Essay on Being a Cripple -(1100 Words) Download Free PDF

Essay on Being a Cripple

Outline of Essay

  1. Introduction
  2. The author’s experience as a “cripple”
  3. Language and identity
  4. Perception of disability in society
  5. Need for greater understanding and acceptance of disability


Nancy Mairs was an American author, activist, and feminist who wrote extensively on her experiences with disability. She was born in 1943 and passed away in 2016. Mairs was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 28, which influenced much of her writing and activism. She wrote several books, essays, and memoirs, including “Carnal Acts,” “Ordinary Time,” and “Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled.” The term “cripple” refers to a person with a physical or mental disability.

It has been considered a derogatory term in the past and has largely fallen out of use in recent years. However, Nancy Mairs deliberately uses the term to describe herself in her essay “On Being a Cripple,” which was published in 1986. She does this to challenge the negative connotations associated with the term and to reclaim it as a self-identified.

The author’s experience as a “cripple”

The author’s experience as a “cripple” likely encompasses all three aspects of physical limitations, emotional struggles, and societal perceptions and prejudices.

The author’s experience may involve the challenges and limitations they face due to their physical disability. This could include difficulties with mobility, self-care, and other activities of daily living that able-bodied individuals take for granted. Living with a disability can also be emotionally taxing. The author may have experienced feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and anxiety related to their condition.

They may have struggled with self-esteem and self-image, as well as feelings of isolation and loneliness. People with disabilities often face discrimination and marginalization in society. The author may have experienced prejudice and negative attitudes from others, as well as barriers to education, employment, and other opportunities. They may have also had to navigate inaccessible physical environments and societal attitudes that perpetuate ableism.

Language and Identity

Language plays a crucial role in shaping our identity. Our choice of words, the way we speak, and the language we use can communicate a lot about who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Language is not only a means of communication, but it is also a way of expressing our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Our language can also reflect our cultural background, social status, and personal experiences. Moreover, language can influence how we see ourselves and how others see us, ultimately shaping our identity. The author’s choice to use the term “cripple” is a contentious issue, as it has historically been used as a derogatory term to refer to people with disabilities.

However, some people with disabilities have reclaimed this term, arguing that it can be empowering to use it as a way to challenge stereotypes and take ownership of their disability identity. Ultimately, the choice to use this term is a personal one and should be respected.

Societal norms can have a significant impact on language and identity. The dominant culture often sets the norms for what is considered “correct” language and deviations from these norms can result in stigma and discrimination. For example, people who speak with a non-standard dialect or accent may face prejudice and negative stereotypes.

Similarly, people who identify as LGBTQ+ may face discrimination if their language use does not conform to societal norms. This can lead to a sense of alienation and exclusion from mainstream society, ultimately impacting their sense of identity. However, language can also be a tool for resistance and empowerment, as marginalized communities can use language to challenge dominant norms and assert their identity.

Perception of disability in society

The perception of disability in society varies widely, depending on factors such as cultural beliefs, historical context, and individual experiences. In some cultures, disability is seen as a sign of divine punishment or bad karma, while in others it may be viewed as a natural part of human variation.

One of the biggest misconceptions about disability is that it is always visible. However, many disabilities are not immediately apparent, and individuals with hidden disabilities may face challenges in accessing support and accommodations. Another is that having a disability is a personal tragedy.

While disabilities can certainly present challenges and difficulties, many people with disabilities lead happy, fulfilling lives. While it’s important to recognize and celebrate the achievements of people with disabilities, it’s also important to remember that they are individuals with their own unique experiences and not just sources of inspiration.

Disability is a result of personal failure or weakness, that places blame on individuals with disabilities for their condition, rather than recognizing the social and environmental factors that contribute to disability.

One of the most common stereotypes about people with disabilities is that they are less capable or less intelligent than able-bodied individuals. This belief can lead to lower expectations for people with disabilities in school, work, and social settings. It can also lead to social isolation and limited opportunities for social interaction and inclusion.

Another stereotype about people with disabilities is that they are a burden on society, requiring special accommodations and resources. This view fails to recognize the contributions that people with disabilities can make to society and the benefits of creating a more inclusive and diverse community.

Need for greater understanding and acceptance of disability:

Increasing education and awareness about disability can help to dispel misconceptions and challenge stereotypes. Including people with disabilities in media, advertising, and other forms of representation can help to increase visibility and promote acceptance. Making buildings, transportation, and other public spaces accessible to people with disabilities is an important step toward greater inclusion and acceptance. Empowering people with disabilities to advocate for themselves and participate fully in society can also help to promote understanding and acceptance.


What is the main message of “On Being a Cripple”?

The main message of the essay is that disability is a part of the human experience and that people with disabilities should be treated with dignity and respect. Mairs argues that society’s negative attitudes towards disability are often more disabling than the physical impairments themselves.

What is Nancy Mairs’ tone in “On Being a Cripple”?

Nancy Mairs’ tone in “On Being a Cripple” is frank, honest, and often humorous. She does not shy away from discussing the difficulties and challenges of living with a disability, but she also finds joy and meaning in her life despite these challenges.

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