It's 'dress as a disabled person' day!
A big thanks to Ouch! reader Kirsty Martinsen for sending us this story from South Australia, where a primary school in Waikerie thought they had come up with a great plan to both promote disability awareness and raise money for a clinic in Bangladesh that repairs cleft lips and palates in children. The idea? A "disability day", planned for 29th May, in which children would come to school "dressed as a person with a disability". The newsletter that parents received telling them of this grand occasion went on: "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!"
Sounds brilliant, doesn't it? I'm picturing keen pupils getting hold of wheelchairs or white canes, over-sized hearing aids or dark glasses. Some of the really keen ones might even stick a home-made yellow harness on the family pooch and bring it to school for the day as a guide dog. And the kids will surely have hours of fun recreating those various wobbly disability movements and walks.
Or maybe not. It seems that the Student Representative Council, who came up with this wheeze, had little more in their minds than an intention for pupils to come in with a bandaged arm or leg. Which to me sounds more like a plain old unfortunate injury rather than the chance to try mimicking an exciting impairment.
Of course, there's also the significant matter that the "disability day" could well be regarded as offensive. And so it was. Australian Paralympic swimmer Matt Cowdrey said that whilst he was sure the school's intentions were good, it was not "the best way to raise attention", and there was criticism from disability advocacy groups too. When the Student Council received feedback from parents that the idea was in distinctly bad taste, they quickly dropped it. On 29th May, pupils are now being encouraged to come to school wearing bright colours and badges with smiley faces.