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Inspiration - is it ok to use the word regarding disabled people?

Sam_AlumniSam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,731 Disability Gamechanger
edited October 2018 in News and opportunities
Our wonderful friend @SamanthaRenke16 wrote an article in the Metro recently about his discomfort around being called an inspiration, she says:
"I get called ‘an inspiration’ at least once a week, and this hasn’t just started happening since I became a public figure. Growing up I had complete strangers come up to me and say I inspire them. Normally I’d smile politely and say, ‘thanks!’ but I’d be left bewildered. I’m not telling you this to brag – I’ve always felt uneasy about being called inspirational."

Whilst charity trustee Robin Hindle Fisher has a different take on it, in his article in response to Samantha's, he says:

"While I find it mildly embarrassing, because I too do not consider myself to be particularly exceptional, I do not feel uneasy or annoyed when it happens. Indeed, I regard it as society recognising ‘difference’ and the fact that disabled people, as a substantial minority in society, often have tougher lives than others."

What do you think? How do you feel if people call you or other disabled people an inspiration? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Senior online community officer


  • Peasmold_01Peasmold_01 Member Posts: 144 Pioneering
    Inspiration is a feeling of enthusiasm you get from someone or something, that gives you new and creative ideas. ... If something or someone is the inspiration for a particular book, work of art, or action, they are the source of the ideas in it or act as a model for it. (Courtesy of Collin Dictionary) It is nice that someone, or indeed, a group of people find a person inspirational. The embarrassment may be their's as well as the person they find inspirational. Maybe they think, 'But for the grace of god (if one believes in one) there go I' 
     It is a pity that our ruling classes don't consider the disabled as inspirational. If they did, they may change their approach to the disabled, instead of making the disabled feel like second class citizens, most of the time. I cannot say I am inspired by the likes of Ester McVey or Duncan Smith. Their apparent lack of understanding is very visible. I don't want to be pitied, I don't consider myself an inspiration, I just consider myself a normal person, with various physical and emotional problems. 

    Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. Dr Seuss.

                         Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to!
  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,469 Disability Gamechanger
     I agree with @SamanthaRenke16. Everything that has happened this year, I have been called an ‘inspiration’. Honestly, as much as I try and accept it as a compliment, i don’t agree with those who say I am. It does make me feel uncomfortable. 
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Posts: 2,733

    Scope community team

    I tend to agree with Robin. If I 'inspire' people to treat and see us as equals then I'm all for that.
    Specialist Information Officer - Cerebral Palsy

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  • Sam_AlumniSam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,731 Disability Gamechanger
    I think it is great to be having these conversations whatever your thoughts :)
    Senior online community officer
  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Member Posts: 421 Pioneering
    How we are perceived is entirely down to the prejudice of the observer. It may be positive or negative but it is not due to something we are doing.
    Is a man facing a firing squad "brave," "inspirational" or "humbling?" Something happened which stripped away all of his choices. Would he not run away from his problems if he possibly could?
    If anyone uses one of those labels on me, I roll my eyes and think (or sometimes say) "WHATEVER."
  • thespicemanthespiceman Member Posts: 6,408 Disability Gamechanger
    Hello I am in the opinion that here we go again more labels.

    Hate labels do not ever understand why .  Should be acceptance of who you are from every body. From all inclusive society.

    That is how it should be unfortunately we are as a community put on a pedestal a podium for all to see.

    Any small achievements we do we are inspiration.  As a community, as a people and human beings.

    How many times do we see this in the media since Para Olympics or other sporting events.

    Surrounding our community. Yet we are ignored and at the other end of the spectrum patronised continuous.

    Had this myself because one time lauded by who ever I met. Usually in social circles in the aspects of business.

    After that my addiction and recovery. Some used it for their own gain and prestige.  Using my story to benefit the charity themselves. The image it portrayed.

    Issues are where are those same people now and am I still want to be inspirational.

    Understand do not and do not feel I am. Yet those same people lauded me and giving me centre stage. Probably walk past me now any way and ignore me totally.

    Community Champion
    SCOPE Volunteer Award Engaging Communities 2019
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  • SociableSeanTBSociableSeanTB Member Posts: 12 Connected
    It's a tricky one... I tend to base my thoughts on who is saying I'm an inspiration/something I have done is inspirational, what this exclamation came from and where they said it.

    If it's someone I know (parent, family member of friend) and they know me well or are speaking about something specific that I have done then I appreciate their words. If it's a stranger on the bus or someone I know less well (and especially if they do so 'publicly' online) then I feel more like a curiosity that people are pointing or gawping at... 
  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,469 Disability Gamechanger
    I agree with you @SociableSeanTB
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,001 Disability Gamechanger
    Really interesting and difficult question. Personally I’ve no issue with people being held up as inspirational as I’ve come across many people who have literally never met anyone with their condition; their issues etc. People who maybe had no clue that certain life options open to them in terms of what they can achieve. To broaden someone’s horizons in that way is a great thing. 

    On the other hand I find the whole idea of inspiration porn a little nauseating and can’t help but agree with much of what @thespiceman says. It’s another label and by definition if you’re not an inspiration then you’re potentially a relative failure. It’s not the best message.

    It’s difficult for charities as they would absolutely want there to be role models for parents and children to see. It becomes problematic when the volume of inspiration is turned up and feels like it’s rammed in your face every week. 

    It also feeds cheap and easy stereotypes in the media. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked to do stuff for BBC and they declined to use my bit in the end because I didn’t fit the stereotype of someone with a visual impairment. It’s very hard to find stories on inspirational people who have invisible impairments. They’re out there but weirdly they’re often female, young and attractive or is that too cynical a view of the media.
  • forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Member Posts: 357 Pioneering
    edited October 2018
    As a non disabled person but parent of disabled young adult, I squirm when I am called inspirational in relation to him and what we have had to fight to get him etc etc.  There is something about that label that ends up being a huge (unwanted) responsibility...I have something people expect me to live up to when all i am doing is being a parent.  It's a little bit like the "mothers of disabled kids are saints" bullshit!
    In talking with disabled people, including my son, I know that most are very uncomfortable with that label too, especially when it is said by non-disabled people about disabled poeple.  My son just wants to get on with his life and he happens to be disabled and a student...he (and we) do not feel that he is there to "inspire" non disabled people.  However I do think there is a case for him being some sort of "inspiration" to other similarly disabled people in that the fact that he has got qualifications and gone to Uni shows others that it is possible. 

  • SociableSeanTBSociableSeanTB Member Posts: 12 Connected
    @forgoodnesssake I agree that I am more likely to be ok with the word being used if it comes from someone who is going through the same or similar things to me. If I can inspire or encourage someone to take ownership of their situation and lose the shame or fear, then that's why I blog and why I have opened up to the world. When it's used in the media or online to isolate the disabled person or highlight the 'other' or how they are different, that's when I have issues. 
  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Member Posts: 421 Pioneering
    It actually sounds rather patronising to me. A bit like "aww bless the plucky little cripple for not giving up." >:)
  • JennysDadJennysDad Member Posts: 2,308 Pioneering
    Perhaps calling somebody inspirational is too often merely a cop out. Words are easy, saying nice things is easy, but neither is of much practical use.
    It doesn't help that the most inspirational people (if such exist) are likely to be the most modest anyway and therefore the most uncomfortable with praise.
    I don't know if I've ever been called inspirational - I don't remember it - but I do remember people's expressions of awe and admiration for the way I took care of my daughter. The problem is, of course, that I DID NOT have a choice. We do, very often, that which we have to do, and it is hard to take credit for that.
  • GarzaGarza Member Posts: 119 Pioneering
    I don't personally see what I do as inspirational, just me getting on with my day to day activities but looking at it from the other persons view I can see how some things I have achieved may seem so to them 

  • cmcicmci Member Posts: 36 Connected
    Like many I don't see myself as 'inspirational' but I do often wonder what 'inspirational' means to the people who accuse me of it.  I believe I enjoy my life and get on with it accepting the high and lows like anybody else.  But that's easy to say when I have a good, supportive family, I'm not in pain and the illness, although progressive, is slow burning. 
  • victoriafinneyvictoriafinney Member Posts: 22 Connected
    I keep being called "inspiring" because I am a pain sufferer who wears a smile. 
    I keep being called "inspiring" because my child is sick and I parent and support despite my own problems.
    I am not inspiring. I am surviving.
    I am not a fetish.
  • cmcicmci Member Posts: 36 Connected
    I I hate "you're so inspiring" comments - what am I being accused of? I'm living my life like everybody else but I get to do it seated!  
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