I ran across this article, about a Canadian parenting magazine that chose this precious little girl to be on their cover. It is a fabulous story about making disabilities more mainstream in the media. It’s a good thing. Sometimes it seems our society is still hiding our disabled or trying to make them blend in, which is kind of funny considering how these days, we’re supposed to be shining a spotlight on our uniqueness and being accepting of everyone everywhere. Yeah, we’re still catching up with that with disabilities.
But – and this is just an honest, personal, mommy type of moment – when I read that article, the little bitter voice in my head went “Well Maura will never be a model for disabilities.”
She could be. She’s gorgeous, loves getting her photo taken, loves clothes, has an amazing smile and is easy going. She could be.
The problem is, she doesn’t look disabled. You can’t really “celebrate differences” on a magazine cover if you can’t photograph them.
Once upon a time, when Maura was little, she wore ankle foot orthotics and glasses, and there was a little part of me that was glad, because they helped highlight the fact that she was different. You see a kid laying on the floor tantruming and think “brat”. You see a kid laying on the floor, wearing glasses and ankle braces, tantruming, and you think “Hmm, maybe they’re a little different.” Those things gave visual clues to the bystanders, and brought on a sense of understanding.
Now, we no longer need the braces, and it’s not unusual to see a girl her age in glasses. The only physical clue to her disabilities is, as a friend put it so correctly, a certain softness to her face. But even then, that’s not a big red flag in the face of society to warn them that she’s different.
It’s the curse of the invisible disability – it’s invisible in plain sight. For Maura, her disabilities appear during interactions with others. A stranger will ask her a question and she’ll not respond, or respond in a garbled way. The stranger will get this look on their face of “wait…what?”, and I tend to jump in and say something like “Oh, she has special needs…”, and we get the “OH!” reaction.
With us, you have to see the disability in action, hence the lack of magazine covers for us. My daughter just doesn’t look the part of the child with disabilities.
Do not get me wrong – I think such things as that magazine cover story are awesome, and bring such great awareness to the world of disabilities. The more we get out there and are seen, the less people will have weird reactions when coming across anyone with a disability. Because at the end of the day, you may be a person with a disability, but first and foremost, you are a person. And we need to let everyone see the person.
But the proud mother in me wishes Maura could be that cover girl. She would so rock a photo shoot!