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Reflecting on The Scooter Twins for National Accessibility Week

Reflecting on The Scooter Twins for National Accessibility Week

For National Accessibility Week (May 26 to June 1) we asked author Dorothy Ellen Palmer and illustrator Maria Sweeney to reflect on their new picture book The Scooter Twins

Dorothy Ellen Palmer

 A photo of Dorothy Ellen Palmer, her brother Don, and his dog Auggie at the Burlington waterfront.

I’m a former teacher, a mother of two, a disabled writer and an accessibility activist, who just this month became a very proud first-time grandmother. When I think about what my first picture book, The Scooter Twins, means to me, all of these real-life roles come to mind.

As a child with a mobility disability in the 1960s, I never once read a picture book where I saw myself. As a young mom in the 1980s reading to my kids, I never had a book where I could share disabled experience with them. As a teacher for three decades, I had only a few examples of disabled kids in the books we read in class, and they were too often harmful stereotypes of an individual “overcoming disability.”

The Scooter Twins draws on the diverse personalities of my two children to create the bold and feisty Melanie and her shy and timid brother Melvin. It means a great deal to me to draw on my own experience of getting a mobility scooter. Because disabled experience is a diverse experience, I wanted to show how two very different kids approach wondering about, purchasing, learning to ride and eventually accepting their first scooters. The Scooter Twins accepts the reality of disabled challenges and shares the unique experiences of Melanie and Melvin finding joy in moving as themselves in the world.

We all need disabled representation. In 2020, when Deborah Dundas published a survey in the Toronto Star revealing that despite being 27% of the population, disabled people were only 2% of the characters in children’s books, I vowed to help correct that underrepresentation. As an accessibility activist and writer working in the midst of pandemic denial and programs like MAiD, which disproportionately affect seniors, ill, immune-compromised and disabled people, it means so much to me to affirm that disabled lives, disabled access and disabled stories are all important.

When I signed the first copy of my first picture book for my first grandchild, it felt like I was lighting one small candle of hope that this world will be more diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible for all.

 Maria Sweeney

A photo of Maria Sweeney in her power chair outside in the sun. She has taken off her sunglasses and is smiling at the camera.

The Scooter Twins is a children’s book that was steeped in disability collaboration from the beginning! I was so excited to be working with Dorothy Ellen Palmer, a disabled activist/advocate, teacher and also fellow adoptee like myself. I have had a longstanding passion for depicting disabled stories and experiences through comics, so I was thrilled to help cultivate a bright world for Melanie and Melvin to explore. The seeds were planted together to reach our shared goal of portraying the disabled experience with vibrancy and authenticity.

Dorothy and I both felt strongly about showing readers the importance of creating an inclusive world where disabled people of all ages can be a part of their own community. In The Scooter Twins, we are witness to the varying emotions disabled folks feel about their chosen accessibility tools, how they speak up for themselves when confronted with different forms of ableism, and what it means to be a part of a caring community. Whether it is encountering curb cuts, accessing mobility aids or practicing community care through masking, the readers are included in the children’s adventure of finding disabled fun and excitement! 

The Scooter Twins was an opportunity for me to heal my inner disabled child by being able to present these warm, inquisitive but very different twins through a lens of disabled joy, community care and interdependence. This book is perfect for all disabled and able-bodied kiddos or folks just looking to learn more about how different folks move in this beautiful, big world!


A photograph of Maria Sweeney in her power chair on a basketball court. It's raining, and she's wearing a jacket and has her hood pulled up. She faces away from the camera.

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