An activist with a rare brittle bone disease has revealed why she hates being called an ‘inspiration’ – because it suggests her life with a disability is a ‘worst possible scenario’.
Samantha Renke, who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, says constantly referring to disabled people as ‘inspiring’ for their ability to cope encourages able-bodied people to regard them with pity – instead of seeing them as individuals who are happily living their lives.
She revealed that she had been called an ‘inspiration’ by strangers all her life, even before she found fame as part of a groundbreaking series of ads for Malteser chocolates that sought to change the public’s perception of disabled people.
Writing for the Metro, Lancashire-born Ms Renke, 32, who is confined to a wheelchair, hit out at what she called ‘inspiration porn’ on social media, and said disabled people shouldn’t serve as sources of motivation for the able-bodied, pointing out they do not exist to make people ‘feel better about their life’.
Samantha’s Osteogenesis Imperfecta has resulted in her sustaining 200 fractures in her lifetime, and as a child she had to be carried around on a pillow to lower the risk of broken bones.
Despite her struggles she said she wouldn’t change her body and doesn’t want to be seen as inspiration to anyone else.
She explained: ‘Social media is awash with inspiration porn: memes objectifying the disabled community for the benefit of the non-disabled world, making people feel guilty for being lazy or not achieving their potential.’
She continued: ‘I can assure you that you never forget the first time someone comes and crouches next to your wheelchair and tells you that if they were like me they couldn’t cope – or even worse they wouldn’t want to live.