Question Time: Disability Quotes

Question Time is a series in which we open up the floor to you, commenters. We invite you to share as you feel comfortable.

What’s your favourite disability-related quote? It can be about a particular experience of being disabled, something you keep being reminded of in life, a saying that gets you through tough times, given by a famous disabled person or a little obscure, anything along those lines.

11 thoughts on “Question Time: Disability Quotes

  1. In “The Cancer Journals,” Audre Lorde writes:
    “When I dare to be powerful– to use my strength in the service of my vision– then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

    While not necessarily aimed at people with disabilities, it’s clear that Lorde’s experience with breast cancer, her mastectomies, her refusal to use breast forms (which she saw as a kind of lie, both to herself and to others, told to make things easier for other people, to make herself more palatable to them) speaks to the experience of many women with disabilities– especially because women in so many cultures are socialized to be quiet, to not rock the boat. What i think Lorde is saying here is that when you believe in your own power, you stop listening to the socializing forces and attack the status quo. Because, as she writes in the same book, “your silence will not protect you.”

  2. Helen is her own self-advocate in that her “self” “advocates” that we adapt the world for how she experiences it. This is self advocacy at the grandest level. Why? Because it is immediately apparent that if Helen’s personhood can liberate her — our understanding of the personhood of people with disabilities should do the same. Her statement of joy, of self awareness, shows that people who think that she would be better off dead — are simply bigots who choose not to know her. Helen is a radical person. Her message is about radical acceptance. Her life is radically her own. For those labeled “profoundly retarded,” emphasize the word “profound.”–Dave Hingsburger

    I haven’t actually read the book this is from, but I read the quote in an essay at and was really taken with it. I think it’s neat because it’s really important for non-disabled people to take disabled people’s happiness at face value. A lot of problems facing disabled people arise from the fact that non-disabled people think they know what disability is, and they think it’s something so depressing and overwhelming and gross that it puts disabled people on another level where they don’t deserve the same rights as non-disabled people, because their lives or their family’s lives are supposedly so unbearable. I like how Hingsburger points out that any disabled person can fight ableism by expressing themselves; they don’t need to fight ableism in an intellectual way to be making a difference.

    Also I just like this quote because I don’t like when people patronize people with intellectual disabilities and make judgments about what they’re capable of or what they understand. Just because you may have to use simpler words (or no words) to talk to someone doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t actually engage with them and realize that they can surprise you as much as anyone else.

  3. I’ve always loved Poe. Here’s one for mental and emotional diversity:

    From childhood’s hour, I have not been
    As others were; I have not seen
    As others saw; I could not bring
    My passions from a common spring.

    From the same source I have not taken
    My sorrow; I could not awaken
    My heart to joy at the same tone;
    And all I loved, I loved alone.

  4. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
    -Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

    That quote helped/still helps me fight through my anxiety. ^.^ And Quixotess, that Poe quote is awesome.

  5. Oh, I have pages and pages (and files and files) full of these, but the one I think of most often, because of the whole “I’m still me!” aspect of it, is this one:

    “You know, it’s so funny. What keeps any of those people in that dining room from being like me is just a virus, a thing in my body over which I had no control. Why did I get it and not them? Fate. Circumstance. Luck. But I have a place on the earth, just as they do. I have rights.
    “When I was in the lung, I had people tell me every day that I had to get used to the fact that I could never have a normal life. Every day, they told me that I would have to come to terms with all I could no longer do.” She shook her head, remembering. “But I decided to concentrate on what I could do. When the shrink talked about how the disease would affect my personality, I talked about how my personality would affect the disease. I didn’t understand why nobody… I kept thinking, ‘I am me! I am still me!’” Her voice began to shake and she closed her eyes, then opened them. “Wipe my tears away and give me a chocolate,” she said.
    Elizabeth Berg, p97, We are all welcome here

    And now I have some new ones to add to my stash ~ Great thread!
    .-= NTE´s last blog .."Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, =-.

  6. Not exactly purely disability related, but I find it has a lot of meaning to me with my neurodiversity:

    ““Let’s stop “tolerating” or “accepting” difference, as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference, because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different.” — Kate Bornstein

  7. ‘As I walk past your window give me lucky looks/ you can read my body but you’ll never read my books’ Ian Dury, Spasticus Autisticus

  8. This was in a piece about learning to live with a chronic illness. The author was talking about learning to live with new skills and different needs than you had before you got sick, and she said:

    “There is no surrender involved, only growth — the creation of new options through new means.” – Dr. JoAnn LeMaistre, psychologist, mother, and woman living with MS.

    I find it inspiring when I need to remind myself that I haven’t given up or given in, to live my life the way I do – just created new options, new ways of doing things, a new life.


  9. This isn’t disability-specific in its original context, but I’ve adopted it as my motto and repeat it often to teachers and other “helping” professionals. It’s the chorus to Shel Silverstein’s song “Helping,” from “Free to Be You and Me:”

    some kind of help is the kind of help
    That helping’s all about
    And some kind of help is the kind of help
    We all can do without

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