Disability Awareness and Tolerance

As my family prepares for another weekend, I have to face the inevitable decision about “What are we going to do?” This is a never-ending question from my children. My two children who are not disabled always want to do the stuff normal families do…go to a movie, go shopping, or go out to a meal. I am always torn by this because I owe my children a regular childhood and yet we are far from a regular family. We are reminded of this constantly whenever we are out in public.

What is it about my daughter in a wheelchair that gives other people permission to stare and remind me that we are different? Don’t people understand how rude that is? The minute someone draws attention to the fact that my family looks different they have ruined my happy, family moment. Does my beautiful daughter in a wheelchair really make us so strange?

The responsibility falls to parents to make the time to teach their children that people are different and that it is rude to stare.  We are fat, skinny, different colors, disabled, missing limbs, maybe burned or scarred. If your life has not been touched by tragedy you still must teach your children to be respectful of those who look different. To children I will simply say “Ask questions if you’d like, but it’s rude to stare”. To their parents, I am less polite. It is an innate reaction to protect Quincy and I have no problem flashing my best evil-eye and telling them “It is rude to stare at my daughter…please stop!!”

Sometimes I just don’t have the strength to face the stress and hassle and will choose to remain in the comfort of my home. It’s just irritating that my family should be deprived of a simple, carefree afternoon out, maybe at Costco, the bookstore, or the Zoo, because we have to deal with the rudeness of others.   But, we soldier on and ignore it because our kids are just as deserving as anyone to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Simply put, staring hurts and my life has enough hurt in it already…I do not need strangers adding to it.

Published on: March 13, 2009
About the Author
Photo of Tawny Buck

Tawny has a BA in Business and Secondary Education from Eastern Washington University. In addition to writing, Tawny is also a national advocate for vaccine safety.

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