We folks with disabilities sometimes cynically call a person like [Stephen Hawking] a ‘supercrip’. Most of our images of disability come from myth and media and are stereotyped and extreme: pitiful victim at one end, supercrip at the other. We need many more models to choose from. Most people whose disability are as severe as Hawking’s live in poverty; many are locked away in institutions—out of sight, out of mind—leaving the rest of us with the ignorant assumption that a disabled life is not worth living, that it is, by definition, tragic.
The metaphor of flying is common in literature and poetry written by people who can’t walk; to transcend gravity is the fantasy, the dream. It’s what I feel when I sail or drive Gladys in high gear. I love the idea of the spirit soaring, transcending the limitations of the body. Hawking does just that; his passion for life refuses to surrender to his body’s paralysis.
The image of Hawking and his irrepressible grin stays with me. I wouldn’t have chosen to have a stroke and live the rest of my life as I am now, but it’s what I’ve been dealt and I’m pleased with myself for making the best of it. While I don’t want to idealize bad luck, we are more than our bodies, and there’s more than one way to fly. (p. 90 – 91)
“Most people, feminists included,” she (Theresia Dagener a lawyer and radical activist in Germany) says, ‘just cannot imagine disability as a neutral condition, which is not necessarily linked with suffering or with happiness…Choosing to abort a disabled fetus is based on prejudice, the same as choosing to abort because the fetus is female. The problem is the lack of social support for people with disabilities and their families. The solution is to change society, not to eliminate people with disabilities. Disability is a part of human life; whether from illness, accidents, aging, environmental causes or genetic differences…People with disabilities have unique perspectives on the meaning of human life.’ (p. 333 – 334)
I wrote in response to the book…
I need you to know that I am capable—even when I show my inability.
I need you to have faith that I will be able to pick myself up when I fall.
I need you to let me show you what I’m capable of—before you help me.
I need you to shout at the top of your lungs, “Yes you can! If not now—some day. If not without me—with me.
I need you to believe in me. Even when, especially when, I don’t.
What I’m mediating on…
Define the terms.
Is one better than the other? Does society value one over the other? Why?
How am I able? How am I disabled? How do I feel about this?
How do I use my abilities to serve myself/others? How do I use my disability to serve myself/others?
For more information about my disability, please view the excellent documentary: Journey Into Dyslexia