Faking a disability to skip lines is a fast pass to hell.
Air travel is hellish right now. Flights are expensive, there are constant delays and cancellations, and airports are crowded af. As individuals, we don’t have much control over this unfortunate bouquet of inconveniences, so everyone is looking for ways to make summer travel easier. But some people are taking it way too far by apparently requesting wheelchair services that they don’t need in order to skip lines. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but this TikTok trend is not a legitimate travel hack, and disabled people are clapping back.
This particularly egregious travel trend has been making headlines lately, thanks in part to the CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, blaming the recent airport chaos on people faking injuries. “People are using the wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport,” Holland-Kaye told LBC, a British news outlet. While this is a grossly transparent — and inaccurate — way to try to shift blame onto passengers, it’s true that using airport workers’s valuable time in this deceitful way can’t be helping. Holland-Kaye’s corporate gaslighting maneuver does shed light on just how disruptive entitled behavior can be, and disabled TikTokers are speaking up.
“Faking an injury when you’re 12 and trying to get out of P.E. can be a bit funny and your mates might think you’re a bit of a legend,” Gem Hubbard, a creator and disability activist in London, said in a recent TikTok. “When you are a grown adult and you are potentially putting disabled peoples’ lives at risk, you’re just a bit of a prat.” Hubbard has been using a wheelchair for 27 years, beginning when she was paralyzed from the waist down after a medical mishap, according to The Daily Mail. Frankly, I think Hubbard is generous in describing the lowlifes who steal wheelchairs to save a few minutes as “prats,” which is basically British for idiot.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Chrysmuu, a disabled TikToker in Maine, said in a video responding to the trend. “You are a fake, you are a fraud.” Chrysmuu railed against the popularity of the so-called “hack,” and highlighted the fact that actual disabled people are often not treated well by airlines. Indeed, as NPR reported, disability activists have been fighting for years for people to get the services they need in order to travel. The truth is that, per the Paralyzed Veterans of America, traveling can be dangerous for people with disabilities when they don’t receive the services they need. People who use this “wheelchair travel hack” to save a few minutes are actually just on a fast pass to hell.
Passionate TikTok activists are using this moment as a way to remind people about the insidious threat that ableism poses to disabled people — and basically the whole idea of justice — plus the reality that we are all this close to disability. As TikToker @valeriesvoice said in a recent video, “Let me remind you and every other able-bodied person watching: You are one accident or illness away from becoming one of us, and one day you might find yourself on the other end of this equation with no help, no accommodations, and no one who gives a fuck.”