It can be really hard to find children’s books that feature characters with disabilities.
When Megan Quibell was getting ready to go to a con, she didn’t want to dress up as Professor Xavier from X-Men. But the fact is, he’s the only instantly recognizeable character in any young adult literature that she could come up with who uses a wheelchair. And if not Professor Xavier, who could she be? Where do you find normal characters, in normal situations, who just happen to use wheelchairs or canes or other assistive devices? Where do you find disability in children’s books?
With some serious brainstorming and a bit of research (including this list of characters with disabilities), she came up with, not one, not two, but FIVE characters in wheelchairs. And then she went on to say:
I think we need more. We need characters in books who are in wheelchairs or who use a cane or are missing a limb or have some kind of condition or something. But I don’t want “problem” books. I don’t want it to be all about how hard it is being in a wheelchair. I want something normal. For me, of course, normal tends to include dragons and witches – but you see my point… Well, other than the fact that my idea of normal is seriously bizarre… I just want something fun for me to read that has someone in a wheelchair as one of the main characters. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask.
If you’re looking for a book that is disability-inclusive, the first place to look is the Schneider Family Book Awards. This award is given annually for “an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Every year, there are awards given for children’s, middle grade, and teen books.
You can also check out the books about ability and disability at Books Matter. There are a lot of titles here I hadn’t seen before.
If you’re open to books in languages other than English, look at this list.
If you’re looking for disability resources in the Orthodox Church, be sure to look at William Gall’s blog, Arms Open Wide. St. Servulus of Rome is a sixth-century saint who is considered an intercessor for people with disabilities.
And when you go to the library or your favorite local bookstore, ask the person behind the counter for one of these books. Tell them you want to see children’s books that include characters with disabilities. There might not be much there yet. But if you ask, and keep asking, you may find that more books appear on the shelves.