The Disabled are not Inspiration Porn (Thanks to Stella Young for the term)

A friend posted a picture of their dogs on their Facebook timeline this morning with the comment that while the ‘two-legged’ members of their household were heading back to work today after a vacation, the four-legged ones were enjoying a lazy day.

Without really thinking about it I commented that I wished that I was going back to work today too, but that my four-legged companions were very much enjoying my being home.

In case you don’t know, I’ve been housebound on medical leave since late June and was very restricted before that for about a month.

My friend replied to my comment saying something along the lines of thanks for the reminder that being able to go to work is a privilege, that my comment had given them a prompt for an attitude change and that they hope that I get better soon.

I’m happy that my comment helped their day be a little better and I appreciate the well wishes.

To be totally honest I was really just having a self-pity party. I’m tired of being sick, I’m tired of not knowing exactly what’s wrong and I’m frustrated at an illness that restricts my life so severely.

Today was also the day that our common employer sent out the forms for my doctor to fill in regarding when I am likely to be able to return to work. Completing the assessment component on what I can and can’t do currently was demoralising. Knowing that my doctor will have to sign it off with the answer ‘unknown’ as to expected recovery date is difficult to accept.

Ironically, I’ve been disabled my entire life. Usually I just want to get on with my life.

Today, to be honest, I just wanted somebody to remember that I’m still here.

It’s one of those catch 22’s. Right now, I literally can’t go anywhere but hospitals and medical clinics and there is almost nothing that I can do beyond watch Netflix, read (a little for short periods) and write (a little for short periods).

I can’t have people in my home unless they follow a very strict protocol to ensure that they are entirely scent free before doing so. I’m also deaf, and being so short of breath, I can’t even use my amplified phones (which I hate using at the best of times). So as a result I am very isolated.

Thankfully, I do have some great friends here and abroad who are careful to contact me by email or text message and chat with me for a bit each day. I am very grateful for them and their intentional inclusion of me in their lives despite my situation.

So honestly, I was really just feeling sorry for myself this morning.

My friend’s response though made me a little uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to make them feel ungrateful for their job. I’m glad that I helped them look at the day differently but it really wasn’t my intent.

However, the interaction made me reflect on what was it that bothered me. As I thought about it I remembered a video that I’d seen some time ago by Stella Young.

Stella was an Australian female comic, writer, broadcaster and educator. She also happened to use a wheelchair. She used a wheelchair because she had the more severe form of the same condition that I do: Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). Unfortunately she died in 2014 at the age of 32.

The world lost a very special person that day. Not because of her disability but because of who she was, as a person.

Stella’s vision was of a world where the disabled were not a novelty but common place. Where children like herself weren’t considered for awards just because they were disabled but because they had actually achieved something. Where children didn’t only ever see the disabled as motivational speakers but didn’t think twice about having a teacher in a wheelchair.

Thankfully I think that the world is slowly moving towards her vision.

I use a Service Dog and have had one at work with me for the past two years. Other than my being known as the ‘Prof with the dog” my students accept my dog in our classroom and rarely think about it. Often they even forget why the dog is there until they speak to me when I’m writing on the board, with my back to them, and either one of the other students reminds them or my service dog alerts me to that happening.

Oddly my service dog is accepted far more easily though than my inability to use the telephone, a fact that I constantly have to remind people about which is very frustrating.

I’m going off track… A post for another day!

To return to today’s thought: Stella coined the term “Inspiration Porn” to describe the use of images of the disabled to inspire the non-disabled. Her TED talk on this is wonderful and funny.

Please, please, take the 8 minutes in your day and watch it! You’ll be glad that you did.

Ironically, in her advocacy for the disabled to be not be considered inspirational, she was her most inspiring.

So when you see a disabled person, please don’t tell them how brave they are, or how much they inspire you. That really isn’t our job.

If you see one accomplish great things – like some of our disabled Olympians are doing – praise their accomplishments. As an example, these deaf athletes are using their bodies to the best of their abilities, just as Stella states that we all do. In their case they are phenomenal athletes that have worked extremely hard to compete internationally. That’s something to aspire to. That’s something to be inspired by.

inspiration-or-inspiration-porn-post

So let’s get rid of the ‘inspiration porn’, make the world a place where the disabled are able to work just like anybody else because their physical surroundings, and social attitudes are not barriers to their doing so and let’s all be inspired by those who have achieved great things – disabled or not!

 

2 Replies to “The Disabled are not Inspiration Porn (Thanks to Stella Young for the term)”

  1. Pingback: Is everything possible or are there realistic limitations? – Butterflies

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