What is it about a person that walks, talks or acts slightly differently to everyone else that is so intriguing that people feel the need to watch them, comment on them and patronise them?
I remember the anger I would feel when my mum brought my older sister to collect me from school; people would stare, even my friends, at my sister who was ‘different’. Their eyes would wonder from the wheelchair she is strapped in, and the way she looks around at everything that is going on and just laughs, simply because she is the happiest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The frustration would build up inside me when people who knew me had the audacity to stare at my sister like she didn’t belong, I remember mouthing ‘WHAT?’ to them to make them turn away. When I look back now I think, why didn’t their parents tell them off?
In the years I was at primary school, my sister would occasionally come with my mum to pick me up. Every single time, there would be people that stared, adults as well as children and not once did I see a parent tell off their child for doing something so rude. Did these children’s parents never explain that this behaviour was intolerable? It seemed as though they didn’t think their children were doing anything wrong. I believe this is because the parents themselves don’t understand, some people shy away from people with disabilities because they feel bad, they don’t know what to say so they turn a blind eye on the subject.
People are brought up with ‘normal’ things; they aren’t used to being around someone with severe disabilities all the time. I understand that because people aren’t used to it, they don’t understand how hard it can be and what many families around the world have to go through on a day to day basis. There are many long term and short term issues that families have to deal with such as the heartbreaking thought that their child, brother, sister, will never get married, they will never have children and experience the life that they truly deserve, more than anyone. Because many people don’t understand these issues, because they have never had to deal with them, it doesn’t mean they are excused from staring, open mouthed, when a disabled person is around them. Even adults, as well as children, have the difficulty to understand that not everyone is the same however why can’t everyone be treated the same? In this day and age, a person with black skin wouldn’t be stared at by a white person even though he/she has a different colour skin and is therefore different so why would they stare at a person with downes syndrome, or a person in a wheelchair?
The small minority of people that feel the need to act so ignorantly are clearly interested in the subject however they have no idea, so instead of staring why can’t they just ask, or research or even better, mind their own business and learn some manners?
I also remember as a child in Disneyland Florida it was amazing because there was much less ignorance; people weren’t staring at Megan wherever we went. Strangers were complimenting my parents on their hard work in caring for a disabled child. Instead of gawking or ‘sweeping it under the rug’, people embraced and understood that yes, it is the most challenging, sad, frustrating job in the world but it has to be done and people need to be informed of the millions of people that have to do this job, simply out of love, to enable them to understand this topic that is not spoken about frequently enough.
So, next time you feel the temptation to turn around and have a look at the little boy on the bus with special needs that is slightly louder and more fidgety than others, stop for a minute and think about how you would feel if he was your son and someone was staring at him.