This post started life as an observation on Twitter, which ended up being a little wordier than I anticipated. I was asked to expand on my thoughts so here we are! I do want to add that I know this is an incredibly emotive subject and I’m genuinely not intending to upset anyone with my views, these are purely my thoughts on how I feel.
Whilst watching coverage of the Paralympics last week I saw this amazing tribute to Alex Zanardi, Italy’s racing driver turned hand cyclist, by Alex Brooker. It was one of the most moving things I’ve watched in a long time and well worth watching it if you haven’t already. On seeing how emotional he got and how inspired he was by both his spirit and achievements brought me back to an article I read the previous week. The article stated that we shouldn’t use the word inspirational when talking about people with disability, yet the image used in the article was of a Paralympic athlete.
I really struggled with this concept. If we can call an Olympic athlete inspirational why can we not call a Paralympic athlete inspirational? Athletes competing at these events are at their highest level so why should we not celebrate their achievements and be inspired by them.
Of course this doesn’t just apply to athletes. Anybody who has chased their dreams and put in all their energy to achieve them deserves respect in my view. For example someone who has successfully set their own business up or written a book deserve to be called an inspiration. To me it makes absolutely no difference if they are able bodied or not.
Now I know that disability throws far more complex issues into the mix than I could ever hope to understand as an able bodied person. It’s also not possible for everyone to achieve that level of greatness. Some of us, myself included, are just who we are, we get by just doing our thing.
That brings me back to the article, surely if someone finds another person inspirational then that is someone’s personal point of view and is acceptable, I can’t see why it makes any difference if that person it able bodied or not. However, if we’re saying that we can’t find someone inspirational because they’re disabled sits very uncomfortably with me. Does this mean I can’t find my own mother an inspiration? By saying that doesn’t it automatically put disabled people in a position of being second class citizens? Surely this is exactly the attitude society is finally starting to move away from, although there is still a long way to go with that one!