I’m not inspired today. I sit at my desk and stare at the world outside my cubicle as if there were beauty and resonance but really, there’s a cold snap and some allergens. After fighting with my wardrobe and my dog, sitting in this desk feels pretty monumental. Hopped up on NSAIDs and iced black tea, I feel like all is right with my world.
Every few days or so, I meet a new able-bodied person who has never ever met a person with a visible disability. I say this because I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t repeat the types of things they say to me if they’ve already uttered them aloud to someone else. They wouldn’t tell me I’m inspiring, that they can’t possibly fathom a life like mine, that I’m so brave or courageous for simply living. Surely they wouldn’t, right?
One would hope.
It’s not uncommon for humans to seek out inspiration to self-motivate. We cut out pictures of damn hot celebrities to boost our own wardrobes, tack up fun quotes or proverbs on the bathroom wall before a big speech, worship deities to find purpose in the daily grind. I should be so honored to get included in the fortune cookie cut-outs and Jesus’ of the world. Disability gets its’ own temple? YES!
Except then there’s this thing about not turning PWD into super-crips. Eli Clare addresses the happenstance of super-cripping the lives of people with disabilities in hir’s book Exile and Pride:
They reinforce the superiority of the nondisabled body and mind. They turn individual disabled people, who are simply leading their lives, into symbols of inspiration.
Indeed, it may seem quaint and motivational to utter an astonished “if she can do it, surely so can I!” as a person in a wheelchair buys groceries or someone with an ASL interpreter gives a presentation, but in fact that’s as kind a phrase as saying “if this ridiculously inept denigrate of a human can do it, I can!” Of course you can do the same things people with disabilities can – because you’re a people and you have the same options (if not more) as people with disabilities do to own your life. Want to get out of bed in the morning and brush your teeth? GO FOR IT. Keen on taking a trip to the store and picking up some condoms? WORK IT. Interested in getting a job and retaining it, collecting a living wage? WELL GOOD…luck. We all have problems with that, including the high unemployment rate in the disabled community.
So rather than looking at people with disabilities as inspirational super-crips, look at us as people. People who do stuff. People who don’t do stuff. People who live – like you do – because that’s what creatures do.