Almost all of us grew up listening to fairy tales, reading the stories of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and watching Disney’s classic such as Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Snow White and Aladdin. But not all of us could relate to these make believe characters, yes most girls may have dreamt of being the princess and boys wanted to be the strong evil fighting prince who gets the ‘perfect’ princess, yet imagine if you are born with a form of disability and reading, listening and watching figures that can’t identify with or aspire to be like.
Similar to any girl loved these stories but unlike my friends I knew they were not real or at least not part of my world. I failed to relate to any of them or even try to imitate them, maybe with the exception of one character, Ariel the Little Mermaid. I felt a slight connection with Ariel and that was because she did not have ‘legs’ which deemed her inappropriate choice for the prince, and the only way to marry him was to gain ‘legs’ through the exchange of her voice. Yet still she was not happy as she could not communicate with him or even sing, which was the reason of why he fell in love with her. In the end she manages to regain her voice and keep her new found legs. Disability in Disney limits and devalues you, at least that was the message I got, I never wanted to be a princess because how can I when I ‘lack’ the essential qualities; physical strength and ability.
I don’t want future generation thinking like me, I don’t want them to learn from childhood about prejudice, discrimination and limitation. I want or dream of children learning to defy obstacles, find figures that can give them hope and encouragement, see and read about people in similar situation. Alienating a child through these ‘perfect’ figures will create a person seeking acceptance with lack of confidence.
How wonderful would it be if Snow White was a wheelchair user who still managed to care for the seven dwarves and her personality made the prince marry her, not her appearance. Imagine if Cinderella used prosthetic limb and that made it easier for the prince to find her shoe, or if Pocahontas used crutches and Jasmine was an amputee yet all got married and enjoyed a fulfilled life.
Integration is the path we should all seek to end discrimination, help end the alienation that many children with disability feel by simply sharing this post, show this picture to the children that you know, make them familiar with people of other ability. Disability is not something to protect your child from instead it should be taught and accepted by children and adults alike.