Being inspirational

I (finally) got round to writing a post about how problematic being called inspirational is for disabled people. It seemed timely with today being the start of the Rio Paralympics.

But then I saw this video:

and saw that journalist (and supporter of Shoddy) Frances Ryan had beaten me to it!

Being called inspiring or inspirational has been on my mind as I’d recently returned some monitoring information for one of Shoddy’s funders and I’d been re-reading feedback from the exhibition. People had been incredibly positive in their comments and feedback, saying things like:

The art on show was really good. It was attractive and also hard hitting – it showed disabled people are capable of high levels of creativity.

Great artwork – not amateurish. Very insightful.

Great pieces on display, some of the highest quality I’ve seen anywhere.

Comments also included

Thought provoking and inspiring at once!

Also inspired – so many talented artists

Great exhibition with very interesting & inspiring pieces of art.

After thought provoking, inspiring was the word that cropped up most often – along with beautiful, fantastic and awesome, I might add.

shoddy-comments-wordcloudBut, rather than seeing this as a problem for Shoddy, I take this as an affirmation.  The artists who took part in the project produced fantastic, beautiful, awesome work which was inspirational to many of the visitors to the exhibition. Art regularly inspires and influences people – to create, to learn and discover, to take action, to change.  Everyone involved in Shoddy should take the compliments and be proud of what we achieved.

We are not inspirational merely because we are disabled people. The high quality of our work and our achievement in creating a strong and diverse exhibition, however, are worthy of praise. Many people have said what a fantastic project this has been and it’s great if some have been inspired by it. If you were one of these people, I’d like to hear what you were inspired to do!

But this is a word that needs to be used very carefully. Along with brave and special (and some outright insulting terms), inspiration is regularly listed amongst disabled people’s least favourite words. It can be insulting and patronising, and is often a result of low expectations.

I’ll end with another video, as nobody explains this better than Stella Young in her TED talk, “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much”.



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