The word ‘Inspirational‘ it’s a funny old word but what does it mean, if you google the Word inspirational it comes up with ‘providing or showing creative or spiritual inspiration’.
Fact – if you have a disability you would’ve been called ‘an inspiration’ at least once in your lifetime!
I get called ‘an inspiration’ at least once a week, And this hasn’t just started happening since I became more known as a public figure. I noticed that peoples perception of me changed as soon as my condition progressed and I started using a wheelchair. As I have a Progressive muscle wasting condition called Muscular Dystrophy.
Normally I’ll smile politely and say, ‘thank you that’s lovely of you to say!’ but I’m alway left feeling slightly bewildered. I’m not telling you this to brag or say hey look at me I’m inspirational – I’ve just always felt very awkward about being called inspirational.
The way I see it is I start my day of the same as everyone else – well I have a little help! But I’ve still got out of bed, got dressed and been to the loo, just because I use a wheelchair doesn’t mean it magically happens any other way. In the grand scheme of thing there are plenty of non-disabled people that struggle to get out of bed every morning.
I’ve not won an Olympic gold medal or cured world hunger, Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I’m constantly overcoming adversity. Sometimes I’m just collecting food in my big boobs!!
I watched a video of the late Stella Young. She couldn’t of put it any better in a TedX talk, where she coined the term ‘inspiration porn’. For instance, a quote you might have seen ‘ the only disability in life is a bad attitude’. Stella suggested that society has been sold a lie: the idea that living with a disability is a bad thing, something that makes you exceptional. Seeing people with disabilities as inferior is imbedded within our culture. That’s 100% true Society isn’t born prejudiced.
I wouldn’t change my situation for the world. My disability is not something I am ashamed of – quite the contrary: I have huge disability pride, if I didn’t have my disability you wouldn’t be reading this article, I wouldn’t be a disability advocate or started campaigning.
So yes my disability may be a big part of who I am – it also does not by any means define me. I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but having a disability doesn’t make you exceptional; it just makes you who you are.
An ableist society is what disables disabled people.
inspiration porn: memes that objectify the disabled community for the benefit of the non-disabled world to make them feel better about themselves, to create a feeling of ‘I’m glad I’m not in their position’ or ‘I couldn’t go through what you do!’.
Why do we/Society consider it not only acceptable, but complimentary, to say such things about disabled people? – Could you Imagine if part of who you are were used as a ‘worst possible scenario’. It would be problematic to repost memes like ‘at least your not overweight’, ‘life may be bad but you don’t have a face like that’.
It is not my intention to shame or call out anyone who calls me or anyone else with a disability inspirational. I don’t want to perpetuate the already existing awkwardness that exists between the two communities – two-thirds of the British public already feels awkward around disability, But clearly, society’s perception of what it means to live with a disability is flawed.
Everyone’s achievements including my own change the narrative towards disability in some way – it’s not that I don’t like the word inspirational I just feel very awkward around it. as I all I’m doing is trying to make the world a more inclusive place to live.
Have you ever been called inspirational and how do you feel about being called inspirational? Feel free to leave me a comment I would love to hear from you.
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4 thoughts on “Referring to people with disabilities as inspirational”
Great post Kerry, Yes I have been called inspirational a lot. Someone once said that living with my disabilities (cerebral palsy in all 4 limbs, hydrocephalus with a VP shunt and also having 4 visual impairments and being registered blind) was a tragedy and terrible. I’m a powerchair user too. I use assistive technology to blog and write, can speak Spanish and finished all my education and am married. Someone else also said it was good I did “normal” things in life. I agree, society is so not understanding about us not being inspirational.
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Thank you – wow Some people Just don’t know when to stop saying things! Sorry someone said that to you!
Yep happy to be called inspirational if I’ve inspired someone to campaign or fight for their rights but not because I’ve left my house or got out of bed!! Lol
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I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been called inspirational or referred to as an inspiration. I absolutely despise the word! Even during my pregnancy, I was told “the strength you’ve shown throughout is inspiring” – I really wanted to say ‘Why? Because I’m disabled?’ They wouldn’t have said it to a non-disabled mum… Yes, what i went through 2 years ago was bloody hard, but who doesn’t go through a tough chapter in life? 💚
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I can totally understand that – sometimes I feel like saying if I inspired you to create or do something different then yes but not if it’s just because I’ve left my house or because you’re having a baby!!
Hope that little munchkin isn’t keeping you up all night!
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