Where some are quite open about the nature of their disability and the challenges and advantages it can bring, others argue that just because they have received a medical diagnosis, doesn’t mean they should be compelled to share their personal stories as some kind of human motivational tool.

Even the word ‘disability’ itself can inadvertently cause a verbal eruption depending on each party’s individual experiences.

However, the one word one sure to see sparks fly among those living with disability is the term ‘inspirational’.

It’s a word frequently bandied about in the sports sector, where often anyone who makes a representative team is labelled as such.
But the title doesn’t sit as comfortably with many involved in disability culture.  

Stella's Story

Disability advocate Stella Young confronted this topic directly almost a decade ago when she gave a TED Talk titled, “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much”.  

In her talk, which can be accessed online here, Stella cited an occasion when she was nominated for an achievement award at just 15 years of age. In her own words Stella says at the time she wasn’t doing anything that could be considered an achievement – if you took disability out of the equation.

Instead Stella, who was later inducted posthumously onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in recognition of her work as a journalist, comedian, feminist and disability activist, argued the non-disabled have been sold the lie that to live with disability makes you exceptional.

As with everyone non-disabled, she says most of those living with disability are just using their bodies and their brains to the best of their capacity in the only way they know how, and shouldn’t be given an award – metaphorical or not - for doing so.

Instead of being applauded for “remembering their own name” as Stella so eloquently put it, she says she would rather live in a world where genuine achievement is valued.

 The Term

Yet not everyone is opposed to the term.

Some of those living with disability do consider themselves exceptional.

While they may not have saved any lives, won any world titles or founded a business that made millions, they fully embrace both the word and the concept that they could be viewed as being inspiring simply for getting up each day and facing the world head on.