Sunday, September 29, 2013

Get the Picture: My thoughts on the Miles story

I would like to take a few minutes to address something very important: inclusion. While the implementation of what the word means may vary  in today's society, there is still something that sticks out at  the most basic, fundamental level here, when we see the interactions of kids today.

 Although this story is old news now, I still feel that it is appropriate to weigh in. A few months ago, an elementary school class picture went viral, when a Canadian mother was outraged that her son, who uses a wheelchair, was separated from his classmates by a large gap between his wheelchair and the bleachers. Although he was still grinning from ear to ear, this serves as a sobering reminder of how others can sometimes view us, albeit out of complete ignorance, as the case may be. You can look at an article about this incident here.

I've heard people often say that kids can see beyond a lot of differences, and there is no evidence against that here, as it was admittedly the photographer's staging error in this case. Although I cannot seem to think how anyone would not notice that the child is not with his classmates, this is not the first of these experiences, and sadly, it will not be the last.

Needless to say, I have a (maybe not so shocking) lack of personal evidence to support this claim due to my  own bad  experiences with Lifetouch photography, disability related  or not. My parents often hated the photos, and refused to buy them, leaving my only recollection to memory. If I recall, the last “good” school photo of me that was purchased was in second grade, of me sitting on a prop bench in a yellow dress. Coincidentally  enough, I am also out of my chair, as Miles was in the retake of this photo.

  While I am happy that the company eventually did right by Miles and his family in retaking the picture, I think it also goes to show some lack of training or willingness to shoot a flattering picture of the participant in  their wheelchair or mobility aid.  After several years of photo bomb disasters, usually involving some implement of my wheelchair obstructing the field of view, my parents requested, and I agreed, that  I  be out of the chair for all school pictures in an effort to look more normal.

 To this day, one of the only elementary class pictures that I can find, from 6th grade, hangs on my bedroom wall. Every time I meet someone new, they see that photo, and they are astounded that I am standing upright, even if a little crookedly, next to my classmates.  But every time  I look at it, I can't help but notice a rather large gap between me and the boy next to me, as I stand next to my aide and longtime friend, who has a hand behind my back so I don't fall backward.

 All for the symmetry of a photo.

Think about that........