The mother of a second grade student in British Columbia is appalled at this year’s class picture, which shows her son in a wheelchair sitting apart from the rest of his classmates.
“I couldn’t comprehend how the photographer could look through the lens and think that this was good composition…this just boggled the mind,” Anne Belanger said, according to the Toronto Star.
The photo shows three rows of students on bleacher-style risers and Belanger’s 7-year-old son, Miles Ambridge, with a large smile on his face as he, in his wheelchair, leans toward the other students.
“Being picked on and being set aside is horrendous and this was what was happening,” Belanger said of her son who has muscular dystrophy. The Toronto Star noted Miles’ father, Don Ambridge, too being upset about the photo.
“Look at the angle that he was in,” Belanger said to the Calgary Herald. “He’s ostracized. He wants to be part of the gang so much.”
Belanger posted the photo on the Facebook page of Lifetouch Canada, the photography company, where it has gone viral since Friday. There are several posts from others upset by the story they’ve seen of Belanger’s son as well.
Belanger told the newspaper that she doesn’t believe the photo was set up maliciously. The Province reported Belanger clarifying, after her criticism of the photo drew an equally upset response from the photographer and the school, that she doesn’t blame the photographer or the teacher, but that she simply wants to raise awareness for how little things like this could be hurtful to disabled children. Don Ambridge, on the other hand, said he does blame the photographer, but that he understands he or she might have been under time constraints.
“It’s wrong, but it doesn’t mean it was intentional,” Don Ambridge told the Province. “It just means that somebody dropped the ball for a moment and that can be incredibly hurtful.”
It is clear in the photo that the risers extend to a point that the boy’s wheelchair could not get any closer on the side of his classmates than it already was. This is not to say he or the group could have been positioned differently though.
At the request of Miles’ parents, the class photo was retaken, this time the boy was removed from his wheelchair and seated next to his classmates, supported by an adult, according to the Province. This fix though was still not satisfying to some:
Jane Dyson, executive director of the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities, said it’s a shame that Miles had to be taken out of his wheelchair in order to be included in the retaken photo.
“It’s something that he uses,” she said. “It’s a part of him.”
Dyson said the image is symbolic of the lack of sensitivity for people with disabilities.
“We constantly still hear terms like ‘wheelchair-bound,’” she said. “It’s one part of a really big problem.”
However, the idea to take him out of the wheelchair was approved by Miles’ dad who was present at the second photo shoot. Ambridge defended the decision, arguing that Miles is not limited to his wheelchair.
“When he gets home, first thing he asks is to get out of the chair and sit on the couch,” he said. “He’s not tied to it in the same way that others can be.”
The Province reported that the school wouldn’t not comment on this incident but noted Principal Tracy Fulton saying in a previous interview the school planned on changing photography companies due to teachers complaining they were too rushed.
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(H/T: Daily Mail)