Why Having a Disability Doesn’t Make Me a Superhero


How often have we read stories or seen video clips of people with disabilities doing amazing, “superhuman” things? There are blind mountain climbers, people with mobility impairments swimming great lengths and amputees running faster than anyone ever thought possible. Stories like these can bring awareness to a cause and therefore create a wonderful amount of support for said cause. These news stories can portray the positive message that people with disabilities can do great things.

But while there are benefits to running these kinds of stories, there is also a cost. I believe the price we pay for sensationalizing these people is that we send a message to people with disabilities and the general public that being a superhero is the ideal way to “be disabled.”

These truly are amazing acts, but not just because the person doing them has a disability. Having known some of the people who have done these things, I feel I can say that what makes these people noteworthy is their perseverance and passion for what they’re doing. As with most athletes or leaders in other fields, what got them there is their desire to reach their goal and to continue to strive for it even in the midst of hardship. If we place our focus on the disability, I think we miss the point entirely. It takes patience, courage and determination to set any large goal and reach it. We sell ourselves short when we assume that unless our goal is going to capture the attention of the national news media, then not only are our goals not worthy, but this can lead to the feeling that we ourselves are not worthy.

I’m not suggesting people hide their accomplishments or avoid celebrating reaching some seemingly unsurmountable goal. I do think, however, that we should help direct the conversation surrounding these things in a way that points to the hard work and tenacity involved over the focus on the disability. Otherwise, we’re adding to the stigma.

Most people with disabilities, just like most people without disabilities, won’t do these things — not because they physically can’t, but because it isn’t their passion or desire to do so. This doesn’t mean their contribution is any less important or necessary.

The reality is I haven’t done any of those “superhuman” things.  Like so many others, I have a disability, but I am also a mother, wife, teacher and so many other things. But I’m not a superhero, nor do I aspire to be one. I’m “enough” as I am. I’m embracing my life and striving to live and parent from a place of authenticity and wholeheartedness.

If you have a disability and are going about your day-to-day life, you are “enough.”

RaLynn and her family on the beach

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