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The Word That's Losing Its Meaning in My Life With a Disability

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Inspiration. What does this word mean? It’s one of the highest compliments you can receive as a person — unless it’s overused or used for the wrong reasons. To say you are inspiration to a person is to let them know you have touched their life in one way or another, and that is something special. Because of this, I believe the word inspiration should not be thrown around lightly.

As a person with a disability, I hear this word so often that it is starting to lose its actual meaning. I feel as though people use this word as a qualifier rather than a compliment when talking to a person with a disability. My favorite example of this is when someone says, “It’s so great that you are out in public doing things; you’re such an inspiration!” What is that supposed to mean? To me when someone uses the word inspiration in this way, it loses its meaning. I don’t want to be an inspiration for doing everyday things; I want to be an inspiration because one day I’m going to be an author and a sportscaster. I want to be an inspiration because I’m going to change the world, not just for living in it.

I know when someone says “inspiration,” their heart is in the right place. I just wish they would use it with more care. When used in the wrong context, the word inspiration can sound as if a person with a disability isn’t equal to a person without one. This can be quite patronizing. The word inspiration is very personal. Please take extra care when deciding to use it.

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Thinkstock photo by George Doyle.

Originally published: February 28, 2017
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