Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.
Can inspiration be a bad thing? That is a really good question. Let's see if I can shed some light on it, particularly in the area of people with disabilities. You see, people with disabilities are viewed as being an inspiration to others, simply because they have a disability. One would think with all that goes on in the life of a person living with a disability that being seen as an inspiration to others would be a welcomed experience. Well, for many people with disabilities, including myself, it just may not be welcomed.
Can I Have Fries With That?
One of the things I have enjoyed tremendously in my life is training both my daughter and son to play sports; my daughter, softball, and my son, baseball and basketball. My daughter is 21 now and has moved on with other life challenges. So now it is just my 15 year old son who loves basketball. I love our times together and I am inspired by his growth in learning the game of basketball. He has developed his game quite well. One night we were on our way home after a hard practice and, like always, he was hungry so we pulled into Wendy's. I quickly placed our orders at the first window and we then went to the second window to pick up our food. When I realized I had forgotten about my french fries, I asked the lady in the window as I handed her my credit card, "Can I have fries with that?". I then asked my son to come up to the car window to get the food. As I continued to look at her, I saw her head tilting to the side and with puppy dog eyes that almost shed a tear, she let out an "aaaaah" and then told me how inspired she was by me. I smiled at her, gathered our food and drove off.
Now, I have been a person with a disability for over 38 years and I had thought that I had conquered the bad feelings I got when this happens. Still I drove away feeling lousy, wanting to tell my son I am more then what the lady saw. I am much more then my disability!!
Myth #6: All persons with disabilities are an inspiration to others in society.
Reality: All people with disabilities should not be a source of inspiration to others in society just because of their disabilities or because of what people without disabilities think they know about people with disabilities.
In this real life situation with my son, this lady saw me as an inspiration just for doing something fathers do every day - I was just spending time with my son and buying a meal. These everyday things should not inspire anyone because then the only difference becomes, ‘I was a person with a disability doing it so then it becomes something extraordinary, an inspiration to all, something to be marveled’.
This kind of inspiration is steeped in pity and people with disabilities want nothing to do with that. People with disabilities see it all the time in the media and on posters, people with disabilities doing ordinary things and then being used to inspire others.
If I am to be a true inspiration to you at least know my story; know something more about me then just seeing that I have a physical disability. Don't be inspired by me just because I am buying my son a hamburger with fries.