inspiration porn

How to write better stories on students with disabilities

Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org A poster for the "I'm Not Your Inspiration" awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. A portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I'm Not Your Inspiration (I'm Your Classmate).
Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org

Posters for the “I’m Not Your Inspiration” awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. In one, a portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I’m Not Your Inspiration (I’m Your Classmate).

As journalist and NCDJ disability language style guide author Amy Silverman writes, “Disability journalism is a hot beat right now. But just because you’re covering disability doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.”

In a column for Phi Delta Kappan, a professional journal for teachers, Silverman discusses the challenges of reporting in schools and the ways in which journalists still far short when it comes to telling relevant and nuanced stories about people with disabilities. Read more of Amy Silverman’s column online.

Learn about the concept of “inspiration porn” in this video of journalist and comedian Stella Young’s talk at TEDxSydney:

Hawking’s death prompts debate on disability language

The death this week of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was mourned by millions of fans around the world. His passing also prompted several important conversations about how his disabilities should be discussed in the media, especially in the context of his remarkable professional achievements.

Several disability advocates on Twitter, such as Alice Wong, recommended writers “avoid subjective language” such as “suffered from ALS” and focus on Hawking’s scientific contributions without turning them into “inspiration porn.” Andrew Gurza, a self-described “Professional Queer Cripple” and creator of the podcast “Disability After Dark” wrote an opinion essay for Men’s Health explaining why wheelchair use shouldn’t be described as “confining” or something Hawking was “freed from.”

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, science reporter Jessica Roy quotes several disability experts who agreed Hawking’s advocacy for disability awareness should be more visible. In an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio Lawrence Carter-Long emphasized that Hawking didn’t “overcome his disability to achieve the things he did,” but instead he accomplished them “while he was disabled.”