In the last week, I've seen several big media moments involving youth with disabilities. The ones that got the most attention happened yesterday, during the Super Bowl. Microsoft aired a commercial about Braylon O'Neill, 6, a child born without tibia or fibula bones in his legs who is full of abilities. Braylon has state-of-the-art prosthetic legs, and he kicks butt in sports:
McDonald's Super Bowl commercial included a girl with Down syndrome, along with a bunch of other customers randomly filmed at two locations in Illinois. Check out minute :49, where her family is told their payment is "one family hug":
I'd first seen the commercial a couple of days ago, on Disability Scoop. Part of me wished it weren't such a big McDeal. Grace Ramsburg, 8, and her family happened to be at the restaurant because families of kids with special needs eat out, as families do. Grace has a great smile, just like kids in ads tend to have. She belonged in that commercial, right along with all the other customers psyched about getting some free McD's. But the reality is, it's still rare for kids with disabilities to appear in television ads, let alone ones airing on the biggest TV night of the year.
Like many parents of kids with special needs, I long to see them included in every aspect of life—commercials and all. Companies have been using cute kids in ads since forever. Why shouldn't they include cute kids with disabilities? Why shouldn't it be the norm?
I had inclusion on the brain as I watched that Uptown Funk dance video that went viral last week, the one choreographed by teacher Scot Pankey of A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in Dallas. He roped in his theater classes to do a choreographed version of the Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars hit. "You have to see the teen around minute 2:00," a friend had told me. And yes, there he was at minute 1:48, a student using a walker to the right of Pankey. He's at minute 4:13, too.
This is inclusion as I dream of it: an ordinary, organic thing. Someday, I hope it will no longer make headlines when kids with special needs appear in ads, because that would mean it's completely typical.