How often does your child look at the TV or walk past a magazine rack and see someone who looks like them? As far as I know, this doesn’t happen all too often.
Kids with disabilities don’t often have role models with disabilities. Usually, the only people telling them how to navigate the world with a disability are their doctors and you, their parent. But most of the time, you all aren’t disabled. As much as you’re in a wonderful position to teach your child and help them learn and grow, you can’t be an example for them of how to live in this world with a disability. Only someone with a disability can fill that position.
Role models are important to have because they help us learn more about ourselves and our world. They provide an example of how to move through the world, they show us possibilities for our futures, and they teach us how to go for our goals.
Growing up I was always into fashion, so awhile ago I started following some people in the fashion industry who have disabilities. One of my favorites is Jillian Mercado, a model and activist. Just last week she was on a flight and her wheelchair was completely destroyed by the airline. Since this was the fourth time her chair has been broken by an airline she decided something needed to change. She took to instagram to gather as many stories like hers as she could. She’s using these stories to get press on the subject and hopefully make some changes in the airline industry for people with assistive devices.
This is a wonderful example of a public figure using their power to advocate for themselves and others. How valuable would it be for your child to see someone like themselves doing something similar? I challenge you to go online and search for at least 1 famous person with a disability similar to your child’s, and then talk with your child about this person.
We all need people to look up to, to show us the way. Let’s make sure our kids with disabilities aren’t left out from that experience. Let’s make sure they have people to look up to as an example of how to move through the world with a disability.