'This needs to change': Ontario mom's post about daughter's school photo makes important point

Elizabeth Di Filippo

An Ontario mother is sharing an important message about inclusion after her daughter was placed to the side of her classmates in her class photo.

Earlier this week, Diana Sanita shared her daughter’s class photo to Facebook. In the picture, Katherine, who was born with cerebral palsy and suffers from epilepsy, was positioned away from her classmates and teacher.

This is Katherine’s class picture. Remove Katherine from the picture and stand one of the other kids from her class (or your child) in her spot,” Sanita wrote.

Take a minute to visualize it. How does it look? Is it OK? What would the parents say? Probably, ‘Why is Jimmy standing to the side?’ Would they be happy about it? How would Jimmy feel?”

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Sanita notes that there are several way the school could have included her daughter in the photo, and pushed for schools to reconsider the way they treat disabled students.

This old school way of taking photos needs to change. It needs to consider the kids that can’t sit or stand nicely on a school bench,” she continued. “To quote a friend, ‘this flies in the face of inclusion.’ No child should ever be made to feel like they are on the outside, an after-thought. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This needs to change.”

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Sanita’s plight is one that many disabled persons and parents of disabled children can relate to.

In 2013, Ann Belanger of New Westminster B.C. made headlines when she posted her son’s class photo to Facebook. Belanger’s son Miles was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was 13-months-old, and as a result, he uses a wheelchair. Like Katherine, he was positioned far away from his classmates in his annual class photo.

Miles Belanger’s 2013 class photo. Image via The Province.”I couldn’t comprehend how the photographer could look through the lens and think that this was good composition,” Belanger told the Toronto Star at the time. “This just boggled the mind.”

The company responsible for the class photo offered to retake the class photo, and positioned Miles on the bench next to his classmates and his caregiver.

Belanger said this is a prime example of the discrimination people with disabilities experience on a daily basis.

“Being picked on and being set aside is horrendous and this was what was happening,” the B.C mom said. “The only alternative seemed to be to set him aside.”

Yahoo Canada has reached out to Diana Sanita for comment.

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