Congress on Obesity: Ego Over Accessibility

Congress for Obesity Angela Meadows from Never Diet Again UK posted this picture to the Rolls not Trolls community on Facebook.  In case you can’t read it, it says “Dear Guests In conjunction with the 12th International Congress of Obesity the escalators will not be operational from 09:30 to 16:00 hrs.”

This is posted in the Kuala Lampur Convention Centre. The ICO website boasts that Malaysia offers “world-class infrastructure and easy accessibility.” That may be true for Malaysia, but thanks to the ICO we can’t say the same thing about the second floor of the Kuala Lampur Convention Centre.

There is good research that shows that movement can contribute to health (though there are no guarantees and no obligations).  There is absolutely no research that says that the movement has to be stairs.

I’ve already ranted about self-important blowhards who feel the need to suggest that fat people shouldn’t have access to mobility aids. The ICO has taken things a step further and it’s posturing of the worst kind. What the International Congress on Obesity has done is to convince the Kuala Lampur Convention Center to make life more difficult for people with disabilities, limited mobility, balance challenges, injuries, etc. so that the ICO can posture and preen. (I assume there are still elevators – I can’t find where either the convention centre website or the ICO website discuss accessibility – but they’ll require people to travel farther, since they have to get to the escalators to see that they aren’t working, and now there is shame attached to using the elevators.) And they’ve done it for an idea with no basis in research.

I want to be clear and repeat that there is NO evidence that taking away escalators (or taking away escalators from 9:30am-4pm) as an option will lead to long-term weight loss, or increased health (and let’s remember that weight loss and increased health are two different things) either for individuals or the population at large.  The truth is, we have no idea whether more people taking the stairs will lead to better health, weight loss, or just more people falling down the stairs, but it doesn’t actually matter because this doesn’t really have anything to do with health, or stairs, or even weight loss. It’s about ego and posturing.

Note that the sign in the lobby doesn’t say anything about health, or what the ICO hopes taking the stairs will accomplish, they don’t even pretend to offer education because it’s just about the International Conference on Obesity wanting to show off and get their metaphorical fat-free low-carb cookie for their brave work confusing body size with health. If they weren’t so busy posturing they would have probably considered that people can still climb the escalators even if they are operational, so there’s no need to take away options for people with disabilities, limited mobility etc. This is par for the course in a world where the focus is on the ego of the person/people/organizations trying to get their “Save the Fatties Club” membership jacket.

When organizations pull stunts like this, the only thing at which they can possibly succeed is creating an environment that prevents people from, and shames people for, navigating the world in the way that’s best for them and their situation. I think it’s far more important that as many places as possible are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, than that some people are forced to take some stairs.

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45 thoughts on “Congress on Obesity: Ego Over Accessibility

  1. It drives me absolutely crazy when stunts like these are done. Most of the time I’m perfectly capable of utilizing the stairs, until I’m not.

    I take the stairs at work whenever I am able bodied enough to do so. There are 5 flights of stairs and about an eighth of a mile of walking between my lab and the greater office I work for. Most of the time I take the stairs 2-3 flights at a time, breaking it up with the walk in between (there are a multitude of stairwells to utilize).

    A while back I was approached to join some “stair competition” since people have noted how much I use the stairs. Basically it’s a “health initiative” someone concocted. If you join, you must use the stairs. If you are found to use the elevator, you must purchase lunch for your office comrades also on the challenge. Uh, no.

    I politely declined telling them that I do the stairs as part of my own fitness regimen when I am able bodied enough to do so–and I do not always do so for I am not always able bodied. I find it degrading to be shamed for using the elevator when it is there to convey me to another floor when I wish to use it. I also filed a complaint about this so-called “health initiative.” We’ll see if it gets any notice as my complaint about the BMI calculator prominantly displayed on my home page hasn’t gone anywhere.

    1. When my right knee starts locking up, using the stairs is something I have to try and avoid. Then there’s the sciatica issue.
      I’ve got a one flight of stairs knee at this juncture of my life. Some people can’t climb stairs, regardless of their size.
      Screw these ableist asshats.

      1. I’m with you. Just because I can climb stairs when my issues with my back and ankle are in submission does not mean that others can! Nor does it mean I should use the stairs when they ARE acting up!

        I use walking and the stairs at work when I am well because I can, and it means I can worry less about trying to squeeze in other types of movement outside of work. Part of maintaining my back and ankle health is staying active when able, but within reason. Too much movement can do me in just as too little movement can.

        I carry a pedometer in my pocket to monitor my own activity level cuz sometimes I don’t notice when my activity at work decreases or increases–I’m too focused on doing my job.

      2. My older sister pretty much destroyed her knees taking the stairs at work in an attempt to stay fit/healthy. They were in a little on the steep side and she’s a little short which apparently resulted in too much pressure on her knees. Almost 15 years later it’s not an impediment to daily life but she’s still supposed to take an elevator if it’s going to be more than a flight or two.

  2. As a recovering attorney, I’m normally against being litigious. But the lawsuit that would (and should) ensue under the ADA if this happened in the United States would be all kinds of fun.

  3. There are literally hundreds of reasons one might wish to use the escalator or elevator rather than stairs… and those are just the health reasons. Weak knees, heart disease, fibromyalgia, severe balance issues (had an inner ear infection lately? Not fun trying the stairs while that’s going on!), or maybe – maybe – you’ve just been on a long run/walk or standing for several hours and your legs are too damn tired to do more.

    And even if it’s just that I intend to be lazy, it’s still my body and my choice how or even whether to move it, regardless of how much or how little I weigh.

    BTW, ICO, my husband and I usually use the escalator/elevator when we’re together because he has congestive heart failure and too many stairs could quite literally kill him. Even though I would usually rather take the stairs (unless I’m dog tired or in a huge hurry) for my personal choice, I make the sacrifice of using the escalator because his health is more important than my need to show off my healthy knees and heart.

    I love my husband. I want him around as long as possible. And that means escalators, you fatuous dingleberries.

    1. I’m the same way. I don’t mind stairs (fortunately for me, I’m able to take them), but when I’m with my parents, both of whom have different and multiple heart problems, we alwyas use the handicapped parking, take elevators, and use the scooter (which I’m sure people think my stepdad uses because of weight but in reality is due to heart disease and an amputation).

      Also, I’m completely stealing “fatuous dingleberries”. I hope you don’t mind too much.

      1. Please, Laney, and anyone else so inclined, feel free to play with ‘fatuous dingleberries’ to your hearts’ content. I’m just delighted that people are finding it useful.

        1. Twistie, you’re wonderful.

          As someone who shares Mr. Twistie’s membership in the wonderful world of congestive heart failure, I cannot count how many times certain colleagues at work have given me contemptuous glances when they see me taking the elevator. And these are people who KNOW I have CHF. But I’m also fat, so although my CHF is not caused by my weight, these Fatuous Dingleberries assume that if I’d only take the stairs somehow I’d be demonstrating proper penitence for “letting” myself get fat in the first place and thereby “giving” myself CHF.

          Of course, if I took the stairs I might also die. But I guess they’d just think that was somehow my fault, too.

          1. P.S. I should mention that my building’s stairs are noticeably steep — I work at a college and even the student athletes get out of breath on these stairs — and about 8 years ago we had a colleague who really, actually did DIE on the stairs in my building. He was undergoing chemotherapy but was determined to prove he was “still fit” so he took the stairs to the third floor. And one day he collapsed *and died* on the stairs. A colleague found him.

            And yet, even after that, there are still people here who shame those with health issues for taking the elevator in this building.

            1. That’s terrible. I wonder how the person coped with finding him. I’m freaked out by dead bodies. I think I would have gone mental. Hope there was some counseling available. 😦

              1. Thanks for your concern. The person who found him was indeed deeply freaked out. She left her position here soon afterwards and moved to an entirely different area. I don’t know how much the experience of finding his body contributed to her decision to leave here, but I’ve always assumed it was a factor.

          2. Clearly if you exercised you would get thin and fix your congestive heart failure. Because exercise cures all and makes you live forever. /sarcasm.

            Not that it is your job to do this, but is there some way to remind folks that not everyone is physically able to use stairs and not all disabilities are visible?

    2. I am also normally able to take the stairs… Sometimes I take the elevator at work when able bodied because I’m meeting the boss and don’t wanna be a little out of breath from the stairs. It’s not exactly a good look when meeting with the boss. Sometimes I’m just in too much of a rush to take 5 flights of stairs! Like you and Ragan say, I don’t need a reason!

      I simply use all the walking and stairs at work as a way to exercise in a safe space. There are places to sit within a short distance no matter where I am in the building. So if one of my issues flares up, I can rest–then take the elevator/escalator back to my floor and take my time getting back to my desk.

      Outside of work? I almost always take the elevator/escalator. My issues often flare up without any warning. I wish to be able to keep my mobility where it is (or improve?). I’ll leave taking the stairs to when I am in a space I deem safe, when I am able bodied.

    3. My best wishes to your husband. My father had congestive heart failure during the last years of his life. Right sided, which caused him to retain fluid in his extremities. It’s very sad when fatphobia causes this kind of narrow minded thinking that is demonstrated here.

    4. I must now join in the fangirling of the phrase “fatuous dingleberries.” I think I’m going to set a goal of working that into at least one conversation per week. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing this information!!! I have tweeted and also shared on Facebook. I believe that shaming can be a two way street and the utter ego-driven stupidity of shutting down the escalators needs to be shown for what it is, a shaming tactic, short sighted and just plain stupid. Thank you for another insightful blog post!

  5. And just a little added info, I have had multiple operations on both of my knees and have a great deal of trouble climbing stairs. I cannot climb many and it is very painful.My husband just had a stroke in October last year and needs to be careful. However, even if I were the picture of health, I still would feel the same way about their decision to turn off the escalators to prove a point. The only ping they are proving is that they are indeed the aforementioned “Fatuous Dingleberries” thoughtless, shortsighted and ridiculously out of touch. Thanks again, I do not mean to rant but this has made me so angry. Deliberate cruelty always does!

  6. This will just make sure, the fat haters will be left alone and not be disturbed by the fatties and their disturbing questioning of what the fat haters think to be true.

  7. I guess they don’t have an ADA in Kuala Lumpur. I imagine this would be illegal in a US public facility. TO THE RECOVERING ATTORNEY: Wouldn’t this be illegal in the US? Another weird thing about this closing of the escalators is the implication that among the attendees at the International Congress on Obesity there are none who have mobility problems. I remember in the late 1940s and 50’s high school girls were often encouraged to take up smoking to control our weight. There were rumors that cigarettes caused lung cancer but lots of people said “Better to die of lung cancer later than to be fat now.” So I imagine that among the older members of this organization there are a number with respiratory problems, and others with cardiac problems and others whose knees have waved goodbye and retired from being used. All sorts of hidden disabilities. I wonder whose idea it was to do this. Do you know?

  8. My first reaction on seeing this was, “What about people who CAN’T climb stairs?” My second was remembering a Facebook post from my brother in law to my sister in law that was entitled something like “How to get people to take the stairs”. At the bottom of the stairs was a generic figure of a person who appeared to be “average” ( I don’t really want to use that word but I can’t think of another at the moment). At the bottom of the escalator was a figure of – you guessed it! – a fast person. I do not think bio and sil were happy with my reaction.

    1. I’ve seen pictures of those stickers online… and thankfully, never in person. Because I think if I saw one of those in person, I’m afraid I’d point and announce to the friends/family with me, “GUYS, I HAVE TO GO THIS WAY. THE SIGN SAYS SO. SEE? THE PERSON WITH THE BODY LIKE MINE IS INSTRUCTED TO USE THIS PATH VIA A HELPFUL ARROW. THESE ARE CLEARLY MEANT TO BE DIRECTIONS.” and then I’d run up the escalator. Hell, if nobody else were on it, I’d go up the wrong side.

  9. Darn! That should read “fat person” not “fast person”. Although fast would make more sense on an escalator. Autocorrect on my tablet strikes again!

  10. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    I went on Twitter and told them this:
    Your ableism is showing. It’s not a good look.
    If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow me (and my team) @UndeadNether
    It’s mostly links to creative writing, but there are also feminist, body positive, and pro-environment posts as well as just plain fun stuff.

  11. I also commented on Twitter, using cruel and stupid to describe this move. I am pleased that after knee replacement surgery (both knees), I am able to use the stairs at my exercise pool instead of the lift chair. This makes me very proud and happy. So what if I can’t climb more than 5 steps at a time. Last year I couldn’t do any. These obesity folks are asses.


    Sorry for the caps, I just needed to get that out. I almost wish I were in Kuala Lumpur and had business in this building so I could make the smug pustulences responsible for this carry me in my wheelchair up and down the stairs in question.

    1. I wish you could too, Whirlwitch. And I wish you could “remember” something you needed on the first floor after they’d carried you to the top, so they’d have to carry you back down and then up again. Several times.

      The more I think about this story, the angrier I get.

  13. I have to say — This came for me after a week of what turned out to be acute bronchitis. In practice, this came for me after over a week of experiencing respiratory symptoms and nearly a week of seeking treatment for them. As I’m sure some folks here know all too well, it is no fun being a fat person going to the doctor complaining of difficulty breathing and fatigue. Not even if they’re sudden onset, if I was fine running 5 miles a day three days last week. Not even if they’re accompanied by a 103F fever and a cough that sounds like I’m getting ready to record my own Mating Calls of the Sea Lion Extended Soundtrack.

    Nope, it would all be better if I exercised more — fuck you all**, since last week, I can exercise less than my normal, ate a healthier diet (yay for decreased appetite being a secondary symptom!), and stopped smoking (WTF, I can’t even; I do not smoke).

    Because my fever is down, I am back at work. Because my lung capacity is still demonstrably not what it was, however, I am having a difficult time performing my job as per usual. Students and coworkers are incredibly accommodating, and I have no complaints on that front. But it’s still difficult for me to adjust in my own mind.

    In a place like that, right now, I would likely *need* the escalator, at least for trips upstairs. At this point, a disabled escalator would mean I just never got there. 😦

  14. The strange thing that gets me, is that Malaysia is supposed to be an Islamic country, so wouldn’t this conference and enforcing strange rules be considered imperialism? Since none of the Obesity Conference’s ideas would have been prevalent in Malaysia beforehand.

  15. Hopefully this was the idea of a woefully misguided event planner since a conference full of obesity researchers really ought to know better. I skimmed some of the program and many of the presentations sound really interesting.

  16. A conference of ‘obesity researchers’ should know better?! I haven’t noticed much evidence that most ‘obesity researchers’ know much of anything which is related to actual facts & the truth of the real lives of fat people. They have, for financial gain, made up the word ‘obesity’, & managed to turn what is actually a normal, natural, mostly genetic difference in body sizes & into a ‘disease’ &/or a ‘serious social & health problem’ which needs to be solved, & fat people into social pariahs who need to be eradicated. I don’t count on people who think that body size is an issue which needs to be addressed by holding conferences all about how awful it is to be fat & what they can do about it & who make their living promoting the non-existent ‘obesity epidemic’ to know better about anything. Personally, I am surprised that anyone in the business of stigmatizing & bullying a large percentage of the population knows how to tie his or her own shoes.

  17. Also, I have been active my whole life, I still walk every day, but I have cerebral palsy & now arthritis as well. I am 64 years old & my balance, which has always been poor, is getting worse. I have climbed tens of thousands of stairs in my life, & I am not just lazy or stubborn. These days, climbing any more stairs than I absolutely must is not just inconvenient or annoying; it is difficult, painful, & dangerous. This is true when I weigh 220 pounds or so; it would be equally true if I weighed 120 pounds. And I am a strong believer in personal autonomy, in the fact that we own our bodies & can live in them as we see fit, & that ‘nannies’ should only be caring for children as a paid job. No one has a right to try to tell others that they MUST climb stairs &, as the last commenter said, if these ‘researchers’ ever paid any attention to the real, actual findings of actual research, they would understand that, while moderate exercise has a lot of health benefits, exercise has damn all to do with the size & shape of people’s bodies, & that forcing someone to climb stairs at a convention is not about to change a fat person into a thin one.

    Sometimes I think that common sense has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

  18. On the surface it seems like common sense–fight obesity by taking the stairs. Get more exercise, and obesity is cured! Ta da!

    It’s the same mentality as those who decide not to drive for a week to save gas and/or protest high fuel prices. On the surface it seems logical, but in actuality, it would take a lot more people for a LOT longer period not driving to make a difference.

    Things like this are a Feel Good initiative, ie, I believe I’m making a difference, so I FEEL GOOD. So there.

    I can tell you…5 days after I had my son I had to climb a long flight of stairs to get to my doctor’s office; and I nearly blacked out, had to sit in a chair at the top until the swirls stopped. Then I had to climb back down and walk down the street to get an RX filled. I can’t even imagine what someone going through Chemo would feel. Jeebus.

  19. Wow, that is some disgusting ableist thinking right there. I hope your proud of yourselves because no one else is. Try to think outside your hatred of fat people next time you pull a stunt like this. Respect for people is a bare minimum and limiting people’s mobility is not only abuse but taking human rights away.

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