If you are in public any amount of time and have any kind of disability, you will undoubtedly get the “You are so amazing” speech. Usually this is followed up with some kind of statement like I could never do what you do, I don’t know how you do it, etc. Different people react to this type of thing differently. I generally respond politely and shrug it off, knowing that the people making these comments don’t mean any harm. Some are hurt by such comments, and while I don’t waste my time thinking much about them, I still think such thinking is overall hurtful to those with disabilities even though it is meant to be encouraging. Let me explain why below.
It Limits the Possibility for Friendship
With rare exceptions, most of the people who I am really close to have not waxed long and eloquent how amazing I am. They may say a few words here and there about me doing a specific task well despite my blindness, and then we move on. I think for those who think we are so amazing, we suddenly become almost nonhuman. We become like pieces of china to be admired, not human beings who might want to hang out after work, have interests and hobbies, etc. By declaring how amazing we are, we become an exhibit to be watched. I’ve heard some refer to this as being part of a zoo. I think that is a bit extreme myself, and I realize that I am always on display because I am part of a very small minority, but I hate the fact that most people are curious about me but yet will never ask questions about how I do certain things, etc. I am very thankful for the friends I do have that see me not as an amazing blind superhero, but as a person first who happens to have a few limitations and needs help on occasion.
It’s not How the World Works
The “you’re so amazing” mindset plays into a set of low expectations for the disabled that will ultimately hurt them in many ways. My employer doesn’t pay me to “be amazing”, he pays me to do a job. The minute I stop doing that job well or am unable to do that job for some reason, a replacement will most likely be found I will not be put in a cage and allowed to be observed just so people can see how amazing I am. If we are always told how amazing we are as disabled people, we will never be pushed or push ourselves to be independent because we are simply amazing for existing. A few weeks ago I used uber to get a haircut, went into Barones by myself with the help of the driver, got my haircut, paid for it, and then got a ride home. I suppose some would call me brave for doing that, and some might say that I should have had a friend take me, but for me that is a normal part of life. I knew it was an interaction I could handle on my own. I do typically have friends take me to medical appointments if I can help it, especially if they are in buildings iwth multiple offices simply because it is easier, but I am sure if I had to I could take uber or a cab to these as well and call the office to have someone assist, etc. I do these things on my own because by God’s grace I had parents and others around me who didn’t allow me to believe that I was extra special and pushed me to be all I ca be. I am far from perfect, but I am blessed to have created a pretty good life for myself with a lot of help from others both physically and emotionally.
I hope this post has gotten a few people to think. If I can inspire people to move past whatever issue they are having in life, then so be it. I’m happy that I can inspire some just as some have inspired me. But I don’t want to be viewed as an amazing specimen to be observed, but as a person with limitations and hopes and dreams and interests… in which blindness, hearing impairment, and now physical limitations are only part of who I am. I don’t mind talking about that part of me, but there is a whole other side to me. I am a christian and like discussing doctrine and theology, I also like music, food, interesting people, etc. I would like to be appreciated for the whole person that I am, not just for the blind guy who happens to wake up every morning. Give me a little more credit than that. and as always, if you have any questions on how I do things, don’t hesitate to ask.