Stella Young, a 32-year-old Australian disability advocate and general legend, died suddenly in Melbourne on Saturday, her family announced in a statement.
The writer and comedian was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily, and lived her life in a wheelchair. Earlier this year, during a TedX talk in Sydney, Young bluntly told the audience that she wasn’t there to inspire them and that a disability alone “doesn’t make you exceptional.” The presentation was aptly titled “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much.“
In reality, Young ended up inspiring so many and being so exceptional — not because of a disability, but because of humour, knowledge and understanding — and used her comedic touch to bring attention to the hardships often faced by people living in a world not designed for their bodies. Despite objections, she referred to herself as a ‘crip’ and didn’t shy away from her everyday struggles, instead putting them front and centre with a dash of wit.
Young was a woman who used her normality to strike a chord and make the world take notice. If you watch one thing today in honour of a life well lived, watch Young’s talk above. It may change your view of the world.
“That quote, ‘The only disability in life is a bad attitude,’ the reason that that’s bullshit is because it’s just not true, because of the social model of disability. No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. Never.” — Stella Young, 2014.
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