As a disabled person, I have been trying to keep my finger on the pulse of news from the disability world for many years. In doing that, though, a lot of what I see & hear can be pretty disheartening. Every now & then, however, I come across something that really makes me smile, and I feel the need to share it with you readers.
Recently, I was pointed to the story of young Emily White. Emily (like me) was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. These two conditions usually occur in tandem, can be pretty hard to deal with (both for the child AND the parents), and can make a person feel isolated from their peers, and feel like there is very little positivity out there. However, Emily’s dad did something very cool.
After Emily’s parents spent a lot of time & energy searching for something in the pop culture world to which their daughter could relate, they were disappointed to find that there was not a lot out there. In an interview with Today.com, Emily’s dad Dan said, “We searched and searched, and we just couldn’t find anything in the entertainment industry that related to her, so I decided to create it. The disabled community is so dear to me, and I want to see them represented in a more positive light.” Therefore, Emily’s dad took matters into his own hands, and created a comic book called The Department of Ability.
The Department of Ability features Emily as a superhero who uses a flying wheelchair to fight injustice. Aside from Emily, there is also her team of heroes who use their disabilities as superpowers. There’s Pawsy, a cheetah who suffered the loss of a leg, but was then fitted with a solar-powered prosthetic which allows him to move at speeds of 300 mph. Billy, a dog who was struck by a hit & run driver, now uses a carbon wheelchair fitted with an emergency backpack & a tail-shaped antenna which acts as a transmitter & radar. Claypole is a blind ghost who uses his heightened remaining senses and his white canes to deal out punishment to evildoers. Azazzatz is an alien from the planet Peacealorr, who lost his left arm after crash-landing on Earth. Now, he employs his superior intellect & a super-strong bionic arm to help him in combat.
On his website, Dan says,
“Disabled children deserve to be represented in books and on TV in a positive way, without sad music in the background accompanying their story. Children with disabilities are funny, exciting, happy, sad, mischievous, rude, caring. Just like any other child. I have created the Department of Ability … so that ALL children, (not just ones with special needs) can watch, enjoy, relate to, and realize that the child who lives down the street is just the same as them. Just with a difference.”
Dan White said that his goal with this book, is to give disabled children around the world some confidence, as they are more than just their disabilities. “Emily is so much more than her wheelchair,” he said. “She loves sports, arts, comics, music, & more. She’s a force to be reckoned with.” The Department of Ability is (according to Dan) about 70% complete, and has garnered quite a bit of attention from the disabled community worldwide. Dan has even hired an agent, who he says plans to promote the book at the London Book Fair, and they hope to score a mainstream publication deal.