Putting Disabled Children In The Picture
in the picture: "a state of being fully informed or noticed." The Concise Oxford Dictionary scope - Time to get equal

Frequently Asked Questions


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These frequently asked questions were compiled by the In The Picture project team and steering group.

If you have any questions not covered here, please contact us.

Why picture books?

Children can look at their favourite picture book hundreds of times. Think of how that feels if you are effectively invisible, and think of how important and powerful those first images and stories must be. We decided to start at the beginning and build from there.

Is this something that only illustrators need to think about?

No, this issue must be tackled across the board by the whole publishing industry. It?s no use the illustrator depicting a disabled character if the editor doesn?t see the relevance, and then the sales team questions it and suggests it will somehow hinder sales ? the end result is that the illustrator gives up. In The Picture is aimed at everyone in the book world.

I don?t know how to depict a disabled child. How do you show this when the image is probably going to be reduced and be quite small?

Clearly there are challenges but the resources on this website are designed to make it easier to do this. And, after all, illustrations include tiny details like buttons on shirts. Children can be very observant as anyone who has shared a book with a young child can testify. Also, we notice things that are important to us.

What about children with hidden impairments?

We do want to ensure that children with hidden impairments are included in early years books. The stories themselves are important here. Our story workshops have attempted to address this with, for example, one set of workshops had a strong leaning towards autism. In some situations it might be possible to show the child?s environment in a way that conveys something about the child.

Isn?t it all political correctness gone mad?

Disability has lagged behind race and gender in its fight for equality despite an emerging legal framework. Disabled children are still not considered part of our diversity. Scope has highlighted the issues of disablism with its Time to Get Equal campaign.

I am worried about getting it wrong and offending people.

This project, by developing guidance and linking up with a whole range of organisations, hopes to give confidence to illustrators that they have done all they can to ?get it right?. It will never be possible to please everyone, but to ignore it and pretend disabled children are not there causes offence, too!

If I include disabled children, won?t this limit my audience?

If the book was aimed and marketed at a specific audience it might, but we know that people want to see books designed to be available for all and this actually widens the market. Growing inclusive practice in child care and education make this a compelling marketing practice anyway.

Would it be a good idea to have some explanatory wording somewhere in the book about disabled children and what if I am unsure about the language to use?

The rule of thumb should be - would you choose to highlight the fact that a child was Chinese (say) at any point in the book? If not then the book ?speaks for itself? and there is no need to mention it. Here is a link to the Time to Get Equal website and its language section: http://www.scope.org.uk/disablism/language.shtml

Most of our characters are personified animals. How can disability be portrayed accurately and sensitively in these cases?

Where animals are personified in picture books they tend to wear clothes; this means that they should also be able to wear accessories associated with disability. There may be some problems with the difference in body shapes between animals and humans and accessories may need to be adapted to suit. This is where fantasy and play can be introduced. Removing the situation from reality, by using animals instead of people, gives the illustrator the freedom to be inventive with accessories. The same principles apply overall however, and we have included a good example of this with teddies on page two of our image bank

We publish/I illustrate mainly traditional/fairy stories. How can we portray disability in these?

Fairy tales and traditional stories have a universal appeal to our common experience - birth and death, love and hate, poverty and fortune. They are often very dark and these important and potent aspects of literature should not be diluted.

 But because these stories have been passed on down the centuries from less enlightened times, they sometimes also carry with them outmoded and negative stereotypes which stem from ignorance but are perpetuated through habit. Also, in stories such as these, it is not so possible to rely on modern accessories associated with disability such as hearing aids and walking frames and it is tempting to fall back on what we might see nowadays as stereotypical symbols of disability such as crutches and eye patches though it may well be that these are appropriate in a traditional or historic story. However, illustrators can actively help change perceptions by not making the only examples of disability they portray negative or evil. In other words, don?t make the bloodthirsty pirate the only character with an eye patch, or the evil witch the only person with a stick. It presents the illustrator with a challenge to come up with a new way of portraying the villain of the piece as well as introducing the incidental images of disability that are needed.

Is it possible to produce an ideal book?

There can?t ever be one book or series of books that `does it all`. A wealth of different books is what is needed so that this whole area ceases to be an issue.

Is there anything we can do to make our books more accessible for children with a visual impairment?

Visiting www.nctd.org.uk/tbag will lead you to some developing information for the book world on this whole area. The Tactile Book Advancement Group includes representatives from the Royal National Institute of the Blind, RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams, ClearVision, National Blind Children?s Society, Living Paintings Trust and parents and professionals working with visually impaired children.


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Scope: About cerebral palsy. For disabled people achieving equality. Time to get equal