Disability Day Contest Angers Parents

Filed under: In The News

bandage

Disability awareness effort falls flat. Photo: sxc.hu

When a school in South Australia decided to raise money for a Bangladeshi clinic that repairs cleft lips and palates in children, they knew they needed to first raise awareness among their students. But how do you get children excited about helping disabled children? After what must have been a good five minutes of consideration, the Student Representative Council at Ramco Primary School hit upon an idea: Have a "disability day" at school and let the students dress up like disabled kids! And give prizes for the best-dressed disabled person!

School officials loved the idea and sent a note home to parents: "There will be prizes for the best students dressed as a person with a disability. Get your thinking hats on and see what disability you can represent!"

Not surprisingly, this did not go over well with parents who recognize the difference between raising awareness and making light of disabilities. Just how does one dress like a disabled person anyway?

Other interested parties weighed in with their displeasure as well. Paralympic gold medalist Matt Cowdrey gave the school the benefit of the doubt when it came to their intentions, but agreed that this was not the best way to raise attention.

"People with disabilities want to be treated and should be treated no different to anybody else in the community," says Cowdrey.

School officials backpedaled as fast as they could, insisting that the note parents received didn't explain the fundraiser clearly. Principal Barrey Niven said the intention was for students to come to school with bandaged arms or legs in order to get a feel for what it is like to be disabled. But even that explanation didn't calm the outrage and the whole pretend-to-be-disabled idea has wisely been scrapped. Instead of bandages, students will mark "disability day" by wearing bright colors and badges with smiley faces.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.