In a bid to cut down on fraud within the Social Security Disability Benefits program, the Trump administration has floated a proposal that would see the federal government monitoring the social media profiles of Americans receiving disability benefits, according to Forbes — and possibly yanking those benefits if disabled Americans seem to be living life a bit too fully.
Anyone claiming to be disabled yet caught on social media engaging in physical activities could be flagged as possibly gaming the system, potentially resulting in the loss of necessary financial assistance and even medical care.
But as Forbes contributor Imani Barbarin noted, the proposal displays a “fundamental misunderstanding of disability and takes advantage of how social media operates in order to cut them off from the support they need.”
For starters, social media profiles are not an accurate picture of any user’s life on the whole, as studies have shown that people tend to highlight the positive aspects of their lives while steering clear of posting about negative experiences. The result is a skewed version of reality that cannot well inform decisions regarding a disabled individual’s abilities or needs.
“Disabled people should be allowed to share the full scope of their existence without fear they’ll be accused of lying—and even fraud—by the United States Government,” Barbarin wrote, “which will likely reason that if a disabled person is seen going to the mall or taking time to swim or jog, they can be working.”
Just as able-bodied people are unique in how they navigate their lives — physically and otherwise — disabled people do not all appear the same or move about the world in identical ways. Some people who use wheelchairs can walk, Barbarin noted, and there are those “with cerebral palsy that can run and amputees that are bionic.”
The Trump administration’s proposal also plays into the notion that truly disabled people should appear pitiful or helpless to the nondisabled in order to merit assistance, and those who claim disabilities but do not fit the stereotype must be faking their conditions.
Barbarin pointed out that “public sympathies rarely side with disabled people who appear confident and comfortable in their own bodies,” meaning cuts to benefits for those who seem “too active” are unlikely to cause outrage among Americans at large.
Barbarin — who was born with cerebral palsy herself — concluded with a pointed suggestion for President Donald Trump and his officials: “the administration should look inward and learn how to #BeBest.”