Claire and her service dog

What I Want You to Understand About the 'Supercrip' Stereotype


I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for awhile now. It’s an intriguing concept in the disability world. But it is also something that has been salient in my own life as of late.

Let me back up. I took the Pennsylvania bar this summer. Well, I found out last month that I unfortunately did not pass. Understandably, I was upset. I worked so hard. But more than being upset, I felt, or rather, still feel embarrassed. I felt like a failure. Why didn’t I pass.

But why?

Why should I feel like a failure? I graduated from law school. And not passing the bar is a perfectly normal thing. John F. Kennedy Jr. didn’t pass the bar the first time. True story.

So what does this have to do with disability culture?

I think a large reason for my shame comes from the idea of being a “supercrip.”

Supercrip is this stereotype that has formed around many people with disabilities. People look at us as these inspirational models. Wow, look at Claire, she is blind but she still went to law school. That’s amazing! One of the bar prep professors this summer announced in front of everyone that she was impressed that I had went to law school and was studying for the bar. People see us as these inspirational stories to gawk at.

Also, people see the supercrip as superhuman. If you have a disability in one area, then you more than make up for it in all other ways. If you are blind, you have superhuman hearing and can hear a pin drop from a mile away. In high school, I often felt pressure to be the supercrip. Because I was the only blind student in my honors classes, I felt like I had to work super hard to prove that blind students could do well in school too.

But let me tell you. It’s exhausting. Why should I have to be superhuman? Why must I prove that beyond my disability I am some superhero. I mean, I like Daredevil and all, but there is a reason Matt Murdock is found in comic books, not in real life.

But let’s get real. Yes, persons with disabilities can do anything persons without disabilities can do. If you know me, you know I believe that with all my heart. I have a friend who is also blind who is working on his PhD in chemistry.

But don’t look at him as a supercrip. He has faced numerous obstacles in the pursuit of that PhD, both as a result of his disability and a result of society.

Having a disability still presents obstacles. I read Braille, and no matter how well I read Braille, it will always take me longer to read then my sighted peers. So when I took the bar in Braille, I was always going to face that challenge.

Being blind presents its challenges. I’m not saying this to elicit pity. If you know me, you know that is the last thing I would ever want to do.

No, I’m just trying to debunk the supercrip stereotype. Sometimes in life, I am just going to face some challenges that are unique to my disability. Many blind attorneys I know had to take the bar more than once because in reality, it’s just harder for us, it just is.

I didn’t pass the bar, and I’m fairly certain my blindness played a large role. It’s just the reality. But I shouldn’t be embarrassed about that.

But I don’t have to put on my supercrip cape and overcome every obstacle just to prove that having a disability doesn’t make some things in life a little bit more difficult.

Am I making sense? Please let me know if I’m not making sense.

So let me summarize the moral of the post. Stop thinking that people with disabilities need to be these inspirational icons who can overcome anything and everything. Yes, people with disabilities do some pretty bad-ass things all the time. But we also face obstacles. Lets stop thinking it’s either or, that you either can’t do anything or you can do everything.

Signing Off,

  An Unseen Perspective

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