Why I choose not to say “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Scott Hamilton coined the phrase; “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” On the surface this quote has a lot going for it. It’s all over Pinterest and splashed over many an advertising campaign.
So why don’t I say it?
Because it minimizes the challenges people take on. There are many factors outside of the control of people living with disabilities. Facing those challenges with an upbeat attitude is admirable. One that many people do graciously every day, much to their credit.
To a person that is confessing to struggling with the huge societal and cultural pressure that come with disability, the quote lacks empathy. For example;
- It sucks to exert limited physical strength because the access in a building was poorly designed.
- It hurts to have people judge you by how you look, sound, or other factors outside your control
- It’s emotionally crushing to send job application after job application and be denied employment.
All of the above are common barriers for people.
To say this quote is to subtly shame people when they confide in feeling overwhelmed, tired, or angry about how their disability is impacting them. It’s asking a person to live up to an impossible standard. We’re all human, we have bad days, and we’re not always happy to be taking barriers head on.
And that’s okay. It’s normal to be upset when a disability curveball comes a persons way.
Scott Hamilton is a well known and powerful advocate for people living with disabilities. He’s experienced his fair share of hardship in the medical world. He know’s what it’s like to be impacted by things beyond his control. Scott also knows the power of positive thinking, of looking for solutions instead of focusing on problems, and working hard. He’s been very successful at it.
I value his reminder to stay positive, work hard, and not accept limitations created by others. I may not agree with the wording of his message, but I do aspire to the spirit of it.
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