How people respond to my life story so far is fascinating. Truly is. I kind of touched on it in ‘Those Who Get It’ – I consider myself fortunate to have a disability that naturally seems to bring out the best in the people who often then become my dearest friends.
Others among you are a little hung up on the ‘disabled people are inspirational’ narrative which truly, I can’t blame you. Our society defaults to it, we see examples all the time, and it seems lovely.
However, as with many things in life, the easiest and most popular response isn’t always the right one.
It’s not complicated. All people are deserving of the same basic respect and human rights as the next person, in every circumstance. Disabled people are not praiseworthy and remarkable by merit of simply existing. Yes, sometimes we have to be creative to do our lives, but it’s just what we do every day and you would do some variation of the same if you were in our shoes. Or realistically, you will when you get there; most people in developed countries don’t die suddenly and with full use of their bodies. Right? So really, think of disabled people as an unwelcome, inconvenient, and uncomfortable glimpse into your probable future. You’re welcome. Now, do your future disabled self a favour and thoughtfully treat the current disabled people you meet in the same manner you will want to be treated in the future so it’s hopefully the norm when you become your future disabled self.
How’s that for making sense?
I find few things more cringeworthy than videos and articles where able-bodied people use disabled friends or family members as props in their ‘heartwarming tale of what a good person I am’ stunts. Personally, there is nothing that I want to be surprised with LESS; I have overthought the heck out of this and am terrified somebody will try to do this to me.
I am aware that I’m killing a perfectly good viral video opportunity for my singer/performer husband. He’s (probably) okay with it. And if he gets to be is okay with it then all the rest of you can be, too, or there had at least better be money upfront in it for me.
My “oh wow, how kind of you! I’m so grateful! ☺️” act is not cheap.
Also, if you want to ‘surprise’ my inspirational self I need to know what you’re planning so I can rewrite or veto any part of the script.
If this makes you feel uncomfortable and awkward, you should ignore this warning and actually surprise/blindside me by something of this nature: THAT would be the definition of awkward and uncomfortable.
Think I sound a teeny bit nutty and overreacting-ish? The cold truth is that these setups are just as disrespectful as confronting somebody in a parking lot to ask why they parked in an accessible parking spot (see my previous post for my thoughts on that).
There are a lot of ‘well-meaning’ things done in the name of kindness and good intentions but many are not done out of actual, real respect.
If you’re looking for somebody deserving of accolades for doing exceptional things and *I* come to mind then you need to think a teeny, little bit longer. If you need suggestions I can recommend a few coaches and teachers that I am privileged to call friends who tirelessly volunteer and contribute to the community and sincerely deserve some gratitude, appreciation and fawning all over.
Disability does not make me exceptional nor does it make me a profound life lesson. If all you learn from me is to consider your future disabled self and simply be a decent human to those currently living with disabilities, then that’s ‘life lesson’ enough.