One of the local service clubs is raising money for a Hart Walker for a young girl from the region. They approached the school for support which was duly offered – it was for a good cause.
But how does the equipment need of one child outweigh basic respect for another?
When the service club members came to speak at assembly about why they were raising money I know they meant well. But, is it fair to stand in front of the entire school, when one student is sitting in a wheelchair in the front row, and tell them “how TERRIBLE life would be to be in a wheelchair. Can they IMAGINE how AWFUL it would be?”
Why is it OK to devalue any child in front of their peers. Why is it OK for his method of mobility to be touted as ‘terrible’.
I have written a letter to the service club suggesting some alternative ways to approach talks like this. I am yet to send it as I was waiting to see if my feelings on this matter changed/dissipated/diminshed. I wanted to see if I was still as disappointed as I was on the day… I am, and as such, I will be posting the letter.
I raised it with the school but don’t feel they truly understood what the issue was – as always people get very defensive if you dare to suggest “well meaning fundraising people” are anything other than saints. I decided not to pursue it, rather I will use it as an education opportunity with the service providers.
So, back to the title… just how do you devalue a child in three easy steps:
- As a school you don’t act pro-actively by reminding speakers coming to speak, particularly on disability issues, that at all times respectful, people first language should be used.
- As a service club you get so caught up in the process for one child you forget to think more broadly, you take one child’s story as fact. The family in their request for assistance may very well have told the service club this little girls life IS TERRIBLE, but that is her life, not that of every wheelchair user.
- As a parent you leave a little boy sitting in assembly with all his peers while they are being told that his type of life is AWFUL and TERRIBLE and you don’t remove him from that environment because it would/could appear rude.
We all failed Mac on this occasion.Sorry Macco. I promise we will do better!