Blog Bonus: What PWDs can Learn from Cinderella

Hello there, readers,

I just got an idea for another IndependenceChick blog and didn’t want to wait until next week. So here we go.

What can people with disabilities, and the TAB population around them, learn from Cinderella?

Of course, we all know the story of Cinderella. A young girl, born a gentleman’s daughter, loses her mother, so her father marries a new wife with two daughters of her own. The stepmother and stepsisters treat the young girl horrifically, even more so after the father dies. She is essentially made a servant in her own home, up to the point that her name becomes synonymous with the cinders that make her dirty. However, Cinderella has something she wants. That’s right–even though her stepfamily believes it’s ungrateful and laughable for her to want anything, Cinderella wants to attend an upcoming ball with them. As we know, she succeeds in her goal, and actually gets more of a reward than she bargained for.

Now, the critics of the Cinderella story like to claim that Cinderella didn’t do anything to reach her goal because her fairy godmother did it all. They also claim she just wanted a man to rescue her. I argue, though, that one, in her position, Cinderella needed outside help. Two, her goal in going to that ball was not, I believe, meeting and marrying Prince Charming. She simply wanted to do what her family–such as they were–was doing. She wanted to be part of the outside world and seen as more than a dirty servant girl.

So, how does this relate to people with disabilities? Well, if you’ve been reading this blog for long, you can probably answer that often, they get treated like Cinderella. As in, they get dirtied with “cinders,” defined only by what’s “wrong” or “not normal” about them. But there’s more.

See, sometimes, a PWD needs a “fairy godmother.” This can be a parent, a teacher, a friend, even a therapist or doctor if he or she is savvy enough to treat the PWD first as a whole person with dreams and desires. Now, in no way am I discounting independence as part of this construct. I am simply saying that, instead of griping about modifications or saying, “Ella shouldn’t get help with that or she’ll never be independent”–wise up, people. People with disabilities often need modifications and outside help so that the world can be open to them–so that they can do what everybody else does. It’s not about “taking the easy way out” or letting them get away with doing less than what’s required. It’s about providing tools so that when the PWD says, “I can do this” or “I want to do this,” he or she can find out that it’s possible.

In addition, the goals of a PWD aren’t always what the temporarily able-bodied population thinks they should be–and that’s okay. Because that’s the other lesson PWDs can and should learn from Cinderella. Anything can be a goal. Anything! Cinderella’s goal was to get out of her house and be part of the outside–and she did it! Remember Beth from Riding the Bus with My Sister, who wanted to go to Disneyworld with her boyfriend Jesse but was told that wasn’t a “real” goal? Well, it was a real goal, and she did it! So ask the PWD in your life what their goals are–not what you would have their goals be. Heck, for Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, a good goal for her might have been “Scrub the floor in under twenty minutes.” It doesn’t matter if a PWD’s goal is getting into Harvard or learning to cut on a straight line. Whatever it is, it counts–so help them get there. No glass slippers required.

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