We’ve all done it. That person is so inspiring! And they are. People who wheelchair across the country or graduate college despite neural diversity or paint with their feet because they have no arms all do amazing things and deserve to be applauded. But do they deserve to be called inspirational? What about the people who just live everyday with a disability? Go to work, go to the grocery store, make dinner, and raise children. Are they inspirational too?
In many ways they are, but we need to be aware of what those words sound like to a person with a disability. You’ll notice I didn’t say suffering from a disability. Because that’s another way of generating sympathy, making them an other and making them less than “normal”, i.e. an able-bodied person.
Here’s a Twitter chat that addresses the issue:
I think what Kayla says at the end is key: a disabled person can and will have the same characteristics that are inspirational as an able-bodied person.
What we imply with our words is often more important than what we actually say. I remember being a mix of proud and offended when people would commend me on the fact that I had a child at nineteen-years-old, but still managed to finish college, work part-time and raise my daughter. Yes, I was proud of that achievement, and I get how that was harder than say being a young woman with no responsibilities other than grades and maybe a job, but the implication somehow made it sound like I’d overcome some massive obstacle. No, I did what I had to do to make life better for myself and my daughter. I don’t deserve praise for that. Instead of telling me how great I am, maybe use that energy to help someone else in the same situation.
I’ll leave you with this last thought from Corrine on how when people say that a disabled person is inspirational without qualify what is inspirational about them how it may sound to a disabled person:
*Kayla Whaley is the Senior editor at
@DisabilityInLit and a Middle-Grade and Young Adult writer and essayist. Corrine Duyvis is the co-founder of @DisabilityinLit and author of Young Adult Science Fiction novels OTHERBOUND and soon to be released ON THE EDGE OF GONE.
*New readers may wonder why I’m sharing these posts and why they’re numbered. Here’s a link to my post I’m Giving Up HATE, PREJUDICE and INDIFFERENCE for Lent.
And here are my latest 5 posts in the series:
Post #18: Discussion: Body Positivity in YA – Where’s the Love for Curvy Women?
Post #19: Beyonce in Formation
Post #20: #OscarSoWhite
Post #21: #OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children’s Literature
Post #22: The Pain of Growing Up Muslim in Post-9/11 America
*Please remember to leave the sites I post clean. We are here to learn, not debate. Even if you disagree, we need to learn that just because we have an opinion, doesn’t mean we need to share it all the time.*