Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Class Photo that Broke a Mother’s Heart

It's one of those things that you don't get, until you get it. Unless you are eternally empathetic, you look at this photo and don't see much wrong at all. 

To Anne Belanger, mother of Miles, the photo is unbearable to look at. 

When the class portrait for her son's Grade 2 class came home, she opened it excitedly, and immediately shoved it back in the envelope. She couldn't look at it. It broke her heart.
Anne's son, Miles, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. At the age of 13 months, his parents were told that Miles would never walk, he has spent his life in a wheelchair.
Miles knows he's different than the rest of the kids, but he still tries to fit in. So there he is, on the far side of the image, neck craning as far as he can to stretch into the frame with the rest of his friends. He's beaming. It's school picture day and he's thrilled.
But the photo still broke Anne's heart. The photo was a clear example of how set apart her son is from society. Instead of a big group hug photo with Miles at the center, and classmates and teachers all around, a fully inclusive image, he was stuffed off to the side, some 3 feet away. An after thought, it seems.
It's one of those things that you don't get, until you get it.
The photographer was probably shooting hundreds of students that day, they have a template of how to shoot a class photo. Everyone lines up on the benches, and faces forward. They put the wheelchair as close as possible, and took the picture. Then the next class rolled in, and the routine likely continued all day with nobody thinking anything was wrong. 
Anne approached the photography studio, and at first nobody saw it as an issue, or tried to explain it away. After repeated attempts at reconciliation, the studio agreed to come back and retake the photo this week. Miles was taken out of his chair and placed on a bench with a caregiver at his side to give him balance. He beamed again.
It's one of those things that you don't get, until you get it. We want our kids to be empathetic, caring, and observant of the needs of others. It's a lesson many adults could well learn themselves.
FOOTNOTE: As you can expect with a sensational headline like this, Miles' story has gone viral. Miles' dad, Don Ambridge, wants everyone to know that the school is not to be blamed for this issue. "I just want folks to know the school reacted very quickly and compassionately," he told me.
The photographer, once they had the situation fully explained, also made efforts to right the wrong. "[It's a] general lack of understanding," Ambridge said. "Has to change, but no malicious intent in my view."
This is a case of awareness, of walking a mile in someone's shoes or, perhaps, sitting a few minutes in someone's chair.

Image via Don Ambridge, used with permission.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review : Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections

Fascinating airline anecdotes and trivia

Having followed Patrick Smith's blog for quite a while, and I had to pick up Cockpit Confidential. It is a fascinating book if you enjoy air travel, especially if you happen to be a bit curious about the workings of airlines, airports and air crew.

Air travel fascinates many of us including seasoned road warriors like me. Even experiencing personal tragedy on an international flight has not diminished my fascination for flying, flights and airports. I had reached out to the Mr. Smith requesting a review and feedback on my experience and observations (ref:A Child Lost in Flight ). I was grateful for his candid and thoughtful response regarding in-flight incidents

The book follows a Q&A format where Patrick answers questions passengers are typically curious about. The book is grouped into logical topics and is interspersed with trivia. His narrative, anecdotes and responses to questions are easy to read, with very little airline jargon, a style familiar to readers of AskThePilot blog. The only section with some airline jargon - How to Speak Airline - is the one that attempts to demystify typical in-flight announcements.

Patrick weaves humor through the narrative. He concludes the section on three letter Airport codes warning readers "if ever you're traveling FUK-DAM-HEL, avoid speaking in acronyms while checking in." HEL Yah!

A must read for aviation enthusiasts.