Mexico Health & Evironmental News

Puerto Vallarta • Riviera Nayarit 

  News &
Issues &
Business &
Health &
Lifestyle &
Travel &
Science &

Disabled People Don't Want to be Your Inspiration, but if They Are It's No Surprise

Tom Shakespeare - The Conversation
go to original
September 16, 2016

Stella Young: I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much (TED)

Should we be inspired by Paralympian achievement? Commentator Frances Ryan recently counseled Guardian readers to be careful to think through their reactions to disabled “superhuman” athletes and academic poster boys like Professor Stephen Hawking. Treat people with disabilities just like everyone else, is the argument. Don’t see us as special. If we have overcome anything, it’s more relevant to highlight the barriers that a disabling world sets in our way, not our medical problems.

This line of argument was made famous by the late, great Stella Young, an Australian writer and comedienne with disability. She objected to the way that disabled children and adults were feted for very minor achievements – like coming to school, or making a painting. She didn’t like how the non-disabled world automatically responded with pity and admiration for disabled people, often for simply existing.

It was Young who used the memorable phrase “inspiration porn” in connection with internet memes of disabled people “overcoming” their disability, meant to inspire others. The message is: if they can do it, despite their difficulties, then you should stop complaining about the trivial obstacles you face. But disabled people should not have to encapsulate a corny life lesson. We don’t exist to inspire other people. We are normal, we struggle on; sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. We can’t all be heroes.

I have sympathy for this point of view. Other people’s attitudes are among the greatest obstacles that disabled people face. We just want to be treated like everyone else – not special, not pathetic, just ordinary.

But I also think that sometimes it is the case that disabled people do heroic things, and we should applaud them – just as we do other, non-disabled, achievers. Ellie Simmonds is amazing, but so is Mo Farah. No doubt both have had to overcome social barriers to achieve as they have on the global stage – hats off to their dedication and determination. Our anxiety about avoiding patronizing attitudes to disabled people should not prevent us recognizing and celebrating genuine achievement.

And often, disabled people face considerable obstacles. I am part of Bridging the Gap, an ESRC-funded research project led by the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre at UCL, that is exploring the disability and development gap. Part-funded by the Department for International Development, so far this year I have visited Zambia, Uganda and Kenya, and interviewed dozens of successful disabled people. I want to understand the factors that enabled them to be high achievers – and to offer positive stories to counter the dominant discourse of exclusion and dependency for disabled Africans.

In Zambia, I met Pius, a young man who used crutches to move around. He told me he was the only member of his family to finish education. I asked him about the obstacles that many disabled children face in order to travel to school. It took him three hours each morning and evening to walk to and from school.

In Kenya I met Mabel, who was deaf. She had been written-off by her family, who were poor agricultural workers in a rural community, and some people even thought she was a victim of witchcraft. But she had completed her primary and secondary education, and then gone on to college to train as a teacher. Unable to hear the lessons, she’d had to copy out her classmates' notes and do extra reading to make up for the barriers she faced. Now she was paying the school fees of her siblings, and looking after her mother, and was by far the most successful member of her family.

Another man had been the victim of a terrorist bomb which left him blind, but was now a successful barrister. A woman born without arms as a result of thalidomide was now the top civil servant in her government ministry.

Over and again I heard stories which were, truly, inspirational: evidence of extraordinary grit and determination, a refusal to let physical obstacles or the attitudes of self or others prevent them from achieving. Some disabled people – and many people without disability – would have been defeated, but they soldiered on, against the odds.

It’s hard not to resort to military metaphors. Because life, for some disabled people, is indeed like a battle: against unthinking prejudice, against physical barriers, in overcoming the limitations of their own bodies, through struggle towards their goal. I think we should salute them.

See the original at The Conversation

  Check out Clinica de Rehabilitacion Santa Barbara

  Check out Pasitos de Luz Day Care for Special Needs Children

We invite you to add your charity or supporting organizations' news stories and coming events to PVAngels so we can share them with the world. Do it now!

CHARITY ALERT Vallarta Botanical Garden Needs Your Help

TripAdvisor singled out the Botanical Garden for removal and placed us on our own page in Cabo Corrientes.

Please write and ask TripAdvisor why all other Cabo Corrientes attractions are still on the Puerto Vallarta page while only the Garden was removed.

Click here to see all the details

Meet the Charities

Community Services


Animals & Wildlife

Health Care

Youth & Family


Culture & Recreation

Special Interests

How You Can Help

Use Your Powers for Good

Add Your Favorite Charity

Save a Life - Give Blood


Partners for Change

Meet the Partners

Become a Partner for Change

Stay Connected

Find PVAngels on Facebook Follow PVAngels on Twitter Sign up PVAngels Newsletter RSS Feeds on PVAngels


About PVAngels

Add Your Charity

Add Your News & Events

Locate Yourself on Our Maps

Jobs - Join PVAngels Team

About Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Local News

Local Event Calendar

Puerto Vallarta Videos

Puerto Vallarta Photos

Historic Puerto Vallarta

Local Area Maps

Important Phone Numbers

Craig's List in Puerto Vallarta

News Around Mexico

Mexico Issues & Opinions

Mexico Business News

Mexico Evironmental News

Lifestyle & Entertainment

Mexico Travel & Outdoors

Science & Technology News

Mexico News & Travel Videos

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance a more in-depth understanding of critical issues facing the world. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

m3 • local actions from global awareness