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

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Tony Ross


Tony Ross has just finished illustrating a book written by Ian Whybrow called "Through the Catflap", soon to be published by Hachette. It is a humorous tale narrated by a disabled boy.

1. How important do you think the illustrations in a book are to pre school children, as opposed to the words?

I don't think illustrations are important as opposed to words, rather WITH words. Of course pre-schoolers cannot read, but are read to. At that age, they can recognise the importance of words, and have ambitions to decipher them one day, yet at the time, gain understanding from the pictures, which should relate and entertain, without pomposity.

2. What process did you go through in order to create the pictures of the boy in the Cat-flap story, both in terms of the boy himself and his environment?

The Catflap boy DID cause me some concern - whether I should treat him with more reverence than any other boy I draw - but then I thought not. I think that disability is one part of a child?s being. In the main, they are totally normal, so I drew what I would be like with sticks. I would stand at funny angles, sometimes fall over, sometimes not, sometimes forget that I should take more care, so I drew him as a normal boy who needs sticks, rather than some sort of patient.

3. Has this differed for other books where you have drawn disabled children?

I haven't done many. Andersen Press did an excellent book with me and Jeanne Willis, called SUSAN LAUGHS, all about the normality of disabled children. The only other disabilities I have drawn have been the obvious, poor eyesight etc.

4. If you were asked to include children with different kinds of impairments, perhaps ones you were unfamiliar with, how would you go about it?

In the same way as I would draw anybody else. I may make fun, I may not, depending on the story.

I am not aware of many medical, or practical criteria, so I would expect those to be supplied by the author or publisher.

If the disabled child was nice, I would draw him/her that way, if he/she was not, I would draw him/her that way too.

5. Would resources like a demonstration image bank, and the specific guidance being developed on the ?In The Picture? project help in the future? Do you have any helpful suggestions for what else might be useful to illustrators?

Yes, most illustrators are a bit lost on the medical boundaries, of various disabilities, and on things like equipment. I would remind other illustrators that a child may well be disabled, but he/she is a million other things as well - funny, clever, sly, deceitful, resourceful, happy, loyal, determined, a winger, tough, weak, brainy, sensitive, greedy, handsome, pretty, plain, a joy to be with and a pain in the tail, and so on...bit like all of us, eh?  


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