Disability, Opinion, TedTalks

Feature Friday: I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much!

Earlier this week, when I asked my uncle to review my CV (he used to work at IBM), he told me to include the fact that I’m an ambassador for the autistic community.

In response, he gave me a link to a Ideas.Ted.com blog post regarding the late Stella Young’s 2014 Ted Talk I watched way back then (see at the bottom of this post). I wrote a little comment about it underneath at the time, and promptly forgot about it.

Six years later, I’m surprised to find that my words got included in the blog as a Smart Comment. This is what I wrote:

“As a deaf autistic, I had problems with people calling me an inspiration when I was younger. All I was really trying to do was to get along in a world where disability is not the norm. I know that I won’t survive if I don’t!

I remember telling people when I went into my first degree — a music degree — to not give me special treatment and to treat me like everyone else. “Objects of inspiration” is a very good way to explain it, and indeed it is a lie that everyone is being told disability is an injustice. I feel that how others treat us is actually the major injustice. I have even been told that I am ‘cured’ because I have a Masters, and because I manage to socialize with people!

From my experience, I have found that people either treat us as an inspiration or they don’t want to know and push us out of the world. I find these two extremes really difficult, and it makes life hard. Like Stella Young, I wish that there was a world that disability was the norm.”

Andraea Zambakides wrote this in response to Stella Young’s TED Talk, I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much

While my writing skills and gramma has improved now, I still stand by those words. Furthermore, I’m honoured to have my words included in such a great platform as TED.

As I watch the video again, I do agree that this lie that society has put out there that disability is a Bad Thing and that whatever we do is exceptional. It’s really shouldn’t be.

I hate it when people call me an inspiration.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, inspiration is “something or someone that gives you ideas for doing something” or a “sudden good idea”. As far as I can see, I don’t see those people who say I’m an inspiration to make any positive change to their lives. They just say as they are, and that defeats the purpose of what inspiration is supposed to do!

As Stella (God rest her soul) said, “inspiration porn” is objectifying the disabled people to make the non-disabled people feel better about their lives. This does need to stop. Us disabled people – who have plenty of ability, mind you! – are just going about how daily lives and trying to navigate a disability-hostile society.

It isn’t our life’s purpose to serve inspiration to others.

Just like Stella, I want a world where disability is not the exception, but the norm, and where we value genuine achievement for disabled people.


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