People with disabilities are often kept away from adventures, but with a little consideration and compassion, there’s no reason every child can’t experience the beauty and wonder of nature with their friends and classmates.
Ryan Neighbors is a 10-year-old 4th grader based in Kentucky with spina bifida. She uses a wheelchair to get around, but the class field trip was to Falls of the Ohio State Park, a non-wheelchair accessible site, so her teacher and her mom had to get a little creative.
“Normally with field trips like this, when they’re not accessible, we take an educational day and she and I go out and make our own field trip in the city,” her mom Shelly King explained.
This time, she planned on using a specially-designed backpack carrier to carry Ryan, and was talking to Ryan’s teachers about the plan.
He stepped up and agreed to carry the weight
That’s when Jim Freeman, Ryan’s science teacher, reached out and offered to carry Ryan on his back all day.
King wrote about that event on the “Team Ryan” Facebook page and it quickly went viral.
“Mr. Freeman stepped in and was like ‘Oh, I don’t mind carrying her, it’s completely fine,’” King said. “We were all just like ‘What?’ Like, fifty pounds of dead weight is kind of taxing on your body. He just stepped in out of nowhere and offered to do it.”
Because of this selfless act by Mr. Freeman, Ryan got to experience the day much like her classmates did. It’s a valuable lesson for us all about stepping up and doing what we can for those who need lifting up.
It’s also a valuable reminder about accessibility: we must be careful not to exclude people who are different than us and who need to experience things uniquely. It’s vital we find a way for everyone to be involved with the beautiful things in life. That difference is what makes life truly beautiful.
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