's a topic for another post.
That's not how our culture sees it. That's not how Kanye West sees it. For them, you are either disabled or not. You can't need accommodations just some of the time, in such a perspective.
But that's not how disability actually works. And everyone who has ever been sick or had an operation knows this. Disability works in many ways. An inclusive society accepts all of these ways and tries to build an accessible world, for whoever, whenever, under whatever circumstances.