Friday, 21 November 2014

Disability Innocence

Children have no guile whatsoever when they first come across disability. Perhaps a "person with wheels", or a lovely doggy with the "person with funny eyes". They might stare in curiosity at "that man's funny face" or ask an embarrassed parent "Why has that child got no hair?"

And the key point I wanted to make in this article is glaring out in that last example. Embarrassed parent.

Children are totally innocent. They haven't learned to judge, it will be years before they know what discrimination or prejudice are. For those first few precious years, they are simply curious. It's their job, it's how they learn.

So little Tarquin or Kylie stare at me on the days I use a wheelchair or supermarket scooter with no shame at all. Shame is something adults create and in turn, inflict.

"Tarquin!! Come away darling, it's rude to stare! NO darling, the nice lady won't give you a ride"
"Kylie! Get 'ere NOW!!! Sorry darlin'. (To me) FUKSAKE, KYLES, NOWWWW".

And so we teach our children not to speak to anyone "different". We teach them that it's rude to even look at people with disabilities. We teach them not to learn about them by asking the questions that stem from their natural, childlike, curiosity.

Is it any wonder we grow into adults uncomfortable around any kind of "difference"?

This lovely list of children's books from Scope make great gifts for young children, encouraging their innocence and natural acceptance. I'm sure you'll be buying Xmas presents in the next few weeks and I'm sure many of them will be for young children, so do consider getting them one as a stocking filler?

Click here to go straight to the website  : 

Thanks to Scope for sharing it.

Another friend, Virginia Moffat (@aroomofmyown) recommended this book too with a central character with a disability : …


  1. I totally agree re adult embarassment vs kids straightforwardness. I'm always very happy to answer when kids in the street ask me, "why do you use that stick"; "why do you walk funny". if they stare i smile at them - something that has always infuriated me is people staring at me and then just looking away guiltily when i smile at them. Children are more likely to smile back. My fave tends to be the confused look of toddlers/babies in pushchairs who often seem confused when they see me in my wheelchair, as if to say, "why are you in a pushchair when you're not a baby?" !

  2. Very true Sue.
    The following happened to me in the checkout queue in Tesco. I was in my 'Mart Kart' with oxygen cylinder in the basket. I did tweet about this at the time...
    Young girl: Mummy, why's that man got plastic wires up his nose?
    Mother: Sshhhh. Be quiet now.
    Young girl: But Mummy, he's got plastic in his nose.
    Mother: I told you to be quiet.
    Young girl grins shyly at me and I smile back.
    Mother pulls her away as if I'm some sort of contagion.
    Young girl: Mummy!
    Me: Its OK young lady. I'm from another world and I can't breathe the air like you can. The plastic tubes help me breathe so I don't die.
    Various people in the queue laughed [though obviously not sure if they ought to!]
    Young girl: See Mummy, he told me. Why didn't you ask him. I think he's a nice man.
    Me: Thank you. Tell your mummy I won't eat her.
    Young girl explodes into laughter.
    Queue do similar.
    Mother's embarassed face alternated between scarlet and white. She couldn't get out fast enough, especially when her extremely disobedient daughter said bye bye to me and waved.
    The checkout bloke said it was a shame some people were like that mother... and yes, he had gone on a 'go slow' just to heighten her embarassment!
    We rarely visit Tesco any more due to their prices, but also their disregard of people without blue badges parking in the disabled bays.

  3. I remember when I was little, in our neighbourhood lived blind lady, with big beatiful dog. I always admired her for the fact, that she walks simply anywhere with it, and was jealous that she is somehow allowed to enter the mall with it, while my pet had to wait for me outside. ;)

  4. There's a little old lady in my town that uses two walking sticks yet is able to somehow carry shopping on her own, she looks so frail(And walks so slow..). I have an immense amount of respect for people like that, there are lots out there who are fighters that soldier on no matter how weak they are.

  5. I think a lot of people do understand how the differences between us all should be unimportant. A disabled person cares about future, about their family and friends, about crap television programmes, about horrible politicians, about the next generation, about potholes in the roads, about where to go on holiday, about what clothes to wear, about having eggs fried or scrambled, about red or white wine, about the cost of living, about the future of planet earth, about all our tomorrows, as much as an abled bodied person. If we look closer, it is only misleading media and uncaring governments who seem to put across a perception of disability in a negative manner, that can automatically make people misunderstand about disability. This is why Sue and other people who speak to the world about disabled life are so important. I have learnt so much from reading Sue's blogs and letters over the past years and it is vital that the needs and musts of disabled people continue to be heard through these websites and in any form of communication that is available. There is no need for ignorance or fear of disability in the world in the twentieth century. Keep up the fantastic efforts Sue and everyone. Good health and God bless. XXX

  6. I have said it many times, often being PC actually makes you identify and more aware of differences then if you could just be honest.

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