Monday, August 19, 2019

A girl in a wheelchair spots a model in a wheelchair: The story behind the viral photo

The photo of a girl in a wheelchair staring at an Ulta ad with a woman in a wheelchair has drawn a lot of attention, and props. Mom Carolyn Kovacs Anderson posted her daughter's reaction last week to this image at an Ulta store in Leesburg, VA. As she wrote, "Well, Ulta, you absolutely stopped my girl in her tracks this evening. It was mesmerizing to watch her stop, turn, and gaze at this poster. So thank you."

The girl's name is Maren, and she is four years old. Her mom and I messaged, and she described her as a "dance-loving, babydoll-toting, bike-riding little girl with the most infections giggle and smile!" Maren has a rare disease that has lead to global delays. "Since day one, she's shown great motivation and tenacity.... All she wants is to be accepted for who she is, and represented like everyone else."

Like many little girls, says Carolyn, "Maren enjoys playing with pretend makeup and baby products, especially on her beloved baby dolls!" The evening the photo was taken, Maren was out in her new wheelchair—she'd practiced maneuvering it for 12 weeks, and had recently become comfortable using it in public. "Maren was cruising in her wheelchair with a confidence we had not seen before. She was so eager, we could barely get her to stop at crosswalks!" says Carolyn. "Then, she suddenly stopped and focused all her attention on this image of a woman in a wheelchair like hers. It was amazing."

The beautiful woman in the Ulta photo is Steph Aiello, a makeup artist, childcare teacher, vlogger and member of The Rollettes, a Los Angeles wheelchair dance company. Steph is featured in Ulta's fall campaign in both store posters and the catalog, too.

As companies have increasingly featured adults and children with disabilities in print ads (and, more rarely, TV ads), we parents have cheered. We want our beautiful children to be included in the media and every aspect of life—and we want them to feel included. Seeing people who look like you is validating and empowering, even more so for children with disabilities looking to find their place in this world. As Carolyn says, "Maren got to see herself in this picture, and that planted a seed for her to see that there is a place for kids like her in this world. She was included.

"We are grateful to live in a community that accepts and supports our daughter," Carolyn continues. "However, we are also aware of the challenges to being fully included that our family, and so many others with complex medical needs and disabilities, face. We are teaching Maren how to advocate for herself as members of the Little Lobbyists, who advocate for protection and expansion of her rights. Despite having a pre-existing condition, Maren, like everyone, deserves access to healthcare, education and community inclusion.

"It is our hope that families who see images like the one at ULTA will have a continued dialogue with their children about inclusion. Our wish is that one day it won't be newsworthy to see our daughter and other people with disabilities represented, it will be commonplace.

"We hope that Maren's awestruck reaction to this advertisement inspires more inclusion and representation of the disability community, and highlights the need for continued progress. We want Maren to always know that she belongs everywhere—everyone deserves to live in a society where they can be themselves and thrive."

Image: Carolyn Kovacs Anderson

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...