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Disability Pride Month at Rebecca Crown Library

by Keeley Flanigan on 2024-07-03T08:00:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

“Supercrips” is a term and stereotype that refers to someone who overcomes their disability in a way that is seen as inspiring under the public eye. This person is viewed as a heroic figure and an inspiration for overcoming their “impairment” against all odds. The action of overcoming their “impairment” is often viewed as the person outright rejecting their disability or the complete erasure of the disability through the ownership of superpowers.. 

 Being able to pass important milestones and achievements are thought of as extremely unlikely for those with disabilities. And when they are successful in life, it is typically explained away as this person having an unnatural superhuman strength or ability rather than just being an accomplished human being. There is a belief that people with disabilities must possess some magical powers or an inordinate amount of strength to live a similar life to able-bodied people. Much of this stems from the vast majority of society not being able to imagine living a life that differs from them, and the result of this is that very little is done to cater or adhere to the struggles that others may face when trying to find space and acceptance within societal structures that have not been built with them in mind. Disabilities are conditions that the dominant society has not prepared for and does not want to see. Because of this, social spaces and communities do not have the capacity to include people with disabilities. This lack of thought or care is typically a side effect of the larger issues surrounding the stereotype of “supercrip”. One that leads to the habit of a large portion of our society being overlooked and undermined. The term “supercrip”, serves as a distraction by putting the responsibility of being accepted within dominant society on disabled people rather than the actual societal structures that prevent them from being included due to the lack of accessibility rather than ability..  

Furthermore the belief in this stereotype, subconsciously hints at the idea that disabled people inherently do not belong in these spaces because they themselves cannot access it. These thoughts place blame on those with disabilities and make it their responsibility to be included. Disabilities become something that has to be overcome, as though the disability is the barrier rather than the man-made obstacle or infrastructure that have physically designed these acts of exclusion for this community. What is worse is that stereotypes like “supercrip” create a sentiment that when disabled people do overcome the barriers, this is viewed as an unnatural feat that would take superhuman strength.  

The supercrips stereotype is really a masquerade for ableism, as explained by English professor, disability rights advocate, and author Tobin Siebers. Siebers discusses how one's disability is typically exaggerated for the purpose of affirming able-bodiedness – only through extraordinary powers, can the disabled person validate themselves according to abled normativity and standards. Societal structures and their lack of inclusionary practices are not questioned or examined, instead disabled people are viewed as being incapable of existing in the same spaces as able-bodied people, and if they do happen to succeed, their success is infantilized, commodified, and at some points completely erased. This is why it has been extremely important and valuable for the disabled community to reclaim the term by redefining what the word crip means to them. The term “crip” can be all encompassing for those with invisible and visible disabilities as well as mental illnesses, and neurodivergence. This word has even found its way into academia through the study of “crip theory”, which studies how dominant and marginalized bodies, as well as sexual identities are understood in society and how to reimagine that understanding for those facing discrimination. While such words are still being explored by those with disabilities, it is important to remember that this is not a universally accepted term and should NEVER be used by those outside of this community amongst other such terminology.   

When disabled people are not viewed as a “supercrip”, they tend to become a lesson for those who exist outside of the community, rather than an individual. They become a caricature of themselves for able-bodied people to reflect upon so they can say,  “See here look, if “THEY” can do it, why can’t you?” Or “imagine if that was you, be thankful that it isn’t and live life accordingly”. These beliefs put disabled people on a pedestal that leaves very little room for them to be multifaceted autonomous individuals. Instead they are given a martyr narrative for able-bodied people to use for their own benefit. A consequence of not being able to fulfill this role or being too successful “despite” their disability is that many people begin to believe that there never was a disability in the first place 

There is a well documented pattern of people who exist outside of this community believing that people who are disabled can’t exist in society without serving the purpose of being a lesson for able bodied people to reflect upon. There is an overwhelming belief that disabled people are living a life that is less than and that they are incapable of having a fulfilling life because it does not fit into societal standards. It can go so far as having any accomplishments made by disabled people downplayed, viewed as a conspiracy, or completely denied. These harmful thoughts continue to be recycled each generation and the biggest resurgence of it exists in gen Z’s social media platform TikTok, with the trending denial of Helen Keller’s existence. This can also be seen in the overwhelming amount of videos claiming that Stevie Wonder is not really blind with “evidence” of him reacting in ways that people believe a blind person is incapable of. These beliefs then feed into the idea that disabled people are not autonomous, nor do they have the right to be because they are viewed as incapable of being so. While this concept is not new, we must ask ourselves why it is such a struggle to see disabled people as capable in their own rights, as well as why society views changing our methods as a downgrade in our standards. 

While there are a multitude of reasons for why these ideologies and politics exist, our job as a library is to ensure that we are actively playing the role of an ally.  An ally, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.” The role of ally is one of extreme importance to the Rebecca Crown Library. Because of this, for June we will be working to celebrate disability pride month and its theme “we want a life like yours” through our in displays that can be seen in person or online through our digital collection. This theme encompasses the idea that people with disabilities are deserving of experience that they are too often denied. Please visit the Rebecca Crown Library to celebrate their stories. 


 

Work Cited

Bypassing the supercrip trope in documentary representations of blind visual artists | Disability Studies Quarterly. (n.d.). https://dsq-sds.org/index.php/dsq/article/view/6485/5092#:~:text=Tobin%20Siebers%20explains%20that%20the,to%20abled%20normativity%20(111)

Eisenmenger, A. (2022, October 3). Ableism 101. Access Living. https://www.accessliving.org/newsroom/blog/ableism-101/ 

Lollino, S. (2022, September 3). I AM NOT YOUR SUPERCRIP - facing disability. Facing Disability. https://facingdisability.com/blog/i-am-not-your-supercrip 


Remembering Tobin Siebers, English professor, disability studies advocate |  The University Record. (n.d.). https://record.umich.edu/articles/tobin-siebers-english-professor-and-disability-studies-advocate-dies/


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