Sunday, September 23, 2007

Don't Fence Me In

Three times in the past week three different people have asked me if Ashley goes to school. I’ve heard that same question in the past also – a lot. And always I am dumbfounded for a moment, not knowing exactly how to reply.

Of course Ashley goes to school. Why wouldn’t she? I don’t understand what those people who ask that question are thinking? Do they think that because she has medical issues she must stay home from school every day? Do they think that her disabilities mean she shouldn’t be welcomed at school or that she is incapable of learning?

The question especially surprises me because every time I have been asked, Ashley is just being a kid. People see her walking and communicating. They see her eating and watching television. They see her move around our house and community with relative ease. Yes, she needs a sighted guide and often carries a white cane. Yes, she communicates with sign language instead of using her voice. Yes, she takes a lot of medicine. But other than that, she is pretty much a normal kid.

Once I answer the question with a “Yes”, the next question is usually, “Oh, a regular school?” And again, I try not to appear rude and show how I feel about that question, and I answer “Yes, our neighborhood school.” And, the people who ask both questions are usually professionals – seemingly intelligent, caring people.

I really believed that as a society we had moved past (for the most part) the idea of locking away people who are different and people who have disabilities. Have I been naïve?