“Just saw a guy, I kid you not, walk up to the gate, hear they were boarding only people with disabilities at the moment, and he faked a limp and got on the plane,” Richter tweeted on Wednesday night while waiting for a flight to New York City.
Many of the replies joined Richter in mocking and judging the man who was supposedly faking his limp and shared stories of when they’d seen similar things. But some disabled people had a very different perspective.
I have EDS. It is completely possible for me to suddenly develop a limp if, while standing, one of my knees/hips/ankles dislocates.
I have POTS. Watching me pre-board, you’d have no idea the effect that standing in a long line has on me (until you saw me pass out) https://t.co/h8TkfTEWWC
— savannah- x-stitch commisions open! (@savannahshutup) September 12, 2019
This is a super shitty take. After spinal cancer and surgery, I limp sometimes, but not others when I can correct my gait. The 'disabled fakers' stuff is why I get harassed in public transport (by exclusively men, btw).
— Matilda Grew Up (@MatildaGrewUp) September 12, 2019
Far more common are folks like me who don't ask for needed accommodation out of fear someone like you will do something like this.
My ligaments don't work well. That means my joints can dislocate or sprain with very mild jostling if ill-timed.
— ischemgeek (@ischemgeek) September 12, 2019
Disability advocate and author Stephanie Tait clearly outlined how harmful attitudes like Richter’s are, and the extra labor it forces disabled people to do. “[Richter’s] tweet could have so easily been written about me, and I really am #disabled,” Tait tweeted. “The airport can be one of the WORST places in terms of judgments and suspicion from onlookers when you use accessibility services.
“My level of ability varies widely—not just on a day to day basis, but within the course of a day as well. I’m accused of faking my #disabled identity for attention A LOT,” she continued. “These issues lead many MANY #disabled folks, myself included, to feel pressured to something called ‘performative disability.’”
Performative disability is when disabled people are made to perform their disability in a way that fits the expectations of abled people in order to get access to the accommodation they need. For Tait, this means she always uses a cane at the airport even if she is feeling well so that if she needs a wheelchair later, her disability won’t be questioned. Other disabled people shared their stories of having to perform disability to appease abled people, too.
So when I saw three cop cars surrounding my vehicle on campus, I faked a limp when walking up to them. It was the easiest way to diffuse the situation without going into questions when I felt ill that day. That fear of being targeted bc you can’t see my disability has stuck w/ me
— Clark DeHart (@ClarkDeHart) September 12, 2019
I have genuinely considered buying a cane because of shit like this.
I have a chronic illness and am disabled. I do not “look” disabled.
It’s these kind of attitudes that mean I feel I have to perform a fake disability in order to have my real one taken accommodated.
— Undercover Autie (@UndercoverAutie) September 12, 2019
Richter has not publicly responded to any of the many disabled people trying to educate him and protect their community from harm.