Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Disability 101: The PWD as "Brave" or "Inspiring" Trope

What’s wrong with telling a PWD/person with a chronic illness or disability that they are “brave” or “inspiring”? It’s meant to be a compliment!

The notion of PWDs/the chronically ill or pained as “brave” is a stereotype. It may be a positive stereotype, but that does not mean that it is not also limiting to many PWDs. Many people with disabilities and/or chronic health issues are just trying to live their lives, and do not need to be constantly told that they are “inspiring” because they can do things that many able-bodied people take for granted. This stereotype also reinforces the “Supercrip” trope, in which the PWD is viewed as superhumanly awesome and as able to do things that are amazing all of the time, or as somehow amazing for doing everyday tasks.

The “brave”/Supercrip trope, if used, may strip PWDs/the chronically ill of their humanity, and may make them feel like you are reducing them to a stereotype for your own inspiration instead of actually treating them like fellow human beings. Some people who have disabilities, chronic illness, or pain do not want be heroes from whom able-bodied people can gather “inspiration,” particularly when it is at the expense of their own subjectivity. Remember that bravery or the capacity to inspire others is not based solely on one’s physical, emotional or mental ability/abilities, or lack thereof. None of us—-able-bodied or disabled—-can be brave, awesome or inspiring all of the time.

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