Disabled Inspirational Speakers Bother Me

Published: May 21, 2017

I really don’t like disabled inspirational speakers. I know it sounds mean somehow, but it’s true. They seriously bother me. I think it has to do with two main factors: The fact that most (if not all) of their speeches seem to revolve around the idea of “Look at me! Up Here! So Successful! So Disabled! What’s your excuse?”And the fact that a massive portion of their speeches get delivered to mostly (if not completely) able‐bodiedaudiences. Their entire message seems to revolve around the concept of “I am more damaged / disadvantaged than you are and I have achieved something cool (being invited to be on stage in front of an audience, I guess?), so why haven’t you succeeded yet, able‐bodied person who is better off / less damaged than I am?”

Now, before you go accusing me of being unduly critical or harsh, take a look at other kinds of inspirational speakers out there. For example, inspirational speakers that work with at‐risk youth. These speakers:

A). Were often at‐risk youth themselves.

B). Overcame their situation in a way that could be followed or emulated by their target audience.

C).Often give speeches to crowds composed of at‐risk youth.

This is awesome. Speakers like that give at‐risk youth a chance to be inspired by someone who has dealt with and overcome many of the obstacles they are currently facing.

Contrast that with a lot of disabled speakers I’ve seen and you get a guy in a wheelchair sitting on stage making a bunch of able‐bodied people think “Hey, if that poor bastard can so much as dress himself in the morning, what’s my excuse? So inspirational!”

You know what would make disabled inspirational speakers suck less? If they:

A). Had a cool job beyond inspirational speaking that their target audience could be inspired to strive for.

B). Were put in front of an audience composed of other disabled people.

I would have loved to have sat in on a talk about self‐actualization or whatever given by a disabled person when I was a kid. It would have been fucking amazing to have someone I could look up to who was just like me.

Instead, disabled inspirational speakers get paraded in front of able‐bodied audiences for a live inspiration‐porn TED talk.