This is something that is often–sometimes hotly–debated in the blind community. A lot of times, when you go to amusement parks, if you carry a cane you can cut to the front of the line and go first on all the rides. The last time I was at a leadership seminar for the National Federation of the Blind, we had a roundtable discussion about this issue, what we thought and what our experiences had been.
This is something I never really encountered growing up. My family went to amusement parks pretty often, but since I don’t use a cane, no one ever approached us and invited us to the front of the line, except maybe when we went to Disney World, I have some vague memory that it may have happened then.
When I was a teenager, I was at a career exploration for blind teens program and we went to Six Flags. They gave us all canes and told us we wouldn’t have to wait to get on any of the rides. It was a weird experience, especially since I’d never done this before. I think I walked around with my eyes closed during parts of that trip, pretended to need to take people’s elbows when I didn’t and just generally tried to appear even more blind to somehow justify getting ahead. A lot of the others I was with were doing the same. It was kinda nice to bypass all the waiting, especially at Six Flags, but it felt so weird.
The philosophy of the organized blind would support not taking this special treatment. The thought process goes that when blind people go to the front of the line, it reinforces the stereotype that blind people are dependent, need pity and can’t do things like normal people. I usually agree with this. If there’s no physical reason that requires getting onto the ride early, you might as well wait in line like everyone else. Maybe it’s because that’s what I grew up doing, that’s my experience.
But, we are all human, and sometimes you want to say to hell with it all and just make life a little easier on yourself.At the leadership seminar, a few people admitted, a bit sheepishly, to using their canes to avoid the long lines.
Recently, I was with a blind friend who doesn’t always use a cane but has one and we went to an amusement park. It was really hot and we plotted to use her cane to cut in line and swore to keep our discretion secret from all our other blind friends and our blind community.
As the day approached, we got a little less excited about it, both of us feeling weird about it. When we got there, the place was nearly empty so there was no need to wait anyway. If there had been lines, maybe we would’ve cut ahead, maybe not. And what if they’d been really long lines?
Who’s to say, in the moment, what you will or won’t do?