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Blind to Disability

Algeria's Abdellatif Baka narrowly wins the gold ahead of Ethiopia's Tamiru Demisse in the men's 1,500-meter T13 final.

I’m sure you heard the news last week about four Paralympian’s running a time fast enough to have gotten gold if they had been competing two weeks earlier at the Olympics.

And perhaps you presumed, as I did, that finally, after the false hope that was Oscar Pistorius, that not one, but four “blade runners” had finally done it. That we’d finally been pushed headlong into the argument of whether running on artificial limbs was in fact “cheating”. That disability; granted with a few tweaks and add-ons; gave a competitor an advantage.

Of course, you and I both would have been wrong in that presumption, as it wasn’t the “blade runners” who finally took us into a new era, but four visually impaired runners…

That’s right. Four men who cannot see, ran fast enough to have won Olympic gold medals…

What does that mean?

I’m not sure…

That same week, a PhD student from the university of Ottawa dismissed one of the BBC’s brilliant videos promoting the Paralympian’s and Paralympics (“We are the Super Humans”, featuring Calgary’s own Alvin Law) as being nothing more than “inspiration porn”.

Apparently the video was offensive to ordinary people with a disability in promoting the idea of the “Super Crip”.

This is where things get confusing for me.

It wasn’t long ago folks with disabilities were shunned members of society. They still are in many cultures and many parts of the world. People didn’t want to see us. My guess is it was because they felt sorry for us, and that made them feel bad.

Now apparently, we’re still making them feel bad, though now, “them” includes other disabled people; offended that we’re making light of disability. That showcasing the “super crips” demeans the struggle of the everyday disabled, that it makes them feel “less able”.

Does that mean the Olympics demeans the struggle of able bodied folks?

Do the Olympics make you feel unworthy?

Or do they, dare I say “inspire” you?

Does that make the Olympics “inspiration porn” as well?

What does it all mean?

Where do we go from here?

What is disability?

What does it mean?

What’s the difference between the disabled living extraordinary lives vs abled bodied folks doing the same? Are we all supposed to reign ourselves in a bit; pull our heads in, for fear of upsetting someone?

As I said, I don’t have an answer, but in terms of living with a disability, I’ll say this:

It’s a lot like life, in that it is what you make it to be.

In the case of the four visually impaired runners last week, they’ve just decided to run. To run really, really fast.

22 Comments

  1. Saskia says:

    Thanks Warrren wise words 🙂

  2. Tony Loffredo says:

    Hello Warren,
    Your words give me the shivers my friend. The day the Olympics, paralympics stop inspiring, its the day people will have no more blood flowing through their veins….how can this not inspire ! it not only inspires it make you think and realize the true meaning of “Life”. Great article Warren.

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Thank you Tony! Glad I gave you the shivers with that one 🙂 Really appreciate you popping in to the comments; thank you.

  3. Sharon says:

    Awesome article Warren! So important. So inspiring!!

  4. Charlotte Lubert says:

    Warren I am so inspired by both Olympians and Paralympians to push myself further and go beyond what is considered to be enough. Not as an athlete, because I am not one, but in every area of my life where there is fear that I can get past it and keep going. Every person has something they have to get through or past and I hope that they too would be inspired by what is possible in their own lives by seeing what is being achieved by these great athletes. Thank you for a thought provoking article.

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Thanks Charlotte for popping in 🙂 My thoughts exactly, that it’s not about comparing like vs like, or achievement vs achievement, but to inspire the urge to just do better. And you’re absolutely correct in that it doesn’t even have to be about move forward, but also holding ground, or recovering. Thank you.

  5. Mel Monro says:

    Thanks Warren and also the people who commented here! I am so pleased we can appreciate hard work and inspiration. We can all do better in some part of our life :> So thanks! Mel

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Thank Mel for stopping by! That was exactly my point, we can all do better, so why not strive for that?
      And if we don’t, who cares; but let’s not detract from the achievement of others 🙂

  6. Heather Jackson says:

    In May/2017 I will be 55 years young, and eligible to enter the Senior Games. I’ve known for years that I would enter but I didn’t know in what. The Olympics and the Para Olympics inspired me SOOO much. I am going for gold in swimming! I love your writing, Warren and I especially love your attitude.

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      That’s great Heather!
      I might see you there in 2021 when I turn 55 years young 🙂
      Now you’ve got me thinking…

  7. Stuart Bell says:

    Hi Warren, this is inspiring and should encourage many in the world’s population to try ‘just a little harder’ in their endeavours to succeed. That’s what we all get from the Olympic and ParaOlympic athletes – the encouragement to push a little further.

  8. Carl Scott says:

    Hi Warren, it makes me smile reading about it. It inspires me to continue to strive, to reach out to do my best. I need that kick more often than not.
    The pity pot is and easy place to go. It’s not the hard stuff.

    Thanks.

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Thanks Carl, and hey; we all need that kick every now and then.
      That’s part of my cunning plan with these posts; a nudge here, a nudge there 🙂

  9. Wanda says:

    Wow, just showed your posters to a new employee last week when I rotated which one I see daily. I think we’re all an accident away from life different than what it is today. With a dear friend in physical therapy and a Chiropractic son, I know the reality of the situation. I hope I don’t judge, and if I find myself in that position, I hope I deal with it as positively as I can, and that others don’t judge me. Let’s enjoy the life we have and what we can make of it!

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Exactly Wanda! Let’s all enjoy the life we have, as you’re so right; it can change like that (insert finger snap sound)…

  10. Vanessa Reynolds says:

    Really thought provoking questions Warren, it’s so good to ask such things and wonder about how we view the world. After working for a decade with gifted children, whom most people believe already have everything and don’t need anything more in education, I see the same arguments being made on your disability side too. If we ask every single extraordinary person, abled or disabled, to “dumb down”, be less athletic, be less intellectual, be less musical, be less scientific, be less artistic, because almost everyone else doesn’t find that inspiring and uplifting, then what does the world become, and what do we as humans become? How can anyone consider that another human being achieving remarkable and awesome feats is not inspiring to others and should just stop doing it because it shows someone else up? We must all challenge that attitude, and call for excellence not mediocrity in every sphere of human endeavour. You continue to inspire us Warren, so please don’t stop!

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Thank you Vanessa, apologies; I only saw your comment this morning… We’re either in a race to the bottom or a race to the top. I prefer the race to the top, as I can see you do. Keep doing the work you do; challenging peoples perceptions and how they see the world through the kids you work with. The more we inspire people to be more, the harder it becomes for others to accept mediocrity.

  11. Mary Bowe says:

    Hi Warren
    I am currently studying for a degree in Occupational Therapy – my presentation this week is on different aspects of disability after reading your first book. This blog is great!

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