The Problem With Those Viral 'Good Deed' Disability Stories


Every day it seems like I see a deluge of “newsworthy” stories about a typical person and the amazing “good deed” the person has performed for a child (or sometimes adult) with a disability. These astounding efforts are usually simple:

Popular Teen Takes Girl With Down Syndrome to Prom

Coffee Shop Makes Boy With Autism  His Favorite Off-the-Menu Drink

Child Invites Classmate With Wheelchair to Birthday Party

You get the idea, right? While yes, these stories are positive and sweet, how are they news? When did just being a human being become so astonishing? The girl with Down Syndrome is a person — she wants to celebrate at her prom. If the coffee shop made the “special” drink for the boy with autism, the coffee shop already had the ingredients. So isn’t that simply providing for a paying customer? And what is the big deal about inviting a person with a wheelchair to a party?

People with disabilities are people first. People with disabilities are human. Treating people with disabilities like everyone else is called being treated humanely. I am not saying don’t celebrate the good… I am simply asking you to see the person first.

When people or places go above and beyond to make sure inclusivity and justice exist, that is newsworthy. For instance, after I requested it, our local movie theater worked together with me to institute monthly Sensory Movies that are very accommodating for children with autism and sensory issues. Our local city Recreation Department goes above and beyond to create programs for disabilities.

Again, I am not saying not to celebrate the good… I am simply asking you to realize that by putting these stories on such a pedestal, it makes it easy to only see the disability, rather than celebrate the person with the disability. Being nice isn’t — or shouldn’t be — news.

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Thinkstock photo by RawPixel.


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