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Mia watched a video talk by Stella Young entitled “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much”. It got her thinking and prompted 14 year old Mia to share her own thoughts and reflections with us.

MiaIt’s so true and I can relate so much to what Stella’s saying in her talk. People do come up to me and tell me how inspiring they find the way I approach life is, but I’m not approaching life with extra caution or care due to disability. I’m just living. And why should just living become something so exceptional and special because I am in a wheelchair? Yes, I face challenges and mental barriers are an everyday occurrence for people with disabilities. But aren’t they an everyday occurrence for everyone? Everybody has challenges and worries on a daily basis. Of course the type or size of worry varies dramatically, but they are challenges never the less.

I don’t go into town, for example, to inspire anyone. I just going into town, for the same reasons any other person goes into town. Yet somehow it seems that other people already have a preconceived perception and idea of what I’m like. What I’m good at. What I can and can’t do. It’s not their fault, it’s just the nature of society. I wish this would change…

I will never understand why society views someone with a disability as ‘special’ or particularly great. It’s just something I’ll never get – everyone’s special and everyone’s different and that’s one of the best things about the human race.

When I moved to secondary school, I moved without anyone from my previous school. I didn’t know anybody very well. One day we were in English class and the teacher decided to project my homework onto the board for the rest of the class to read. After that lesson someone from that class came up to me and said "I didn’t know you could write like that. No offence, but when I first saw you, I thought you were going to be dumb."

There was a time where I started to need to use a wheelchair some of the time, but I didn’t because my seven year old self couldn’t handle all the stares and looks that I would get when I sat in it. I used to sit with my head down, avoiding eye contact and feeling self-conscious and embarrassed over something I couldn’t control. This was until my parents sat down and spoke to me. They told me to look the people who stare in the eye and smile; show them how happy you are and how being in a wheelchair is no big deal and makes you no different. This is something that I live by today as I can still feel embarrassed by the attention I get when just grabbing something from the shops down the road, for example.

Another thing that I want to bring up is how people are constantly on edge and waiting to help when someone with a disability is near. I know that many people are just trying to be helpful, but a shopkeeper passing me something from a shelf which I can easily reach is unnecessary. It just draws unwanted attention to myself and makes me feel useless and I think, ‘do I really look that helpless?’

A wheelchair is nothing more than a few bits of metal and some screws and bolts, so why does it change so much about you and the ways other view you? Society is prejudiced to think that anyone with a disability, physical or mental, is exceptional and any achievement they make is magnified due to their disability. This is wrong. This is insensitive and this is blind. I want my achievements and any award I win to be won by my hard work and my hard work only. I don’t want any pity wins. I don’t want any pity friends and I definitely don’t want any pitying comments or smiles. I just want to feel real. To feel ‘normal’ because sometimes it’s hard to remember that from the eyes of someone else I am visibly ‘different’, so completing an everyday task is suddenly an act of inspiration and perseverance.

I’m definitely not trying to say that living a life with a disability is a piece of cake. It’s not. And everyday routines can be much more difficult and hard to maintain and achieve. But in my view, many of the people who you see with those disabilities have already had to compete with themselves to build up enough self-love to go out in public and at least pretend that they don’t notice the stares and hard looks that they get from other people.

This passage isn’t for inspiration. It’s only my thoughts. And the only people I am concerned about getting this message to are others with disabilities who believe that they are not good enough. Even now I’m writing this with doubt in my mind, but I need to know and THEY need to know that they are absolutely good enough and no amount of wheels or negative hospital results is ever going to change that.