Read these incidents from mu observations, experiences or reading and then tell me what you think.
- Two lanky teenage girls of african heritage stand in a museum. They are wearing tight cropped leggings and short fashionable t-shirts. Their attention is wholly consumed by the animatronic owl infront of them. As it moved toward 'bed' they start to cry, begging it not to go. An adult with them says "the owl needs to go to bed now, its sleepy." One of them moves forward to grab it and has to be persuaded to stop. Above, on the balcony, the owl's operator looks down, bemused.
- A group of teenagers and young adults walk down a street in London. They're busy talking. One of them is pushing another in a wheelchair. They reach the curb and look around them.
- A young boy, aged about 9, begins to scream as a spray of water hits him. He is in a swimming pool and the water is coming from a pirate ship. Earlier he had been aboard the same ship, firing water at other children as they protested.
- A young girl is yet again the last one to finish getting changed after PE. The problem is that she is still busy searching for her clothes and hasn't even started putting them on yet.
- In the middle of a supermarket there is a child screaming. His legs pulse up and down as his parents look on, ordering him to stop. He ignores them, but the rest of the supermarket obey the order.
- A student waits at a train station for her pen-friend to arrive. It's the first time that they've met in real life and she's really looking forward to it. They've got on really well online and seem to have a lot in common. She smiles as she sees her friend. But when her friend sees her she asks a question. And from then on the once chatty couple seem to be finding it a lot harder to talk.
- A young man sits on a horse whilst his father looks on. He gallops happily across the fields, reins confidently held in his hands. He doesn't seem to have a care in the world.
- Music issues from a keyboard in front of him. The boy plays, seemingly in a world of his own. A smile sets off his features. Children and adults alike stop around him to listen. Such a great melody from such young fingers!
Its not always easy to see disability. Sometimes it can be glaringly obvious, other times its totally hidden from all but the most aware.
I was born with one hand. I never really felt it affected my life (much). Right through primary school I wore an artificial hand, so convincing that not even my best friend knew. When I finally decided to abandon it for secondary school I remember her being amazed, but I'd just presumed she knew.
This can get me into real trouble sometimes though. Number 6 was me just under 10 years ago. And the question? Why hadn't I told her about my hand? She felt betrayed that I hadn't told her something so important, yet it hadn't been important to me at all! It was not part of my personality, it was just something that happened to be there!
It can be impossible to see a physical disability online (unless you are told about it) wheras a learning disability can be much easier to see. Conversly in real life the opposite can often be true.
What difference does it make if I tell you that in 5 of these incidents the person had a learning disability? How easy is it to guess which 5?
Our perceptions can easily be mistaken. The boy in 5 may or may not have had a learning disability. The teenager is 3 simply can't use her legs! The boy in 8 is both blind and has learning disabilities! The girl in 4 is being bullied!
Be careful what you asume, your perceptions may be less reliable than you first thought!