Several years ago, Italian artist Alexsandro Palombo re-imagined Disney princesses as people living with physical disabilities in an online series designed to create social awareness around the issue of disability.
You can read about his work here:
After reading this article, I was inspired to share it with the disability community along with my thoughts about what something like this might do to change the hearts and minds of adults and children alike.
Having a child with a disability means seeing much of the world with different eyes. I say “different,” because there have been both good and bad things that I have seen over the past 19 years, things that I might never have noticed if my daughter didn't have CP. The good: the incredible kindness of strangers, the moment when another child held out a hand for Olivia on the stairs, the doctors and nurses who care for my child as if she were their own. The not-so-good: seeing other children effortlessly climb the monkey bars on the playground while my child struggles to take a few steps in the sand, the stares as we walk down the street, a man in a parking lot who watched me load Olivia, with full leg casts, into the car and then commented that I shouldn't be using the handicapped parking space.
The world looks different through our eyes, and our children's eyes. Sometimes we try to overlook the differences which can be helpful when we don't want to think about the challenges we have been presented with. But other times, it is so “in your face” that you just can't see past it. Perhaps the worst is when your child points it out. My daughter, Olivia longed for her American Girl doll to be able to wear braces like the ones she wore on her legs every day. She wanted to see herself in the doll she loved to play with. Even after helping her write a letter to American Girl asking for AFOs to fit her doll, we didn't have success. Of course, she eventually gave up on the idea. While I was glad that she was no longer wishing and hoping for something that wouldn’t happen, to this day, I still feel sad that we couldn't make a simple wish like that come true for her.
Seeing this remake of the Disney Princesses, while too late for my girl, feels like a bit of redemption for all of us. I may not be a huge fan of all that the Disney Princesses represent (that could be a blog all in itself!), but since it seems inevitable that our children will see them, and almost certain that they will become obsessed with them, why not have them at least represent a wider range of our population? I say this not just for children who have a disability, but for all children. The more exposure we can give our kids to the huge range of human conditions, the better equipped they will be to become empathic, open-minded, accepting adults, and isn’t that one of the best gifts we can give them?