Over the past few days there’s been a lot of talk online about inspiring women. Looking at the discussions has been very interesting. At the same time I wondered “where are the disabled people?”
Disabled people don’t want to be known as inspirational simply because of our disabilities. That’s extremely patronising (even when it’s as well meant as it often is) and is often known as inspiration porn. See this post from my own blog or S.E. Smith’s piece Disabled people are not your inspiration for more on that. Possibly the word influential would work better than inspirational.
So this is my list of ten inspiring disabled people. Inspiring not for what they are but for who they are and what they do. It’s just my opinion and it might be controversial. I’m pretty sure others will have different names they’d have included (I can guess at one or two I suspect) and I’d be interested to hear suggestions.
Tanni Grey-Thompson: former Paralympian and now cross bencher in the House of Lords trying to use her experience to help disabled and disadvantaged people. Also active (and approachable) on twitter where she often shares stories of accessibility gone wrong and how she copes with that. Those stories often ring true for me but sometimes seem to shock nondisabled people and make them (I hope) more aware.
Geoff Holt: disability sports ambassador and sailor. In 2007 he sailed around the UK in a Challenger a 15 foot dinghy (trimaran) designed to be sailed independently by disabled people. Sailing is one of my hobbies and I sail a Challenger. They are a lot of fun but you’re pretty exposed, your balance gets a work out and a good sail is a wet sail! I love it but I wouldn’t have the nerve to sail it anywhere other than a sailing club in relatively safe conditions. In 2010 he became the first quadriplegic to cross the Atlantic unassisted in the sailing.
DH Kelly: Blogger and writer more commonly known online as The Goldfish. For the past right years has hosted Blogging Against Disabilism Day every 1st May. I’ve written about that on Bea previously.
Adam Hills: comedian and TV presenter, probably best know in the UK for hosting The Last Leg which originally started during the 2012 Paralympics. I’ve seen him live twice and he’s hilarious. Open about the fact he’s an amputee he’s not afraid to talk or joke about it and gets the audience laughing too. The “is it ok?” part of The Last Leg deserves a mention too for breaking down barriers.
Dave Hingsburger: Works in the disability field teaching and lecturing on a variety of topics including abuse prevention to both disabled people and carers. Became disabled a few years ago and writes a popular and hard hitting blog about his experiences. I particularly find the posts he writes about how his work with disabled people has changed now he’s disabled himself interesting.
Helen Keller: I was a bit unsure about including her on this list because a lot of the many interpretations of her story are bordering on inspiration porn. But as a writer, speaker and political activist who campaigned on many issues as well as disability her contribution to the disability movement needs to be recognised. She played a minor role in my own life as the first famous disabled person (and most importantly activist/advocate) I learned about as a young teen.
Francesca Martinez: Comedian and actress who has appeared on shows including Holby City and Grange Hill. Launched the War on Welfare campaign last year (more commonly referred to as the WOW petition) calling for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions. Currently the petition has almost 52k signatures and there is also a forum where people can find support and friendship as well as contribute to the campaign.
Hannah Ensor: OK so given that Hannah and I have been friends for years I might be a bit biased here. Illustrator and author she uses her stickman products to raise awareness and educate about disability in general and her conditions in particular. Tries to show that disability is ok and that having one just means you are “differently normal.”
Ruby Wax: comedian, interviewer and mental health advocate. Did a really awesome TED talk on having depression and the fact that one in four of us will be affected by mental illness in our lifetime. Also launched a social network – black dog tribe – to provide support to those with mental ill health.
Stephen Hawking: internationally known scientist and writer. Also played himself in a cameo in Star Trek: The Next Generation and famously claimed to be working on warp drive. Took part in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games. I was at the ceremony and may have had a bit of a geek fan girl attack when I heard he’d be there.