Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.
Life can be a beautiful thing if we can learn early to see the beauty in all people. This can lead to complete acceptance and help us grow up from prejudice and segregation of one group from another.
The Lost Leg
I was out shopping at the East Mall right before the Christmas holidays with my wife. It had been a long time since I shopped at this particular mall so I was really enjoying this shopping sphere. Usually, with me, it’s all about getting in and out as quickly as possible. However, this time I slowed down and really started to enjoy the moment. Well, you know these moments don't last long. As we were walking I saw this mother pushing a baby carriage with another little boy right beside her; I would guess he was about 7 years old. As they got closer, I could see in the little boy's eyes that he was fascinated by me, but the mother quickly moved over to her son (I assumed) and snatched him closer to her side. I could clearly see the little boy now being scared but not knowing why. As they moved further past us, the little boy looked back at me as they got lost in the crowd.
I quietly knew what had just happened but never said a word to my wife as she was caught up in the shopping experience. Unknowingly, this mother had just taught her child to fear and avoid people with disabilities who are wheelchair users. I was saddened by that moment and went on my way.
I also recall another such moment in church when I met another mother and child but this time, as the child showed curiosity, the mother let the little girl come over to me. The little child asked me a wonderful question, “ What happened to your leg?” (I am missing one leg; I am a single leg amputee). I then jokingly told her I lost it and asked if he could help me find it. This led us to look around for it for a moment or two. I then took time to really answer her question. I now have a wonderful little friend who runs up to me when she sees me.
Myth #4: Curious children should never ask people about their disabilities.
Reality: Many children have a natural, uninhibited curiosity and may ask questions that some adults consider embarrassing. But scolding curious children may make them think having a disability is "wrong" or "bad."
Most people with disabilities won't mind answering a child's question. Parents snatching their children away when they encounter persons with disabilities send the wrong message. Children may then grow up with this negative message that I am sure the parent never intended to implant.
This type of scenario happens way too many times. Take time to speak positive messages to young creative minds. If a parent doesn't know how to answer certain questions about people with disabilities, take time to learn, just like when you need to learn how to answer the question, "where do babies come from?"