Image description: A picture from a colouring book: a young girl sits in a wheelchair holding a basketball and smiling. The picture is coloured in and the colours used are blue green and orange. The artist who coloured the picture is a 7 year old girl and she has signed her name, “by Sadie”.
On my birthday we chose to go to Boston Pizza, primarily because that’s Ruby and Sadie’s favourite restaurant. I mean, come on, they serve “bugs” on their children’s menu – what’s lunch without bug shaped pasta? As we settled in the waiter introduced himself and did a couple of magic tricks along with his intro. The girls, his intended audience, were captivated and delighted. In truth, we all were. He was good and entertaining us while getting the information we needed out.
After the order had been placed, the girls picked up the “distract them with activities so you can talk” book that Boston Pizza gives out to children. Sadie was sitting next to me and I watched as she took her book and opened it. The first page she came to was a colouring page, of a little girl, in a wheelchair, with a basketball and smiling.
I was thunderstruck.
So was Sadie.
“Look!” she said, glancing up at me to see if I noticed. “She’s in a wheelchair and she’s playing basketball.” Sadie was simply describing the picture, it didn’t surprise her that the little girl would be playing a sport, both girls have learned, from the time that they were babies, that people with disabilities live vital, active lives. What she’d also learned is that there is an ‘invisibility’ about disability. Movies show cut curbs and disabled parking spots, but almost never someone using either of those. She’d certainly never seen a colouring book page, in a restaurant give away kids book, that pictured a kid with a disability doing anything, let alone play basketball.
I asked her if I could have the book for a second to take a picture of the page so I could write about it. She looked at me aghast? “You don’t want to have the page coloured so people can really see it?” Oops. I asked her to colour it for me and with her permission, I’d put it on my blog. The girls know my blog, they appear here quite regularly and view themselves as slightly famous because of it. She gave her permission and set about colouring. I watched her.
What a wonderful image!
I wondered who, in Corporate Office at Boston Pizza, decided to go ahead with this image. To present disability in such a natural way. To have the child not be ‘victim’ of their disability but living ‘proudly’ with her disability. It’s amazing that one can show a picture of inclusion by featuring only one person.
And that smile!!
The smile on the face of the girl in the picture runs counter to the narrative that people have in their heads about disability. It’s a direct challenge to see things differently. Children all over Canada (I don’t know if this book was used internationally) would be colouring this picture and with every move of the crayon, they’d be getting a message about disability without anyone saying a single word. That’s awesome. That makes Boston Pizza awesome.
Sadie watched me take the picture, she checked it on my phone to make sure that her work was captured properly. She give her personal thumbs up. I asked her why she was taking such care, she looked at the picture and said, “She looks nice, I like her, I want the picture to be nice.”
And … it is.