Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Proof Is In The Picture

While hunting for a picture for Throwback Thursday, I found this.

Pretty cute, right?

Nice crown.  Nice Cookie Monster shirt.  Nice 5-year-old me.

You can't necessarily tell anything's amiss, except for the strange placement of my arms.  That's because I'm hanging onto the closest cabinet handles behind me for dear life.  So that my walker (which I used then to get around) would not be in this picture.

I was often photographed like this as a child.  In fact, I even remember asking the photographer who took my senior pictures if there was a way to take them so that my crutches and wheelchair were never shown.  And, as per my request, there is no evidence of either one.

Is there something inherently wrong with asking to be photographed without these things?

No, not necessarily.

Except that I remember feeling that I was "better" this way.  More acceptable.  People in my life were already telling me so.  And I, being so young, believed them.  It's shocking that at such a young age, I already had so much internalized ableism going on.

So, what can you do?  You, who, perhaps, have a 5-year-old in your own life, who you love and cherish more than words?

1) Take photographs with whole body focus, not just close up.

2) Look at them afterward, and compliment that 5-year-old's smile, but also use positive language about their walker/wheelchair/breathing tube/glasses.  ("Look at how nice you look!  And look at how great your walker looks!  See how shiny it is?  It does a great job helping you stand up, doesn't it?")

3)  Pay attention to the language you use when filming your child.  When going in for a close up, try not to say, "Look at that!  Just your face!  We can't see your wheelchair or anything.  It's better that way, isn't it?"  Instead, ask them to smile, or talk to them about something they like.

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