Is surviving a life-altering injury inspirational? Or is it simply survival? When a person overcomes a difficult situation, the results may seem amazing to others. When people with a spinal cord injury encounter someone who says, “What you’re doing every hour of every day – living in a wheelchair and making it through – is inspiring to me,” what they often hear is surprise and pity. After all, how can all the everyday things people do be inspiring just because they’re being done while in a wheelchair? If more proof is needed that the people with disabilities should be viewed the same way as everybody else, Australian comedian Stella Young, lays it all on the table. During a recent TED Talk, Young explained how she was given a community achievement award in her small town as a teen – just for living there. It was then that she began to think about how different she really must seem to others. “It speaks to this kind of assumption that people with disabilities are brave because our lives are horrible,” Young says in a separate interview. “And that’s not true at all.” Her straightforward explanation sends home the message that as a society it’s not healthy, or realistic, to label all people with disabilities as inspirational. You can see her informative, and refreshingly funny Ted Talk here:
What “inspirational” comments annoy you?
I wholeheartedly agree with this article. Sadly, it’s pretty much one of the most insulting things people can say. However, having lived with a disability for over 20 years now, I have learned to exercise restraint and bite my tongue when someone pays me this “complement.” I have come to the conclusion that these individuals are generally well-intentioned but just haven’t really thought the comment through. I use the opportunity to open dialogue. “Would you tell the same thing to an able-bodied woman who’s getting her groceries? How about an older person working at a business?” I further explain that while I appreciate that they are trying to pay me a compliment, the reality is that I am just a guy trying to live my life like everyone else, and that the things I do are the same things that they do or WOULD do if they were in my situation. If they disagree and continue to press that I am still an inspiration, I finish by saying it is actually a very insulting comment and that again, if they were in my situation, they would do the same activities as they are rational human beings that still want to live their life.