About inspiration and admiration20 Jan 2016
Let's talk about the matter of inspiration and admiration of disabled people from the perspective of my experiences.
A situation more common for me during the warmer months when my AFOs are more visible, is strangers praising or congratulating me for doing everyday activities.
Recently while I waiting at the train station the man next to me started up a conversation with me. It was mostly small talk but he also spoke about some of the problems he was currently facing. I guess he just needed to talk about them with someone.
During the conversation he noticed my bracers poking out from the bottom of my pants and asked if I had injured myself. After listening to me talk about my disability and how it affects me, he remarked
Wow, hear I was talking about my problems. They don't seem that bad in comparison. Guess I'm lucky, it could be worse. Good on you for getting out.
Whether he was aware of it or not he was essentially saying. I could be like you.
I'll give you another example. Once again at the train station, a different one this time though.
I was walking up the steps. As I reached the half way point a guy past me and said
good on you, you can do it
as he looked at my legs and gave me a thumbs. He was trying to be encouraging, but I'd lost count of how many times I'd walked up and down those steps over the years I didn't need motivation to continue.
I know people are just trying to be supportive or kind but to me the compliment feels empty, because from my point of view I've done nothing special.
The praise and misguided recognition comes from a good place, and there isn't anything wrong with recognising the participation or accomplishments of disabled people. But you need to understand that not everything we do is an accomplishment.
Sure I have added difficulty and discomfort in my life. But as Stella Young said -
My everyday life in which I do exactly the same things as everyone else should not inspire people, and yet I am constantly congratulated by strangers for simply existing.
The reason this is common place is because of society's attitude of low expectations and lack of ability towards disabled people. When our lives or activities are used as a tool to make other people feel better about their own lives. It's no longer positive, but selfish. It reinforces that disability is a bad thing and you're lucky if you're not affected.
Like everything there are exceptions to the rule. I feel explaining to someone why you're inspired by them instead of just saying you're an inspiration is a better way of handling it. But if you don't feel the need to praise a non-disabled person, why praise a disabled person for doing the exact same thing.
Who here agrees with me?