Please Touch museum puts kids in shoes of disabled

    On Saturday, Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum will present a traveling exhibit meant to show kids what it is like to live with cognitive and physical disabilities.

    Ailish Eccleston, 4, of Collingswood, N.J., tested out one of the displays on a preview day. The tiny blond girl strapped a scooplike tool onto her foot and struggled to pick up a plastic ball, and then drop it through a hole in a wooden board.

    “You want to try it with the grabbers,” asked her mom, Melissa Eccleston.

    “Yeah, that’s easier,” Ailish replied.

    She had better luck with a long-handled grabbing tool designed to help people in wheelchairs. Both displays were designed to give kids an idea of how people with physical disabilities adapt to perform everyday tasks.

    “It’s nice to see the common person having an opportunity to learn how important it is to respect all those people that struggle every day to walk and talk and listen and do basic stuff,” Melissa Eccleston said.

    Children who visit the exhibit can ride a hand-pedaled stationary bike, try out a wheelchair, or navigate through a simulated city without the sense of sight.

    Museum staff members say they hope the exhibit will capitalize on kids’ natural curiosity and help them better understand what daily life is like for those with disabilities. They say the exhibit also highlights what all people have in common.

    “We hope that the kids will build some understanding about living with people with disabilities, and build some empathy for people with different issues in their lives,” curator Stacey Swigart said.

    The exhibit will be in Philadelphia through April.

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