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Boy in his wheelchair isolated in viral class photo

By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   June 17, 2013 at 6:25 PM

A Herbert Spencer Elementary School class photo that shows 7-year-old Miles Ambridge, who uses a wheelchair, awkwardly separated from the rest of his classmates has gone viral. As the second-grader smiles, he strains his neck to appear closer to the group.

Ambridge has a genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy, which attacks spinal nerve cells, and as a result, he uses a wheelchair to get around.

When the boy's parents saw the class photo they were shocked. "It broke my heart," father Don Ambridge said in an interview. "He’s leaning in, he wants to be included."

Upon seeing the photo Miles’ father, Don Ambridge said he put the photo away and chose not to share it with his son. Instead, he wrote a letter to the class teacher at the British Columbia school.

"It basically said, 'I find this photo disgusting. Please throw it out. I don’t want it in my house.' Painful, very painful. It still hurts to see it."

Miles' mother, Anne Belanger, also posted the photo on Lifetouch Photography’s Facebook page.

Belanger, said "This was not a malicious act, I don’t think it was done on purpose. I just don’t think there was any rational thinking behind it."

Belanger said discrimination is a daily reality for people with disabilities and she wanted to shed light on the stigma surrounding it.

"I think what it is, is just a circumstantial lack of awareness that resulted in a really emotionally tragic output," Ambridge said.

The family said school principal Tracy Fulton responded immediately with a phone call. Lifetouch Photography came back to reshoot the class photo, though the school had already decided not to use the photography company in the future.

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