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  • I grew up in a very small country town

  • in Victoria.

  • I had a very normal, low-key kind of upbringing.

  • I went to school, I hung out with my friends,

  • I fought with my younger sisters.

  • It was all very normal.

  • And when I was 15, a member of my local community

  • approached my parents

  • and wanted to nominate me

  • for a community achievement award.

  • And my parents said, "Hm, that's really nice,

  • but there's kind of one glaring problem with that.

  • She hasn't actually achieved anything." (Laughter)

  • And they were right, you know.

  • I went to school, I got good marks,

  • I had a very low-key after school job

  • in my mum's hairdressing salon,

  • and I spent a lot of time watching

  • "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek."

  • Yeah, I know. What a contradiction.

  • But they were right, you know.

  • I wasn't doing anything that was out of the ordinary

  • at all.

  • I wasn't doing anything that could be considered an achievement

  • if you took disability out of the equation.

  • Years later, I was on my second teaching round

  • in a Melbourne high school,

  • and I was about 20 minutes into a year 11 legal studies class

  • when this boy put up his hand and said,

  • "Hey miss, when are you going to start doing your speech?"

  • And I said, "What speech?"

  • You know, I'd been talking them

  • about defamation law for a good 20 minutes.

  • And he said, "You know, like,

  • your motivational speaking.

  • You know, when people in wheelchairs come to school,

  • they usually say, like, inspirational stuff?"

  • (Laughter)

  • "It's usually in the big hall."

  • And that's when it dawned on me:

  • This kid had only ever experienced disabled people

  • as objects of inspiration.

  • We are not, to this kid --

  • and it's not his fault, I mean,

  • that's true for many of us.

  • For lots of us, disabled people are not our teachers

  • or our doctors or our manicurists.

  • We're not real people. We are there to inspire.

  • And in fact, I am sitting on this stage

  • looking like I do in this wheelchair,

  • and you are probably kind of expecting me

  • to inspire you. Right? (Laughter)

  • Yeah.

  • Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid

  • I'm going to disappoint you dramatically.

  • I am not here to inspire you.

  • I am here to tell you that we have been lied to

  • about disability.

  • Yeah, we've been sold the lie

  • that disability is a Bad Thing, capital B, capital T.

  • It's a bad thing, and to live with a disability

  • makes you exceptional.

  • It's not a bad thing, and it doesn't

  • make you exceptional.

  • And in the past few years, we've been able

  • to propagate this lie even further

  • via social media.

  • You may have seen images like this one:

  • "The only disability in life is a bad attitude."

  • Or this one: "Your excuse is invalid." Indeed.

  • Or this one: "Before you quit, try!"

  • These are just a couple of examples,

  • but there are a lot of these images out there.

  • You know, you might have seen the one,

  • the little girl with no hands

  • drawing a picture with a pencil held in her mouth.

  • You might have seen a child running

  • on carbon fiber prosthetic legs.

  • And these images,

  • there are lots of them out there,

  • they are what we call inspiration porn.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I use the term porn deliberately,

  • because they objectify one group of people

  • for the benefit of another group of people.

  • So in this case, we're objectifying disabled people

  • for the benefit of nondisabled people.

  • The purpose of these images

  • is to inspire you, to motivate you,

  • so that we can look at them

  • and think, "Well, however bad my life is,

  • it could be worse.

  • I could be that person."

  • But what if you are that person?

  • I've lost count of the number of times that I've

  • been approached by strangers

  • wanting to tell me that they think I'm brave

  • or inspirational,

  • and this was long before my work

  • had any kind of public profile.

  • They were just kind of congratulating me

  • for managing to get up in the morning

  • and remember my own name. (Laughter)

  • And it is objectifying.

  • These images, those images

  • objectify disabled people

  • for the benefit of nondisabled people.

  • They are there so that you can look at them

  • and think that things aren't so bad for you,

  • to put your worries into perspective.

  • And life as a disabled person

  • is actually somewhat difficult.

  • We do overcome some things.

  • But the things that we're overcoming

  • are not the things that you think they are.

  • They are not things to do with our bodies.

  • I use the term "disabled people" quite deliberately,

  • because I subscribe to what's called the social model of disability,

  • which tells us that we are more disabled

  • by the society that we live in

  • than by our bodies and our diagnoses.

  • So I have lived in this body a long time.

  • I'm quite fond of it.

  • It does the things that I need it to do,

  • and I've learned to use it to the best of its capacity

  • just as you have,

  • and that's the thing about those kids in those pictures as well.

  • They're not doing anything out of the ordinary.

  • They are just using their bodies

  • to the best of their capacity.

  • So is it really fair to objectify them

  • in the way that we do,

  • to share those images?

  • People, when they say, "You're an inspiration,"

  • they mean it as a compliment.

  • And I know why it happens.

  • It's because of the lie, it's because we've been sold

  • this lie that disability makes you exceptional.

  • And it honestly doesn't.

  • And I know what you're thinking.

  • You know, I'm up here bugging out inspiration,

  • and you're thinking, "Jeez, Stella,

  • aren't you inspired sometimes by some things?"

  • And the thing is, I am.

  • I learn from other disabled people all the time.

  • I'm learning not that I am luckier than them, though.

  • I am learning that it's a genius idea

  • to use a pair of barbecue tongs

  • to pick up things that you dropped. (Laughter)

  • I'm learning that nifty trick where you can charge

  • your mobile phone battery from your chair battery.

  • Genius.

  • We are learning from each others' strength and endurance,

  • not against our bodies and our diagnoses,

  • but against a world that exceptionalizes

  • and objectifies us.

  • I really think that this lie that we've been sold

  • about disability is the greatest injustice.

  • It makes life hard for us.

  • And that quote, "The only disability in life

  • is a bad attitude,"

  • the reason that that's bullshit

  • is because it's just not true,

  • because of the social model of disability.

  • No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs

  • has ever made it turn into a ramp.

  • Never. (Laughter) (Applause)

  • Smiling at a television screen

  • isn't going to make closed captions appear

  • for people who are deaf.

  • No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshop

  • and radiating a positive attitude

  • is going to turn all those books into braille.

  • It's just not going to happen.

  • I really want to live in a world

  • where disability is not the exception, but the norm.

  • I want to live in a world where a 15-year-old girl

  • sitting in her bedroom

  • watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

  • isn't referred to as achieving anything

  • because she's doing it sitting down.

  • I want to live in a world

  • where we don't have such low expectations

  • of disabled people

  • that we are congratulated for getting out of bed

  • and remembering our own names in the morning.

  • I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement

  • for disabled people,

  • and I want to live in a world

  • where a kid in year 11 in a Melbourne high school

  • is not one bit surprised

  • that his new teacher is a wheelchair user.

  • Disability doesn't make you exceptional,

  • but questioning what you think you know about it does.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I grew up in a very small country town

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【TED】Stella Young: I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much (I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much | Stella Young)

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    Tina Cheng posted on 2014/07/02
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