What You Need to Know About That Clip of Trump 'Ignoring' a Boy in a Wheelchair


On Friday, author J.K. Rowling tweeted a video of President Donald Trump seemingly ignoring a little boy in a wheelchair who was trying to shake his hand. “‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou,” Rowling tweeted with the clip, which has since been removed. The author continued with a series of heated tweets, stating:

Trump imitated a disabled reporter. Now he pretends not to see a child in a wheelchair, as though frightened he might catch his condition. (unless related to him by ties of blood, and therefore his creations) are treated with contempt, because they do not resemble Trump. My mother used a wheelchair. I witnessed people uncomfortable around her disability, but if they had a shred of decency they got over it. So, yes, that clip of Trump looking deliberately over a disabled child’s head, ignoring his outstretched hand, has touched me on the raw. That man occupies the most powerful office in the free world and his daily outrages against civilised norms are having a corrosive effect. How stunning, and how horrible, that Trump cannot bring himself to shake the hand of a small boy who only wanted to touch the President.

While Rowling’s initial tweet was retweeted more than 74,000 times, people were quick to point out she’d only shown a portion of Trump’s interaction with the boy. When you watch the full video of Trump’s statement on healthcare, released by the White House, you can see at the 2:18 mark, the President does greet the boy before moving to the podium.

Rowling has not yet commented on the misleading nature of her initial tweet — but since this story is getting so much attention, it’s worth noting a few important things:

1. Politics aside, disabled people deal with being ignored and overlooked every day — and it needs to stop. This form of ableism can be subtle, but often it’s blatant, and it almost always involves assuming incompetence. Mighty contributors who use wheelchairs have written about cringeworthy incidents where people only spoke to the person pushing their chair, assumed a partner or friend was a nurse, and/or talked to them as if they were babies.

Here are just a few of the many excellent pieces from our community, further explaining this issue and how they combat it:

I Have a Disability, and I’m Not Ashamed

What I Wish People Who Feel Awkward About My Wheelchair Would Do

When Someone Calls Me ‘Wheelchair-Bound’

20 Things Not to Say or Do to a Someone in a Wheelchair

When People Talk Down to Me Because of My Disability

2. Yes, Donald Trump said hello to that little boy, but the healthcare policies he’s been pushing could ultimately harm people with disabilities and health conditions. That statement may feel like a generalization or exaggeration, but key components of recent Republican-proposed healthcare bills have included permitting insurers to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, making major cuts to Medicaid, and reinstating lifetime caps, to name a few. Our community has written extensively about how these policies would affect them. Below are just a few.

How the Current Health Care Debate Affects Me as Someone With Preexisting Conditions

What the Health Care Overhaul Means for a Disabled Woman Like Me

To the Republicans Voting on My Health Care, From an Employed Person With a Disability

So while Rowling’s tweet is yet another example of sharing information before you know the whole story, the virality of this story should start a lot of necessary conversations — and disabled people should be included in all of them.

Editor’s note: We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community. If you’d like to share your story with us, become a contributor here


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