People with disabilities are not a punchline.
During this pandemic, TikTok has become a large source of entertainment for many, particularly those who are part of Generation Z, there have been many different challenges that people have taken. While some are funny, entertaining, and sometimes educational, some can also hurt others.
The recent challenge that has been going around is called the "New Teacher Challenge" — a parent shows their kid a photo of someone who is obviously not their teacher in an attempt to get a reaction out of them.
This challenge has targeted those who have disabilities. Parents have used the photos of these individuals to show to their kids in order to get a laugh. Often the photos used are an attempt to scare the kids, which is sending the wrong message to — it's telling them that it is okay to make fun of people who are different.
Disability activists Lizzie Velasquez and Melissa Blake who have had their photos used as ridicule by others have spoken out against the challenge. It has also been condemned by teachers and activists, and now I am giving a few choice words about it too.
I am autistic, even though most people would never guess just by looking at me. However just because my disability is not physical doesn't mean that it's not there — sometimes I still display characteristics and get stares and whispers from those around me.
Growing up, I did not make friends very easily, I knew that I was different but I didn't know why. I was often excluded from things at school. I wasn't excluded from events, but I was excluded from my peers — I never knew what was wrong with me.
Parents really should have been teaching their kids to always be kind to one another, but they didn't and teachers weren't much help either.
To all the parents who made those videos, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Is this really the kind of example that you want to set for your kids? You are practically raising them to be bullies — they could end up being the kind of person who points at someone in a wheelchair, or stares at a person who may have been a burn victim, or they end up making fun of that kid with a disability.
People with disabilities face enough ridicule every day just by going out because people are judgemental. They don't need you all raising future bullies. People with disabilities are not a punchline, they do not exist for you to make fun of, they want to live just like you, learn some compassion, and spread it to your little ones.
The children are the future, so please make it so they don't end up being a mean kid who picks on someone else for how they look.