Erin Clark is a Canadian writer, award-winning pole dancer, paraglider, magazine publisher, model, and artist. Oh, and she uses a wheelchair to get around. Before we start oohing and aahing about how "brave" and "inspirational" she is, let's take a beat.
Erin's disability is not what makes her as impressive as she is. Her disability, sacral agenesis, is what she was born with and her wheelchair is a tool to help her do the things her body doesn't allow.
Using a wheelchair to get around, manoeuvering a society that's not designed to accommodate her, is not what makes Erin insanely brave. What makes her brave is the fact that she jumps off of cliffs with nothing but some fabric and ropes, that she dances on a stage in front of people, that she writes and makes art and shares those with the world.
You know, the same things that would make me and you and other able-bodied people also brave.
Erin's pole dancing, or her paragliding, or her writing disabled erotica is not fundamentally more "inspiring" than if I, an able-bodied person, did those things. They are more inspiring only because I can't do a full row of monkey bars let alone holding my body up a pole, I refuse to go near a cliff, and if I tried to write erotica it would be used as contraception.
The limits Erin overcomes in her life as a disabled woman, with paragliding, pole-dancing, writing, existing as an international sex symbol are not the limits we initially think of. Erin's body and her disability is not the limit, society's conception of what she can and can't do is.
Disability is not a tragedy. Sentiments like helplessness that we project onto disabled people are patronising and create the actual limits that undermine their quality of life. Equality doesn't mean pity, it means inclusion and it means access to the same rights and opportunities abled-bodied people have.