Sometimes a picture is just a picture and sometimes it’s more. On a recent Caribbean vacation we were taking a bus tour when I looked forward and saw something so ordinary but so powerful that I grabbed my cellphone and took a picture. It was a young man’s leg in the aisle of the bus. He was wearing rugged footwear and a fashionable bathing suit and a polo shirt. His hands were clasped together. I couldn’t see his face but he might be handsome, thoughtful and strong. I imagined him happy, accomplished and satisfied. I saw him, in that moment, how I do see him and how I hope the world sees him.
This picture is my son and it was taken last month on St. Kitts. I was sitting several rows behind him on that bus. Without his face visible, it was possible for me to see, for several exquisite moments, the hope I have for a truly inclusive world. A world where Jonathan was judged by his employment success and not by the facial features that tell the world he has Down syndrome. A man who has his own home, who decides what time to go to bed, get up, shower and what time to eat. What if they saw him as a powerful swimmer and not someone whose chest is defined by the scars of open heart surgery? What if they saw him as a man with 6000 songs on his I Pod and not someone wearing hearing aids?
What if disability were invisible and we judged people by their character? While I believe that differences and individuality ought to be celebrated and embraced, they are NOT a reason to exclude or discriminate.
What if it didn’t matter because we didn’t notice?