Maria R. Palacios


“Empowerment happens when we realize we have what it takes to make a difference, and choose to do so.”  Maria R. Palacios

Welcome to CripStory, a blog I have created with the purpose of sharing experiences, memories, lessons, poems and other aspects of my personal journey as a woman with a disability.  It is my hope to empower other women (and men) with disabilities to discover and embrace their own personal power and to offer awareness about disability rights, disability and sexuality, positive body image and self-esteem, historical and cultural views of disability and much more.

Below are some of the themes you can look forward to reading in future blogs:

Love, Sex & Relationships

Personal Confessions

Poetry and Poetic Excerpts

The importance of positive language as we relate to the disabled body

Growing Up Disabled:  Childhood stories and other memories

Disability Humor

Disability related news, updates, critiques and advocacy

Exclusive updates on Maria’s latest work, projects and workshops



I look forward to opening this window into yet another aspect of myself as an advocate and  creative spirit.


With Love & Gratitude,


Maria R. Palacios

The Goddess on Wheels

Featured post

My Few Cents On Inspiration Porn

Stella Young died young —probably too young to have realized the massive awareness she generated when she coined the term Inspiration Porn. It is in her memory that I take her concept of normie feel-good pity and turn it into a poetic rant.

Inspiration porn is

using our disabled stories

as a way to uplift yours, but doing so

by putting us down, and framing our struggles

into little happy pictures about overcoming our bodies

while you feel grateful you’re not us,

and say this to us

with an Amen or a God Bless You because your version of God

will justify your ableist crap,

and you expect us to accept one scrap of your charity

at a time, on your time when the time is convenient

to you, and you donate to your favorite charity,

one of the many that inspire, like, you think,

all cripples should.

Inspiration porn teaches you

that it is our job as disabled people

to make sure you feel blessed, lucky, and grateful

that you don’t have to live

our broken lives.


Inspiration porn is how disabled people are used.

We are forced to feed the broken conscience of those

who’d rather ignore us.

We are forced to share our scars,

our pain, our success, our art

through a voice of forced gratitude,

sending the message

that without your non-disabled help,

we are too pitifully crippled

to contribute anything,

to create


to dream up anything.

And that’s just some of the bull shit

crips are forced to believe.


We speak in words of constant gratitude.

We’ve convinced ourselves

that unless our experiences are validated by the normies,

our crip truths are not worth sharing.

Society is convinced

that disabled people are meant to be

a non-stop source of pity-rooted admiration.


Your interactions with us

are the hooks you throw

into the pond of our imprisoned desires –our desire for inclusion

our desire for equality,

our desire to break free and share

who we truly are.

You turn our hunger

into your chance

to feed your ego, build heaven brownie points, and become part

of the passive-aggressive oppression of disabled people.

We are not here to help you grow

at the expense of our own identity.

With are not here to help you accentuate your day

with that Amen or that Hallelujah

that celebrates the dismissal of our humanity.

Inspiration porn is when you can’t see humanity

in the disabled people you cage in institutions,

and seeing our oppression as a photo-op for your organization,

the chance to document our struggles as your success,

put a label on a file

that secures funding

to help empower the cripples who you think are nothing

without the good deeds caught on film.

Inspiration porn is your lack of shame when you do all this.

Inspiration porn is doing all this and thinking you’re doing us a favor

by offering us cookie-cutter models of inclusion,

and feed us an illusion of equality

while you praise your own kindness in public

in the name of the Lord.

Inspiration porn is when the only opportunity you give us

is the opportunity to be your prop —the token cripple

in your fake story of equality

where you get to claim full credit

for offering the appearance

that you give a shit.


Your shit sandwiches presented as caviar,

and, Jesus,

cripples bought them!



Invite Maria R. Palacios to speak at your next event.  Email her at

Growing up without a mother


You grew up without a mother
because I stole her from you.
I stole her by being disabled
although at no fault of mine,
she decided to dedicate her life
to the one child, she felt, needed her most,
kind of like the way Jesus
left the ninety-nine sheep
to go after that one
that got lost.
I guess I was
the lost
(who eventually became
the black sheep
when I refused to conform
to ableist expectations
that pushed me to see myself
as broken) while being the reason
why you
grew up without a mother.

Your entire childhood
was scarred by separation
and every time we left,
your soul was broken, and you were left
feeling alone and abandoned
because although you were
in the care of “loving family,”
in the life of a child, nothing is more needed
than the presence of a mother
because a mother loves, and forgives
and understands,
and instead you were left
with a stern grandmother who was afraid
you would become a loose woman
of your rebellious ways.

You had a tough childhood.
I don’t think you ever recovered
from the last time we left
when we came to the United States
and never went back.
We stayed, but with the promise
of bringing you soon
—a promise that took ten years
to come true….ten years
that turned girls
into women
and childhood dreams
into the memories
of a painful past.

By the time I saw you again,
I was married
and in my mid-twenties
and as always, you still were
the outspoken one,
the one
with the balls
to do anything,
and even though years had come
between us,
the minute we saw each other again,
we connected
as if we had never been apart.

We connected, and laughed, and cried,
and tried to fill the hole that had been left empty
by separation,
by a decade of distance that had led us to become
the women we had become,
and although we were still young,
we knew
there was nothing we could do
to recover the lost time,
to re-live the childhood we lost,
to heal
the hole in your heart in the shape of a mother,
that sorrow that never went away
because to this day
the wounds of growing up feeling so alone
seem to have made themselves at home in you
and your persona.

My childhood was not easy either,
but I know
out of the three of us,
had it tougher
because no matter what physical pain I survived,
I always had the comfort and the love
of a mother by my side
—the mother that I took from you
because she,
like Jesus
wanted to save that one sheep
in this case,
the crippled one.
And I guess in so many ways she did
save me.
She saved me from growing up
in a culture that would have kept me hidden
and shamed ,
hidden and blamed
for differences I did not choose to have.
My mother, our beautiful mother,
made the ultimate sacrifice
when she chose to leave her two little girls behind
to save the one
whose life was the one in danger
—in danger of ignorance and oppression
in danger of being wasted and thrown away
by a society that refused to understand
that disabled kids still have a future.

Her leaving you
so much to me. I owe
my freedom, my pride, my self-confidence
to the fact that I had a chance to blossom
in a community that was beginning to rise
with the notion of disability pride.
It was fertile soil and I was one of the seeds
that grew into the Crip Mother Tree
I have become.

I am sorry. I am so sorry
for those ten years you waited
while you imagined an American dream
like the ones you’d seen on TV…
the high-school life
and freedom you lacked.
—A dream you didn’t get to live
because by the time we came together again
your teen years had already passed,
and both of us
already had started living
some version
of being adults
a version that involved jobs
and life
beyond the childhood dreams we had
when we got separated.

We don’t really talk about that any more.
We have both grown into women and mothers,
and we both have
very different views
about, almost, everything.

In so many ways, we have grown apart,
but none of that matters
because in my heart,
I know that although there’s still a lot of pain,
and wounds that haven’t fully healed,
there is also immense love
and that
is what I hold on to,
and I hope that you do too.

Thank you
for being who you are.
Thank you
for your generous heart.
I hope one day you look back and realize
that although it might not have seemed like it,
you were always loved.
You were always wanted.

Some things
are hard to understand
until we become
mothers ourselves…only then
can we feel
the anguish and the pain
felt by just the thought of having to choose
to save one child.
We tell ourselves, we wouldn’t do it.
We tell ourselves, there have to be other ways.
But we know
it’s always easier said than done.
We don’t have the right to judge.
We never
have the right
to judge!
And one thing I know for sure,
is that the day will come,
whether we like it or not,
when we look in the inner mirror of ourselves
and, as women, we learn
we have become
our mother.





Copyright 2018 by Maria R. Palacios





Invite Maria R. Palacios to speak at your next event.  Any of the posts found on this site can be made to fit the diversity needs of your classroom, cultural event, disability themed conference, immigrant issues and disability intersectionality awareness, and much more. 








Phenomenal Cripple


(With love and respect of Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman)


Walking women wonder

where my secret lies.

I’m not able-bodied or built

with long legs that can dance,

but when I start to tell them, they go into a trance

when I say:

It’s the strength of my arms

and the spin of my wheels,

the curves of my spine

and the lies of my hips.

I’m a cripple, phenomenally.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.


I roll into a room

with such elegant ease

that even total strangers

will drop down to their knees

to look me in the eye as I say:

It’s the sound of my voice

and the gleam in my eye,

the silk of my words

and my poems that glide.

I’m a cripple, phenomenally.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.


Men have often wondered

what they find in me.

They try so hard

but cannot understand

my sexy inner crip.

When I try to tell them,

they claim to still not see.

I say

It’s the scar on my back,

and the warmth of my heart,

the bounce of my breasts

and the grace of my ride.

I’m a cripple, phenomenally.

Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.


Now you understand

why I roll around so proud,

and go about my business

knowing what it’s all about.

When you see me passing,

I ought to say out lout:

There’s no click to my step.

There’s no step in my dance,

but the touch of my hand

and the spell in my eyes.

‘Cause I’m a cripple


Phenomenal cripple.

That’s me.




Copyright Maria R. Palacios 2018










Reasonable Accommodations

My disability
is an inconvenience
to you.
You don’t necessarily say that
but the fact that you offer me
“reasonable accommodations”
lets me know upfront
that my crippleness is a problem
you’d rather not have.
But you know
it’s one you have to face, or
at least try to pretend that you care
or that your company
our kind.

You don’t want to be
on a cripple’s shit list
because in your own ridiculous superstitions
you probably believe it’s bad luck
to be mean to a disabled person
because God could punish you
and turn you into one.

So, whether out of fear of God or
fear of a law suit,
you make sure everybody knows
you believe in equality,
and you hire crips
who can represent well,
—the ones whose lives
are just like yours, except maybe
with a slight “defect” that doesn’t prevent them
from measuring up to the ableist expectations
that keep
those with significant disabilities from having a real chance
to offer what they have to give
as workers, as employees
as human beings.

As a disabled person,
a “reasonable accommodation”
translates into:
“We are willing to accommodate your needs
as long as your needs are not
an inconvenience
to us”.
Reasonable accommodation echoes
the misconception that crips’ needs are
special needs
instead of human rights.

That’s why I take offense
to how your offer of accommodations
comes with an opening clause
of self-protection, armed
with preconceived ideas
about what my needs are
even though
I am the only one
existing in my body.

And while there are things I may need
to be able to give
fully, to be able to work,
as long as my access needs are not going beyond
what you automatically get
through your able-bodied privilege,
I see no reason why
I’m the one
who has to be


Copyright 2018 by Maria R. Palacios

Almost born in Peru

My mother says she didn’t think we would live
(neither one of us)
when she was pregnant with me,
as she struggled to survive
in the jungles of Peru.

She had gotten married one day out of the blue
as a way to escape the memories
of a sad childhood,
and she ended up, instead,
living in poverty,
married to a man who was a mama’s boy,
an only son
and my mother was,
in his mother’s eyes
not good enough
for him.

So, my mother lived
with a mother in law from hell
who would rather feed the dog,
than feed her,
and nine months pregnant,
my mom weighed
ninety pounds,
and in her mind there was no doubt
we were both
going to die.
But we both lived.

We survived, probably because my mom,
almost delirious with fever,
walked by the river until she found a road,
and just as she was about to give up,
a car went by,
and she was able
to mail a letter to her mother
in which she said her goodbyes.

Just days later,
she was going into labor
when she opened her eyes
and saw her mother
standing by her side,
My mother says she thought she had died.
But it was true. My grandmother  was there
urging her to get up
because she was taking us home.
And my mom held on,
and prayed
more than anything that I
would not be born
in Peru
because having a Peruvian child
would have been my father’s pride
especially if I were a boy,
and she did not want to give him that.

And there I was…
a little baby girl
that barely weighed five pounds.
My mother says I looked
like a little bag of bones
and a pretty face.
She was just amazed
that we had both survived.
And we had.
And we did.

Throughout my life
my parents were
in and out
of a failed relationship.
My father seems to have been with us
only long enough to create three lives
and then disappear for years on end,
blaming my mother for everything,
but especially so
for me getting polio.

Having someone to blame
must have been his way
of washing his hands,
but then again….
who am I
to judge?

I only know what I was told
by his absence,
and by the story of how my grandmother
saved us …
and kept me
from being born
in Peru.




Copyright 2018 Maria R. Palacios

The Lie


You flirted with my younger sister,
I guess as a way of reminding me
there was no way
you could ever fall
for a disabled girl.
Deep down I knew that.
I had been taught to believe
romance was something reserved
for the able-bodied,
and so, even though
I was in love with you,
I never said anything,
never expected anything.
I simply loved you
in my poems
and in my diaries
–silent witnesses to the torture
of loving alone,
but that’s just the way
things used to be
for girls like me.

We were just expected to exist
and live sexless, loveless lives,
empty of romance…
empty of dreams.

I had been taught all this
and still, I secretly and quietly hoped
others were wrong.
I chose to embrace hope,
and in subtle ways, I started flirting…
a sexy smile here and there,
a wink, a hint of the normality
that wanted to burst free
from the stereotypes and the lies
that chained me.

I took a chance
by flirting with you.
I took a chance, I guess,
because I expected rejection
and although you had been flirting
with my sister,
you suddenly also started flirting
with me.

We were raised
in a strict household.
We were supposed to do nothing
without permission, and it really was a miracle
that a tall and handsome boy like you
was allowed to hang out with us.
Looking back I realize
you were probably not seen as a threat
because my sisters
were “too young” and I, well….
you know…
who could possibly be interested
in me?

So you were considered “safe”
and you were always around
after school and on weekends.
You became a happy part of our days,
and later
a happy memory.
That’s how I chose to remember you
although I think you also know
that’s not how the story ends.

I’m not sure why you did it….or
what possessed you
to do what you did to me….to lie
as if my feelings didn’t matter.
For years,
I didn’t think of you
and I suppose I must have
buried the pain,
the shame,
the memory of that day
when you came to me and said you loved me
and how you wanted
to talk to my mom
asking her for permission
for me to be to be your girl.
When I looked into your eyes,
I didn’t see your lies
maybe because I so desperately wanted
to believe you.
I so desperately wanted
your love to be true.
And when I asked if you were sure,
you said yes,
and made me promise to tell my mom
that you were coming to talk to her
because you really wanted
to make it official.

I still remember how it got dark while I waited
behind the wall to wall windows
of the living room.
A soft drizzle announced rain
and tears
as my worst fears came true.

It had taken everything out of me
to talk to my mom…it took
me confessing to her how lonely I had felt
and how finally a boy wanted me…
how happy I was and how you had been
the one insisting to talk to her.
I felt like such a fool
when you didn’t show up,
and even more of a fool
to learn you had played me for one
when the next time we saw each other,
you acted as if nothing happened…pretended …
that you had no clue
about why I was feeling so blue…
why I was feeling
so broken.
And I said nothing after that.
I let it go, and I guess somehow
managed to bury that memory
and move on…but then…
Facebook happened
and there you were
saying how much you have missed me
and how I had been
the love of your life.
Not a single apology.
Not a single word to explain
what happened back then
and why you had hurt me.

Instead, you turned things around
and talked about how hard your life has been
and how much love you need,
and anything else you might have said
because all I really heard was
Blah blah
Blah blah
Blah blah

Life has a way
of giving us back
the pride we thought we lost.
I am not fourteen any more, my friend,
and I am not




Copyright 2017 by Maria R. Palacios





Daddy’s Little Girl


My dad wasn’t always in my life,
but when he was,
he was, to me,
the most interesting man in the world…
in my world
-a man whose intellect I admired,
and whose words became
the mirror where I wanted to see myself.
I wanted to be
a poet,
but I also wanted to be
one of his poems…
the flesh and blood of his pride and joy.
I wanted him to enjoy
having me as a daughter.
I wanted to be “daddy’s little girl”
and I wanted him to be
the “perfect dad.”
Don’t we all kids dream of that?
Don’t we all wish we had a perfect dad?
But that is a fantasy that dissolves
when we realize nobody’s perfect
-not even our parents who we trust with our lives,
or any of the people we idolized
in our youth.

And it should have hurt my feelings.
It should have broken my heart
when he came in one day
and picked up my sisters one by one
escorting them to the living room
where his friends gathered.
He was introducing his daughters
and he did not
come back
for me
because having a child with polio
was such a pity,
and he
was in the mood to brag.
I should have gotten angry with him.
I should have.
But didn’t.
I think maybe I projected the anger
toward my mom
who came in with hurt in her eyes
and carried me to the living room
loudly announcing me as their oldest daughter.
Her trembling voice tried to project pride,
and, I guess, that
is what infuriated me.
Her words felt like a lie
to me.

I preferred to believe
that my father’s invisible love
was a way of protecting me.
It was easier to believe that than to think
he was ashamed of me
and that I was never his princess
although he called me that.

I loved my dad.
I always have,
and always will.
But I know
his actions were
about protecting himself
from shame
instead of protecting

I don’t talk to my dad much.
I know one day I’ll regret it.
I know one day he’ll be gone
and I’ll be left with all my words
hanging with a question mark
at the end of every memory.

Sometimes I think
about reaching out to my dad.
I want the indigenous roots of his words
to get tangled with mine
in a father/daughter dance
where our poems become
testimonials of forgiveness,
affirmations of eternal love
the way daughters wish our fathers could be
and how we construct them in our minds
in the absence of their love.

I wish
I could just pick up the phone
and call my dad,
and maybe one day I will…I think
I’m always afraid to have nothing to say
or end up having a conversation
that will make me regret calling him.
I guess I have become too much like him
in my inability to face some truths.

It’s easier to just caress the spine of his books
and keep inventing him as the dad
I wish he’d been
the same way he invented having two daughters
instead of three.

I said it didn’t hurt…
but I guess it did.
I guess
it did.




Copyright 2017 by Maria R. Palacios




Dancing In The Rain

When we were little girls,
you always were my
able-bodiedness by proxy
—the borrowed feet
that walked,
and ran
and climbed, and did things I dreamed of doing
but couldn’t,
so I experienced them through you.

You were always
the adventurous one,
the one tough enough to try anything,
and all
of my so called adventures, like
walking to the corner store
when you were eight years old
because I wanted us to start
a little store of our own
out of an old nightstand we had rescued.
And I have no clue
what possessed me to want to do this,
but I needed someone to run to the store
and buy loose cigarettes and candy,
which was all I could afford to get,
and would not have been possible
an able-bodied accomplice
willing to commit the crime.
And the crime was not
the purchase of cigarettes
because back then
kids were sold anything even alcohol
-no questions asked.
The real crime was
leaving the house without permission
jumping the fence to get out and come back in
because when we were left alone,
the front gate was locked
as an attempt to protect us girls
from opening the door to strangers
or whatever other dangers
real or imagined
we were forced to believe.

And for the most part, we did.
But even then, you were willing to bend
any story and break any rule
to do
what I wanted.
You were my partner,
my partner in mischief…
my partner
in so many things.
And I remember you dancing in the rain
one afternoon
because I had asked if you would
wear a pretty nightgown and take off your shoes
to dance in the rain for me
and then come in and describe
the feeling.

You danced in the rain for me.
I told you to play Hava Nagila in your head
and imagine yourself dancing the way you did
in the living room when we listened to that album
we both loved,
and we weren’t even Jewish.
We just loved Hava Nagila
and I wondered if you could actually experience
the freedom
I imagined.

You danced in the rain
while I watched from the window…
Your white camisole drenched with my dreams.
Your beautiful long hair
dripping wet, and your arms raised to the heavens
as if you were praying
while you danced.
How beautiful you were,
and how generous
to be willing to live the dreams
of your disabled sister,
and in your six year old words
you came in soaked
and described the magic of the rain,
the magic of the dance.
I knew then you had, indeed, lived
what I had imagined.

We both got in trouble that night
because the rain dance got you really sick,
-sick with a high fever and a cough
and that was enough
for me
to never ask you again
to dance in the rain.
We took other risks instead
like walking to the store without permission
or stealing lotions and creams and inventing
experiments that led to nowhere
besides having to clean up messes
which I would supervise
and oversee,
and although most of the troublemaking
was caused by me,
you always took the blame
even when I wanted to come clean
and tell the truth.
I think in truth, you had simply learned to respond
to negative attention
because it made you feel
like you were getting attention
–something you always seemed to crave.
Something you always felt you lacked.

I guess in so many ways you had
every reason to feel neglected,
every reason to feel
You were the middle child,
sandwiched between a cripple
and the baby of the three
who was cute and quiet and too young to grasp
the dynamics that were
already part of the picture
in our lives.

The three of us grew up
so close
and yet so far apart,
and although we’re adult women now,
with different views and different lives,
as sisters, we will always be there
for each other.
But you and I…
we share a special connection
because you were my
able-bodiedness by proxy,
my walking feet,
and the magic of dancing
in the rain.



Maria R. Palacios

copyright 2017


Flashback of internalized ableism


Hugo worked at a bank.
He was a friend of my mom’s.
–A dude who’d been disabled all his life,
but “passed”, for the most part,
as nondisabled, probably because
he used to joke
about his crippled gait, and said
that he could always fake it
and pass as a drunk
because society would rather deal with a drunk
than with a cripple.

That’s how most probably viewed
disabled people,
but at the time, I was too young
to really care.
I was busy in my teenage world
of trying to fake
my own way into normality
while dealing with the permanence
of my physical reality
in a world that had no room
for those who looked like me.

Hugo became like family to us
even though my mother got criticized
for being a divorced woman
hanging out with a man
and especially one who looked like him.
But everybody pretended to be nice
when he came around, and eventually
his differences just seemed to disappear.
That was, until we were out in public with him
and we got double stared.
And I hated how people thought he was my father
because we were both disabled.

I hated how people talked, and I had no choice,
but to let them talk, because Hugo was
my mom’s best friend,
and he kidnapped us all
summer after summer.
Took us to the beach, and took us camping,
and even put up with me and my demands
of taking Niki with us — the German Shepperd
I loved and refused to leave behind,
and that forced all of us
to travel like sardines in a little car
that had to accommodate two adults,
three girls, a wheelchair, our luggage
and a big dog.
But Hugo made it work.
And because of him, we had a chance to live
magical summers…summers of bonfires
and camping stories.
Summers of swimming
and building sand castles.
Summers full of sun and full of fun.
Summers that have become
precious memories that now morph
into poems.

Us girls loved Hugo.
But we loved him as long
as he was “just a friend”
and not a boyfriend
to our mother
because the thought of having
a disabled step-father
was not something we could even
It was ok to explain
a friendship
with a disabled person.
But a love relationship?
What would everybody say?
What would everybody think?

Even I, who should have been the one
to not feel shame…the one
to speak up and defend
the humanity
behind our differences….even I
rejected the idea
of having a cripple as a step-dad
I guess because, deep down,
my own internalized ableism
had already grown



Maria R. Palacios Copyright 2017

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