The Inspirational Cripple

25 05 2012

There are a number of characteristics, accomplishments or committments that can make a person an inspiration to others. Legitimate activists (the non self aggrandizing kind) can be inspirational to others. The same can be said for almost any profession that doesn’t have it’s roots in something evil. Finding inspiration in a person for their dedication or work is not a problem. What is a problem, however, is inspirationalizing (I’m making it a word) a person who faces an oppression for simply existing with their oppression(s). 

The inspirationalizing of oppressed people is not limited to any one marginalization, but what I’m becoming fed up with is being the Inspirational Cripple(tm). Having a visible disability means that I am fair game for able bodied people to comment on my abilities, activities, movement, and overall existence. Being the Inspirational Cripple, I am expected to graciously accept the false praise given by able bodied people, and if I don’t, I risk losing assistance when and if I need it. 

This often becomes more mentally taxing than attempting to navigate a world that is not accepting of bodies like mine. The fear of disability (which is at the core of inspirationalizing people with disabilities) is pushed on me no matter what I do. Walking to the library? Inspiring! Avoiding a puddle? Worthy of a Lifetime movie! Leaving the house? SO MUCH COURAGE OMGZ. And on, and on and on. 

I am reminded of my marginalization constantly just in the ways I attempt to navigate and perform daily tasks. When I hear that my performing these daily tasks is inspiring to an able bodied person, I am further reinded of my status as Other. I am reminded of how little is expected of me as a result of able bodied people’s failure to understand disability and illness, I am constantly filled with doubt that I *really* belong in college, or if I *really* earned that grade, or if I am awarded something based on merit and skills or based on pity and fear of disability. This stress of being inspirationalized is more than I can deal with some days. 

Forcing fear of disability and general ableism onto a person with disabilities by making them your Inspirational Cripple does not make a person with disabilities feel any beter about their struggle, their experiences or how they are forced to navigate the world. It is stressful, it is harmful and primarily, it is othering. The only function of the Inspirational Cripple is to further other and marginalize people with disabilities. 

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