I have a rather ambiguous and complicated thought process when it comes to celebrities with disabilities, specifically blindness. I love their accomplishments – Kayaking the Colorado River, traveling around the world on a motorcycle, safely exiting the World Trade Center on 9/11, inventing an alphabet so that other blind people could read and write, or being one of the best-known musicians of all time – for the ability to allow all blind and sighted alike to dream big, defy seemingly insurmountable odds, and battle fear, the elements, and forces beyond their control. But I think their celebrity can sometimes do unintended harm to those of us who simply wish to belong.
What about those of us who live the seemingly ordinary life? Are our careers, marriages, families, hobbies, hopes and dreams any less valuable to society? I would argue that, in our ordinariness, we are just as valuable as those who make huge contributions in literacy, sport, or the arts. As much as I hate to admit it, our desire to succeed is an “inspiration” to many (“If the blind girl can get a good job, marry, or have children, then what’s my excuse?”) Conversely, I am often asked if all blind people sing like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, or display remarkable courage, or – on the other end of the spectrum – are socially awkward, or need someone to care-take us. Today I saw a blog post following up this previous blog entry, and I love the lively debates that posts such as this, and their follow-up engender.
All blind people are different, just as all sighted people are different, and few if any of us wish to be viewed as inspirational. On one hand, we are commended (primarily by a sighted public) for doing what we would consider ordinary tasks and criticized (especially by “super blind people“) for not doing more.
So, are we inspirational for doing inspirational things? By living our ordinary lives? By simply being content? Does blindness in and of itself make us – me – inspiring? I can’t say I have all the answers; perhaps you, my ever-enlightened readers, can help me out. But for now, I have to go back to my ordinary job, text my ordinary husband a “Have a great afternoon!”, and be thankful every day for my ordinary – inspirational? – life.