• By: Ryan Lythall

Do vaccine passport rules also apply to people with disabilities?

With all the talk of vaccine passports, a thought occurred to me recently.

When it come to checking vaccine passports, are people with disabilities being included?

Now, I know some of you are probably saying that yes, of course, they apply to PWD. I’m sure that some would even ask why should PWD get special treatment? To that, I agree with you.

I just want to say that I’m personally not 100% comfortable with any special treatment. I will also say that yes, I do appreciate kind gestures and the little things. However, I’m not ok with it when it is doing something that singles me out or for less genuine reasons.

I apologize if that didn’t make sense. Hopefully, it’ll make more sense as we roll along.

In the context of vaccine passports, my concern is that the person checking for proof of vaccines may not be comfortable dealing with people with disabilities.

Over the years, I’ve attended several events in bars, clubs, arenas, and even stadiums. When it comes to arenas and stadiums, security is supposed to check your bags. I can tell you that as a person with a disability, my bags very rarely get checked.

I will say, though, that more places are checking my bags over the last few (pre-pandemic) years. It’s still not 100%, though.

Let’s use the example of shopping.

Frequently, when I roll into a store, or sometimes just on my way out, my chair will set off the security alarm will start beeping. When that happens, the usual procedure is for a store staff member to inspect your bags or ask questions. In my case, though, none of that happens. When they see me, sorry, see my wheelchair, they wave me off in most cases. No questions asked.

Just for the record, I’ve never shoplifted, and I’m not about to start. However, I have heard stories about PWD shoplifting simply because they knew that they’d get away with it.

I do suggest that store staff members or shop owners check people with disabilities as well.

The last time I checked, shoplifting was still illegal.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been to several events where security checked bags but refused to check mine. Yes, they’ve said no when I or my PSW asked. From the security’s point of view, I could see them saying no out of fear of messing up my wheelchair or medical equipment. If that’s indeed the reason, I partly understand. In a way, I do appreciate that.

I do feel that PWD should be subjected to the same treatment as able-bodied people as much as possible.

In my case, I carry a backpack and sometimes a smaller bag. Both bags can be removed from the back of my wheelchair and opened without harming me or my equipment.

In those two examples, those are times where I feel that my disability stands out. Let’s face it, if I didn’t have a visible disability, I’d probably have no choice, and I’d be required to follow the rules.

As far as vaccine passports, here are a few things to ponder:

For some, their passport will be on their smartphone or another device. Depending on the PWD’s mobility, the person asking for proof may need to physically grab the phone, go to the app, or wherever the receipt is on the PWD’s phone. After all that, they find it, and you’re good to go.

For several reasons, I just can’t see that happening, at least not smoothly.

Recently, a friend suggested that I attach my proof to my chair. At first, I thought it was a good idea. However, the receipt itself has my name on it and part of my health card number. Also, I honestly don’t think it would help unless it were somewhere clearly visible.

As crazy as this sounds, there are still people afraid or intimidated to sit or stand near a person with a disability. The reason, in most cases, is because they’re worried that they will catch whatever disease caused my disability.

It happens much more often than you would expect.

Another thing to ponder about checking vaccine passports. What happens if a PWD is non-verbal or hearing/visually impaired? I can’t assume that another person will be with the PWD.

There is potential for something to go wrong in this situation, especially if the person hasn’t been adequately trained on how to deal with people with various disabilities.

I sincerely hope that TRULY EVERYONE is having their vaccine receipts checked. Yes, I am aware that in some instances, they won’t need to be.

As a gentle reminder, people with disabilities are human, and many of us don’t just go out for medical appointments. Many of us are sociable creatures, and we go out.

Whenever possible, we should be treated just like everyone else.

For better or for worse.