If you read ThisAbility #8: Condo Conundrum, you’ll know that I recently moved into a one bedroom condo. Since my former place was a one room bachelor apartment, it was time to fill my condo with some furniture. I wanted a one-stop shop, so I went to everyone’s favorite Swedish furniture self-serve community,IKEA, and suddenly my place was a little more unboring. Like Edward Norton’s apartment in Fight Club, my rooms started to match the catalogue. I now had the GAlANT desk, the RAMVIK coffee table and the HOPEN dresser and night table set. All in, it was $1,191.21, which is shipping, handling, delivery and furniture pieces. The price wasn’t too bad, but they forgot to mention what my friend calls, “The Disability Tax.”
To an able-bodied person, having the option of getting your furniture built, through an IKEA referral to an outside contractor, is a nice, optional perk for shopping there. For a disabled person, getting their furniture built is not an option — it’s a necessity. With all the parts and pieces of varying weight, you just can’t physically get it done any other way, and you have no other option. Obviously, these IKEA furniture building companies are not charities and they charge for their services, but, as a disabled person, you’re not paying for a privilege, your paying for a need. IKEA furniture only comes out of the store one way, so why should I have to pay to compensate for circumstances I can do nothing about? If I didn’t have a disability, I wouldn’t have to pay this disability tax that comes just because I need functional furniture.
I understand that people should be paid for the labour it takes to build furniture. IKEA should pay them, not me. IKEA chooses to provide their furniture in disassembled form and they want the business of seniors and disabled people. As far as I’m concerned, offering free assembly to those who can’t build it themselves is nothing but the cost of doing business. This could also be a marketing opportunity for them. They could offer free assembly to anyone who buys furniture over a certain dollar amount.
The phenomenon of The Disability Tax isn’t just limited to corporations like IKEA. The government is notorious for giving with one hand, and taking with the other. I’m currently in the throws of getting a new scooter through funding provided by the Ontario Adaptive Devices Program. In order to qualify for funding, you have to be assessed as a true disabled person by a regestered physio therapist. This is a requirement that can’t be avoided.
So, when on the way to do the assessment yesterday, the physio said, “Oh by the way, I hope someone told you, but my normal fee is $125,” I almost dropped the phone. Once again, someone was profiting from my disability. If I didn’t have a disability, I wouldn’t need a scooter. If there weren’t barriers to employment because of my disability, I could probably afford to get a scooter without funding. In that case, I wouldn’t need the physio, who wouldn’t get my hard earned $125.
Thinking about the cycle that way, shows that there’s an entire industry built around my circumstances: physios, O.T.’s, doctors and cleaning ladies could all salivating at the earning potential my disability provides them. It could make you crazy just thinking about it.
Requiring people to buy other services in order to benefit from funding, means your just taking advantage of their desperation. Those who provide the funding and require proof of disability, should pay the physio therapist they require to do the assessment. It’s not like filling out forms is labour intensive, all the physio really needs to pay for is gas and postage. Other than those expenses, she’s getting her expertise from a degree she has already earned. Filling out forms is not even a physio’s primary job description. She’s only exploiting a need, and in my case, leveling her fee at the last possible moment, when it’s too late.
“Whoever invented the term, ‘let the buyer beware’ was probably bleeding from the asshole.”– George Carlin
Aaron is a freelance journalist living in Toronto. His work has appeared in Financial Post Business, Investment Executive Newspaper, and TV Week Magazine, along with Askmen.com. He is a regular contributor to Abilities Magazine and is currently plotting a weekly web comic called GIMP, with artist Jon Duguay, about a handicap school bus driver who wakes up after a crash to find he’s the last able-bodied person on earth — and he’s being hunted.