I came across an interesting story in the Guardian newspaper today.
Can you spot anything interesting about the picture? I didn't notice the girl's arm (or lack of) until I read further into the story.
Is prejudice a "skill" we acquire? Our world view is shaped by the people close to us - be they parents, family, friends, society or country - or by what we read, hear or watch in the mass media. What an individual view to be acceptable behavior may be taboo to another.
The disabled in Singapore may not feel embraced by society but I think we aren't doing too badly.
Dr William Tan is a great example of a disabled person who does not bow to his disabilities. He has a PhD in medicine from Harvard and completed 10 ultra-marathons over 7 continents in 70 days. As for me, I am satisfied completing 2.4 km. Some years ago, I saw Dr Tan at Ikea Alexandra (Singapore) shopping in the store and then again, in the car park. His car was parked in the disabled lot (of course) and HE was the driver.
Some people think that disabled people can't find work or take care of themselves without help. Some buskers are visually-handicapped and members of the public associate them with beggars. William Tan Wei Lian started his singing career as a busker and went on to win Singapore's first Superstar contest. While his win has been attributed to sympathy votes, most would agree that he is one of the best singers of the lot.
Andrew Bocelli, the Italian tenor, is also visually-handicapped but his songs are so moving. I watched a recent rendition of The Prayer he performed with Katherine McPhee. After the first couple of lines, I had to close my eyes and tears just fell. I am incredibly touched by the simplicity and tenderness of his voice. As the song peaked, he didn't need to scream or make wild gestures or even break a sweat. He's had several partners to this song but he's the real star, isn't it?
We often see disabled people in Finland. Wheelchairs are motorised and they move around with ease, going about their lives such as shopping at the supermarket or admin at the bank. Braille can be found on elevator buttons as well as medicine packaging.
Last Saturday, Estelle pointed to a man walking with crutches and asked me what they were and why he needed them. I replied that he had trouble walking and needed help, so he used crutches. One of his shoes was custom-made while the other was a running shoe.
Beijing hosted the Olympic Games in August last year, followed by the Para-Olympics. In the almost 2 years I lived in Beijing, I've never seen a disabled person in public. Walking paths may be lined with metal platelets to guide the visually handicapped but I've not seen one use them. Subways stations are not equipped with lifts or ramps so there is no way a wheelchair can get in. Maybe the new lines are facilitated but the city is too crowded anyway, so a disabled person is safer if he/she stays away.
Children with cleft lips are often abandoned in China. When each Chinese family can only have one child, some decide that they want a "perfect" one and try again. An American family in our church fosters and adopts such children and raises funds so they can be operated on. Another family runs a home for children with cerebral palsy so the aisles were sometimes jammed by tiny wheelchairs.
Singapore is in between. We are not totally embracing, neither do we ostracise the disabled.
It boils down to us as individuals how we view and treat the disabled. Responsibility falls on us as parents to teach our children to respect them.
I haven't seen Cerrie Burnell on TV but if she's good, she can teach my kids.