Redefining Success As A Disabled Person – TEDx 2019

pippa sat on edge of stage at TEDx, iconic red carpet and lettering in background. Pippa is wearing a burgandy long sleeved top, black jeans and black pumps.

In December 2019, I took on one of the most nerve-wracking challenges of my life and gave a TEDx talk in York. You can watch the talk on YouTube, and below you’ll find a blog post equivalent of what I wanted to say… all about redefining success as a disabled person. I really hope it gives you some food for thought!

So, I’m the kind of disabled person you don’t see in the media. I haven’t climbed a mountain, I haven’t defied the odds and become a medical miracle, and I have no plans whatsoever to compete in the Paralympics.

Instead, I was lucky enough to acquire a debilitating chronic illness as a teenager. It took five years to find my diagnosis, and even then I was left with no prognosis, no targeted treatment, and no cure. In fact, all I had back then was just a handful of leaflets, some prescription painkillers, and a questionably wobbly wheelchair who I proudly named George Ezra.

I had to recalibrate my entire young adult life to accommodate my illness and really, this is where the trouble first began.

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On The “But They Didn’t Let It Stop Them” Narrative

pippa stood holding up social media-style facebook photo board and smiling as somebody else takes a picture of her
Image Credits: Alice Lodge Photography [cropped by Pippa for social media]
Something I spend more time thinking about than perhaps is good for me is how disability is portrayed in the media. I recently gave my first TEDx talk, all about how the language used around disability and success seems to be ingrained in ableism, and constant-real life examples mean that I come back to this line of thought time and time again.

The example that prompted this particular blog post is a phrase I’ve seen used in the reporting of disabled people’s achievements time and time again: “… but they didn’t let it stop them.”

They didn’t ‘let’ it stop them. They didn’t consciously decide to let their disability win, and went on to accomplish something remarkable. Good for them. Genuinely no sarcasm intended; I wholeheartedly agree that we should celebrate disabled people’s achievements and give individuals the acclaim they deserve, no questions asked.

The thing that gets me, however, is the idea that the person in question had any conscious control over whether or not their condition prohibited them from setting out to do something. They didn’t ‘let’ their disability stop them; does this mean they simply chose not to allow it, that it’s purely a matter of mind to overcome such challenges?

Moreover, if somebody reportedly didn’t ‘let’ their condition stop them from fulfilling a passion of theirs, does this imply that consequentially, I’m ‘letting’ my disability stop me from doing the same?

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