Over the weekend, I took my 5-year-old daughter to see Frozen (two thumbs-up for a movie in which a princess saves herself before her true love can do it for her!). As we settled into our seats, a woman walked into the theater pushing a wheelchair in which a young man with visible disabilities sat.
My daughter stared. I asked her to stop.
"Not everyone looks the same," I told her quietly. "It's OK to be curious, but just like when you don't like when people stare at you, it's not OK to stare at anyone else."
It's a conversation we've had a few times lately. A couple of months ago, she told the male cashier at a local bookstore that he looked like a girl because of his ponytail that spanned the length of his back.
"I can see why'd you'd think that," I told her. "But that's the kind of thing that you need to say to me, and only after we leave. Some girls have short hair and some boys have long hair. Neither is right nor wrong."
We live in a small mountain town in Colorado that's overwhelmingly white. From the snow, yes, but also the population of people. I want to expose my kids to all kinds of people, although we usually have to leave the state to see much diversity - in skin color and otherwise. Still, like the boy in the wheelchair and the cashier at the bookstore, there are still differences all around us - some are just more prominent and pronounced than others. I have to imagine that as strange as different-looking people are to my daughter, though, it's even stranger for the actual different-looking people to be such stand-outs in a homogenous crowd.
That's why I love a new ad campaign, "Because who is perfect?" It's out of Switzerland from a group called Pro Infirmis, which is a disability organization that, according to Design Taxi, "has done its part to help us acknowledge and celebrate the bodies of people with disabilities." In the campaign, people with disabilities such as brittle bones, scoliosis, shortened limbs, and malformed spines are measured and then pose for photographs, which are used to make mannequins that represent all different body types. The mannequins were displayed prominently in department store windows around Switzerland in conjunction with International Day of Persons with Disabilities to help spur acceptance of people with disabilities.
"It is special to see yourself like this," one of the models said.
It's also special for children and adults without disabilities, people like my daughter and me, to take a moment and stop, recognize and remember that not everyone is the same.
Photo credit: Pro Infirmis
-By Meredith Carroll