The disabled person as “inspiration” trope (think Christopher Reeve) is so overused it’s ridiculous. Most people with disabilities don’t want to be an inspiration for others. We simply want to live our lives as normally as possible, just like anyone else.
Still, the “Inspirational Cripple” Will. Not. Die. It probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially after the spectacularly successful 2012 Paralympics in London last year. Thus, we have this profile of Rachel Kroener, U.S. Paralympic Female Field Athlete of the Year.
Video transcribed to the best of my ability
Rachel: I’m Rachel Kroener, i’m fifteen, I have cerebral palsy, but it’s never stopped me from doing anything. Wheelchair basketball has impacted my life so much, like it’s made me so independent. I really want to go to the Paralympics. It’s given me that chance. I’ve met so many amazing people and I’ve made so many friends from wheelchair basketball. I’ve always been really determined. I’ve never let my disability stop me from doing anything. Like for me, your disability limits you to a chair but your chair doesn’t limit you. Only your attitude can. So this year I found out I got the 2012 Female Paralympic Field Athlete of the Year. I felt so honored. I didn’t even know that was out there.
Female teammate: She helps people get better, on and off the court
Male teammate: [I had a hard time hearing him... we'll just say it was inaudible, ok?]
Coach: She looks not just to play with kids her age but looks to challenge herself against the adults and always wants to push the boundaries just a little bit farther. As a child with a disability, a lot of people don’t expect much. She has that internal drive that most great athletes have to push herself beyond what others expect of her and sometimes beyond maybe what she expects of herself.
Rachel: If I’m going to be an inspiration, I don’t want to be an inspiration because I’m in a chair. I really want people to [inaudible] and do something meaningful with their life.
I love this profile of Rachel not because it’s “inspirational” but it’s so normal. Yes, the word “inspiration” is thrown around, but otherwise, Rachel is shown as a talented, accomplished athlete – who happens to have a disability. Most importantly, she is shown as a normal high school girl excited about friends, sports and new opportunities.