Parents

Dad creates comics featuring a hero in a wheelchair to inspire disabled daughter

For most children, being born with a combination of Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus, two life-compromising medical conditions, would be limiting.

For Emily White, it was — in some ways — only a chance to dream bigger.

Dan White / Department of Ability

That's because her father, Dan White, decided to channel his thoughts about her condition into something meaningful: a work of art. That work: a comic called "The Department of Ability," which tells the story of a wheelchair-bound superhero whose powers came from her disability.

White said the the idea was inspired by a "lack of good fun and positive visibility" about disabled children in mainstream television.

Dan White / Department of Ability

"The project began when Emily, my daughter, was 3, and now she's 9," he told TODAY.com in a phone interview. "We searched and searched, and we just couldn't find anything in entertainment industry that related to her. So I decided to create it."

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Dan White / Department of Ability

The project has since evolved over the course of a few years, and gradually received more and more international attention from disabled or otherwise under-represented communities. A few years ago, White decided he could no longer perform both the promotional and creative duties related to the comic and work full-time. He is now devoted solely to the creation and dissemination of the comic, which is "70 percent complete," as well as giving lectures at local organizations on life with a disabled child.

The good news? An agent's now on his side, which means the Department of Ability could see the light of day sooner than White had originally thought.

Dan White / Department of Ability
Emily White, Dan's daughter and the inspiration for the comic, is pictured here.

"[The agent] is going to the London Book Fair soon, heavily armed with everything I've given her," he said. "All the illustrations and stories. She's determined to win a mainstream deal for us."

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In the end, though, this is about far more than just a comic book.

"The disabled community is so dear to me, and I want to see them represented in a more positive light," said White. "Emily is so much more than her wheelchair. She loves sports, arts, comics, music and more. She's a force to be reckoned with."

Dan White / Department of Ability

White hopes that his comic will instill a sense of confidence in disabled children around the world who, like Emily, are so much more than just "disabled."

"The best way to do that is through comics and superheroes, I think," he concluded. "Because they're brilliant and unlimited. Just like these kids."

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