The Games They Play

  • A
  • A
  • A

Athena Stevens

I have spent the past seven months without my wheelchair. On October 19, 2015 I was due to take a British Airways flight from London City Airport. Not only was I denied carriage on the flight due to disability but when my wheelchair was returned to me it was damaged to the point of being unsafe to drive. To date neither party have provided me with even a temporary replacement wheelchair, choosing instead to point fingers and call in all sorts of experts to pass emails back and forth rather than actually fixing the problem. Nor have they given me an explanation as to how my wheelchair was damaged or why I wasn’t allowed to fly that day. Instead both parties have stories which keep changing, making it seem like British Airways or London City Airport are more keen to avoid the issue rather than improve their service for their disabled passengers.

Growing up with a disability you get used to the stall tactics people use to avoid progress and getting you what you need. I call these tactics ‘games’ because the people who use them aren’t interested in progress, or doing what’s right, they simply want the issue (and you with it) to go away. To them it’s not an issue of human rights, or getting you what you need, it’s about winning. The sooner they can wear you down and frustrate you, the better. But these tactics are common, after a while you start seeing the same plays over and over again. And if you can recognize them, you can start play better defense.

Here then are seven games you can expect others to play when you challenge them on their treatment of the disabled.

The Blame Game – A simple straight forward problem will suddenly become increasingly complex as more parties become involved. Loading a wheelchair will be a task that Company A passed on to Company B who just happens to outsource to Company C every third Tuesday of the month. This is also called diffusion of responsibility. Don’t play along. It’s not your job to play Ms Marple and figure out who dun-nit. Stick to the facts. What happened to you? What needs to be done to fix it. That’s all that matters from your end.

Running Out the Clock – The person who you’ve been talking to said she’d get back to you Wednesday… last Wednesday, and now she’s out of the office with a cold (or so they say)! End every correspondence with a clear due date: “I expect to hear from you by…” and if you don’t here from them by that date, chase it up the next morning. If you still don’t get a response, don’t be afraid to take it further. Also, be aware that time is marching on. If there is a statue of limitations or something needs to be done by a certain date, don’t let people waste time.

Pass ’n’ Play – This is another version of The Blame Game in a way. You have to talk to twenty different people all of whom have very different job titles and every time you’re passed to someone new, you have to start all over explaining the problem from square one. Sometimes, especially at the beginning you are talking to the wrong person, but very often it’s a tactic to wear you down. Be aware, and don’t fall for it. Keep records of what you said to who and show those records to the next person.

Time out! Let me explain the rules to you – You call someone out on their actions, maybe even quoted the regulation the are in violation of, and they come back with an eight page email full of legalese explaining why your in the wrong followed by another two pages of questions you’ve already answered. This is a form of intimidation and they hope is to scare you back into place. Don’t let it. If possible remind them that you have already answered these exact questions in an email dated ——, and while they may have more legal education than you, the facts still stand in your favor. Don’t be scared of some very big words.

Rewrite the Player Profiles – You have a disability, your doctor has written you a script for the exact equipment you need. But the other party doesn’t want to pay for that equipment. So they propose their own needs assessment so that their guy can write a script which suits their budget better. I’ve seen this loads in my life. It is sly. If you are happy with your doctor’s recommendation, stick with it. The assessment of what you need is a discussion that happens between you and your doctor, not some ringer they bring in to push their agenda.

Changing the Goalposts – Their emails contradict themselves, the rules keep changing and what they needed last week is no longer enough. Changing the goal posts and altering what is required is another classic way to keep your issues from moving forward. Keep every piece of written correspondence between you and all members of the other party. Communicate via email as much as possible even if typing is laborious for you. It will save you so much stress and agony when you feel like you are making stuff up because today the other side is saying the opposite of what was said before.

Keep Away – This is probably the favorite tactic of those in power who simply don’t want to give you what you need. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good your argument or airtight your documentation, people will not budge. Rather than concede, they will simply stop returning your phone calls, and avoid giving you an answer. Don’t take this as a loss. Chances are you are actually very close to getting what you need. Look around see to whom else you can appeal. Avoidance can often mean an obstacle is about to crumble and clear.

There are other plays of course. You will no doubt run into new forms of avoiding progress as you go throughout life but these seven seem to be the most consistent. If it seems like other side is playing a game, they probably are. Very often however, people are blind to the ways they inhibit progress themselves. Fighting for your rights will never seem like a game to you, it is after all your rights, your education, your independent living, your needs not theirs. If you can recognise these patterns for what they are, and expect them to happen, you have a shot at ending the games and getting what you need.

Contact: Athena Stevens