A DISABILITY POLICY FAIRY TALE
One day, a little girl named Ada was walking down
the road of life toward her friend Future's house. Suddenly, she found
her way blocked by an immense boulder in the middle of the road.
She tried to push the boulder out of the way.
She pushed with all her might. But all she got for her effort was
scratched hands and sore muscles.
She looked back down the road she already had
traveled. She didn't want to go back there. Future lay ahead
of her, and Ada just knew they would have a wonderful time together.
"Aha!" she thought. "I'll climb over the boulder and down the other
But when she looked for footholds, she found few,
and when she attempted to climb the boulder, she lost her balance and fell
to the ground. Again and again, she tried, but to no avail. Once
more, she was left with bruises and sore muscles, but no closer to her destination.
She even tried to jump over the boulder, but she couldn't jump high enough
or far enough.
She looked around her at the land to the side
of the road. "Caution," the signs read. "This land is mined.
Maps for safe passage available down the road." Ada knew what that
meant. The old Peddler had explained it to her. If you stepped
on a mine, it would blow up. And since she had no map, she dared not
go off the road to get around the boulder.
Ada thought about Future, about how much she wanted
to get to Future's house. She crumpled in a heap at the base of the
boulder and began to cry in frustration and anger. A few passersby
stopped to ask what was wrong. Some offered sweets or trinkets, but
none offered to help her get to the other side of the boulder.
Suddenly, she heard a horse and wagon. Looking
up, she saw the old Peddler.
"What's the matter now, child?" the Peddler asked
impatiently. In the past, he had been kind to Ada, occasionally giving
her bread and fruit and cheese when she was hungry. So her spirits
lifted at the thought that the Peddler might help her get to the other side
of the boulder.
"I'm going to my friend Future's house, but this
boulder is in my way. I can't push it away. I can't climb over
it. I can't jump over it. And I can't go around it."
"Poor child," said the Peddler. "I have
just what you need.."
He began rummaging in his wagon until he found
a rectangular box of bronze that had been carefully packed amid soft rags
and old clothing. The Peddler retrieved the box, unlocked it and carefully
removed three small bottles filled with liquids of different colors.
He held up the first bottle, allowing the sun to stream through the rosy
"If you drink this, you will have the strength
to jump very high—higher than the boulder. But jump well. The
effects are only temporary, and this is my last bottle of this elixir "
Ada swallowed hard, thought very carefully and
tried to figure out the best place to stand so that she could jump on or
over the boulder. With a determined smile, she took the bottle from
the Peddler, removed the stopper and drank the contents. She felt a
slight shiver and knew the magical fluid was working. Giving the Peddler
a confident glance, she rocked back and forth on her feet, concentrating
so that she could make the jump a successful one. At last, she made
And it was a very high leap indeed—higher than
the than the Peddler's wagon. Higher than the Peddler's head.
And most important, higher than the top of the boulder.
But when she landed, she found herself on the
same side of the boulder as before.
"Harrumph!" growled the Peddler. "Silly
child! Don't you know that you should have run up to the boulder before jumping?
The jumping elixir enhances just your ability to jump up and down, not forward."
Forlorn, Ada beseeched the Peddler to help her
"Hmmm," he murmured. "I have no more jumping
elixir, but try this." He held up a second bottle, filled with a liquid
the color of the sky on a bright summer day. "This will help you run
fast. Then when you get close to the boulder, you can jump onto it
, then climb on over it to the other side. But there is only enough
elixir for one try, and I have no more with me."
Less confident now, Ada took the bottle from the
Peddler and drank the contents. She thought carefully for a moment,
then paced off a distance for her running head start. "Okay," she
said. With arms and legs pumping, she began running. But before
she was quite ready, she had reached the point where she knew must jump to
get over the bolder. Horrified, she found herself unable to make her
muscles stop running so that they could jump at the proper time. If
it hadn't been for the Peddler, she would have smashed into the boulder and
been seriously hurt. As it was, she was badly bruised.
Now the Peddler was angry. "You stupid,
lazy girl!" he chastised. " Can't you do anything right? I have given
you two chances, and you have failed miserably. Maybe you should just
stay here, or go back where you came from. You are not worthy of more help."
Ada was confused now. "But I need to both
run and jump to get over the boulder," she entreated. "Don't you have
something else that can help me?"
The Peddler looked thoughtful for a moment and
held up the last bottle, filled with a green liquid.
"Well," he admitted haltingly, "this elixir will
enhance both your running and jumping ability."
Ada smiled happily and reached out for the bottle.
But the Peddler pulled it away from her.
"You have already failed at both running and jumping.
You just didn't try hard enough. You expect my magic potions to do
it all for you. Well, I refuse to waste this last bottle on yet another
failure! It costs me a great deal to prepare these potions. Go
back where you came from and be content that I gave you a chance!"
And with that, the Peddler turned his back and
rode away in his wagon, leaving Ada to dream about what she might have been
able to do with the right elixir.
Moral: Government programs are often
like the Peddler's magic elixirs. They promise help but stop short
of what's really needed, then lay blame on those they promised to help.
Copyright 2002 by Laura Remson Mitchell