“Inspiration exploitation” uses people with disabilities as a source of inspiration. It conveys that someone with a disability is motivating just because they have a disability. People with disabilities seem to become inspiring and brave just by doing things people without disabilities do.
My son has a disability. He uses a wheelchair. He uses a computer to talk. He needs help to access things around him. He’s a pretty cool kid. But he is not a hero just because he has a disability.
Sure, he’s brave, and he’s strong. He’s been through a lot in his short life. But this is his life. What other choice does he have? He is not here to inspire others or make them feel better about their own life. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person, especially a child.
We all have different issues. And we all have struggles in life. Inspiration exploitation is a problem. It assumes that the lives of people with disabilities are so much worse than the rest of us. It uses people with disabilities. It uses them to make people without disabilities feel good about themselves.
It can also be used to guilt people into trying harder. An example of this would be a photo of a person with a disability with a quote saying something like, “What’s your excuse?”
I’m all for celebrating when people do inspiring things. But there is nothing inspiring about a child or a person sitting in a wheelchair. If we believe that someone is inspiring because they use a wheelchair, then we are thinking that that person’s life must be horrible because they have a disability. That is a huge assumption and far from the truth.
Having a disability might be hard, but it doesn’t mean life is awful. My son has a very happy life– wheelchair, disability, and all. He is not here to be an inspiration. He’s here to live life like everyone else.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.