Anyone that has spent time in a wheelchair has probably experienced being called an inspiration at some point. You are fast tracked this label like an Amazon Prime package as soon as you have your first wheelchair.
Calling someone an inspiration for just sitting in a wheelchair is like standing outside a toilet and clapping every time someone comes out. For the person leaving the toilet to an unexpected rapture of applause it's amusing the first time it happens. It might even be enjoyable the second and third times but after a while you can't help thinking. Why the fuck do these people keep clapping? I've only gone to the toilet. To be called an inspiration when all you have achieved that day is to not die today feels very similar.
I was once told I was an inspiration when I'd ordered a flat white from my local coffee shop. The only thing I'd achieved that day that could have remotely be considered inspirational was try oat milk in place of cow juice. In fairness it was a great decision, the coffee was creamy and thick and I was pretty impressed with myself for the order, but inspiring? No.
Wheelchair using friends have been called inspirations on the bus or stopped in the street to be told by random strangers how inspirational it is to see them out and about like a normal person. This seems like an odd thing to say to any person and quite high up the list of condescending things you can say or do to another human. I would place it somewhere between a tap on the head from a grandparent and getting an 'I didn't cry' badge from the dentist. What would those same people think if you randomly tapped them on the shoulder to say incredible work on tying those shoelaces. Did you manage this all by yourself?
Don't get me wrong there are plenty of disabled people that are inspirational and I'm not saying the word should be removed from the English language. If you learn to paint using your mouth to hold a paintbrush that's proper inspiration to me. Climbing a mountain, or running a marathon no matter what your ability is pretty inspirational. But getting out of bed and going outside is not inspirational, its living. I did it pretty well in my formative years and received little to no praise for it.
Inspiration is in a growing category of words that have lost some of their impact. I regularly overuse 'awesome' which I personally use for any situation that isn't completely terrible.
"We are having curry tonight"
"I managed to find a parking space right outside"
"Its not going to rain all weekend"
"Do you know what that is? It's awesome."
If nothing else I hope this post serves as a reminder to be selective over when to use the word 'inspiration'. There are unquestionably times to use it, but use it to describe someone you don't know and you might find yourself closing the toilet door to a standing ovation.