Discussion #6: If We Could Tell an Author One Thing …

For our first anniversary, we’re bringing back the discussion post format! In these posts, we ask our contributors for their thoughts on various topics. We’ll post one every Friday this month. Today, we asked:

If you could tell an author writing a character with your disability one thing–besides “do your research”–what would it be? For example: a piece of advice, a warning about a common inaccuracy or iffy plotline, etc.

Our contributors share the following:

Kody Keplinger:
I’d remind authors that blindness, like all things, is on a spectrum. Most characters depicted in fiction are completely blind – they see nothing. In reality, only 10% or so of blind individuals are completely blind. The other 90% fall on a spectrum. Depending on the disorder or trauma that caused the blindness, a person could see in a thousand different ways. So many people don’t realize this, though. I actually get accused of faking my blindness because I can read large print text on my phone. I often wonder if this is because the media only portrays complete blindness as “blind” and rarely acknowledges the other 90% who have some vision.

s.e. smith:
Something that’s really been bugging me a great deal lately is media and pop culture depictions of OCD. OCD is not about being ‘obsessively’ neat or fussy about personal appearance — it’s a very complex mental health condition that has serious ramifications and manifests totally differently in different people. I’m especially tired of the stereotype that people with OCD are super-clean (although I do keep a very tidy house).

It might help to break down what OCD is actually about — obsessive thoughts, and compulsive actions. OCD involves intrusive, traumatic, aggressive thoughts that don’t go away, and compulsive rituals that people use to manage them. Maybe for some people that’s checking the stove four times before leaving the house, or having to double and triple-check locks. But it can also involve hair pulling, or needing to reorder jars on the shelf, or being completely disrupted by environmental change. Avoid cheap shortcuts when depicting OCD, and make it a condition with actual consequences instead of the figure of fun or something quirky.

Corinne Duyvis:
I’ve spoken a lot about autism, but less so about AD(H)D. I’d love to see more accurate and varied portrayals: It’s not all about distractibility, impulsiveness and hyperactivity! Those traits may be common, but I’d like to see, for example, characters struggling with making decisions, or experiencing hyperfocus.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann:
I’d ask authors to avoid arranging scenes and entire plot lines around characters with Asperger’s who take everything literally, particularly if the author intends to use it for laughs. It feels as if you’re laughing at us and not with us. Besides, most tweens and teens with Asperger’s have learned what an idiom is and know the difference between literal and figurative meanings, even if the literal meaning conjures amusing images in our minds.

Marieke Nijkamp:
I’d love to see more spectrums, especially when it comes to daily life with a disability. For example, when it comes to my arthritis, it means I am in pain almost every day. It does not mean I’m in the exact same amount of pain every day, that the pain itself is exactly the same, or even that the pain is the worst of it.

Some days, I can barely hold a hairbrush. Other days, it’s more like an annoying ache in my bones. Some days, my painkillers are heavenly (and anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to come talk to me about how medication is poison can get out and check their privilege), other days I barely notice them. Some days, I can ignore the pain, and other days, it chips away at the very core of me because it’s so very invasive. It’s a spectrum, and no day is quite like the other.

Kayla Whaley:
In terms of my own disability (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), I’d like authors to consider the physicality of it beyond not being able to walk. Realize that neuromuscular diseases don’t affect ONLY one’s legs. My entire body is weaker than most and that affects my physicality–the way I look and move. I tend to sit leaning forward and to the right because it takes less strength for me than sitting upright. If I’m reaching for something on a table, I have to use my free arm to brace the other. When I’m moving my body (gesturing while talking, adjusting my sitting position, dancing, anything), I don’t tend to be the most graceful because it requires a decent amount of effort to do so.

I think because the only wheelchair-using characters we’re used to seeing are athletic people who have been paralyzed (not that those portrayals are necessarily accurate either), it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the walking issue while ignoring the rest. (And keep in mind that this is a very, very incomplete list and focuses purely on visible physical differences between me and those who are able-bodied.)

Cece Bell:
I agree with what several of the other contributors have said: disabilities are on a spectrum. That is definitely true with deafness—there’s such a big range, and so many different ways that each deaf individual might deal with their own level of deafness. I rarely see deaf people in fiction (probably because I don’t read nearly enough), but I often see them in movies or on TV as minor characters who exist for no other reason than for comic relief. You know, the stock deaf person who shouts all the time because he can’t hear what he’s saying. That joke’s so old even my dog won’t eat it. I guess this advice is more for movie directors than authors, but there you go!

What about you, commenters? Any advice to offer?

Discussion #5: Is ANY representation better than NO representation?

For our first anniversary, we’re bringing back the discussion post format! In these posts, we ask our contributors for their thoughts on various topics. We’ll post one every Friday this month. Today, we asked:

IS any representation better than no representation? That argument frequently comes up in response to criticism, but is it valid?

Here were their answers:

s.e. smith:
NO! If a representation is bad, it’s harmful, and it perpetuates negative beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes — or just erroneous information. This argument is totally invalid, because it suggests that we should be grateful for the scraps from the table, even if they’re stale or molding. That’s ridiculous. We’re owed a duty of care and respect, and people who want to integrate diversity into their storytelling (which everyone should!) need to be prepared to take it on seriously, not include it as a slapdash afterthought

Marieke Nijkamp:
Everything. s.e. said. Every. Single. Word.

Kayla Whaley:
Also no for me. I think what s.e. said was spot on: there’s this expectation that we (disabled folks) should be happy we’re included at all, no matter the form that takes. That ANY inclusion and representation is a GIFT we’ve been given, and it’s ridiculous for us to expect it to be an accurate, respectful portrayal on top of that. That that’s asking way too much of authors. Which, honestly, if you think putting some thought and care into writing your disabled characters is way too demanding, I’m going to assume you don’t put thought or care into any of your characters. I realize that answer got a little off track, but yeah, what s.e. said basically.

Sara Polsky:
No, I don’t think any representation is better than no representation. One-dimensional, stereotypical, or inaccurate portrayals of characters with disabilities harm all readers, whether they have disabilities or not. Poor representation leaves readers who have no other experience with disability with narrow ideas about the lives of people with disabilities, and it leaves people with disabilities with no true reflection of their own experience.

What about you, dearest readers? How do you feel about the any representation is better than no representation suggestion?

Kayla Whaley: All About Logistics

Kayla WhaleyKayla Whaley has a BA in political science and is currently finishing her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She interns for the Atlanta Young Writer’s Institute. Her bookshelves consist almost entirely of kidlit and she writes YA fantasy and contemporary.

Kayla was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy III, a neuromuscular disease, and uses a power wheelchair.

When talking about my disability, I like to emphasize that while my life is in many ways different than the abled, it’s by no means worse or lessened in any way because of it. I want to re-emphasize that disclaimer for today’s post.

I’ve talked a lot about the ways my disability has affected my body image, my sexuality, my confidence, my social interactions, etc., and all of those things are important to consider when writing a disabled character. But today I want to focus on the ways my disability affects the logistics of my life. I obviously do not speak for all wheelchair-users (as with all disabilities, there is a LOT of variation from person to person), but hopefully this will serve as a good starting point for anyone writing a wheelchair-using character.

Getting ready for the day tends to be when my actions vary most from the typical. Growing up, my parents helped me with these things; in college, when I lived on my own, it was my personal care attendant. For ease, I’m just going to say “carer” here, because the routine stays the same.

Getting out of bed: The first step in any morning is to get out of bed. Simple for most people, but a tiny bit more involved for me. My carer wakes me (one of the benefits of my disability is that I have a human alarm clock, which is much more pleasant than a BEEP BEEP BEEP), and pulls the covers down. I sleep on my right side, mainly because any other position is painful, so my carer rolls me onto my back and onto the sling they’ve placed behind me. I tell them how and where to move me so I’m comfortably centered in the sling. Then they push the medical hoyer lift we use so that its legs are under the bed and the coat-hanger-like part hangs over me. They hook the sling to the lift, then pump me up into the air.

Bathroom: I always go straight from my bed to the bathroom. They push the whole lift, with me still swinging in the sling mid-air, to the toilet. Lower me onto it, and you can probably guess the rest. Then back up into the air I go.

Showering: Assuming I take a shower that morning (sometimes I do it at night, and other times I say screw it all together), they’ll then push the lift over to my custom shower chair. They’ll lower me into it, remove the sling, and buckle me in. This is another perk: I never shower myself. I don’t have the strength or the range of motion to do so, so it’s like being pampered at the spa every time. They wash and condition my hair, wash my body, and dry me off. Showers for me are mostly really relaxing. Sometimes, though, if I’m feeling particularly weak, they’re difficult because it takes slightly more strength for me to hold myself upright in the shower chair than in my wheelchair.

Now, clean and dry, they put the sling back on me, pump me back up, and we go to the wheelchair. (Note: any time they lower me it takes some maneuvering. It’s not a simple push of a button. They have to angle me and find the right speed and usually push against my knees so I don’t land on the edge of the seat. It depends, though. Lowering me into in the wheelchair is easier than the shower chair, for instance.)

Dressing: I wear only dresses. That’s it, that’s all I own. While I like dresses, it’s not exactly a fashion statement; dresses are logistically a whole lot easier to get on and off me than pants or even skirts. This is a particularly idiosyncratic thing as none of the other girls in chairs I know do this, but it’s what works for me. So, each morning, I tell my carer which dress I’d like to wear, and they put it on me.

Getting comfortable: After I’m dressed comes perhaps the most important step: positioning. I always sit with my legs crossed “Indian-style” (I wish I knew of a better name for it). It’s the most comfortable position for me, but I usually need my carer to adjust me to find the perfect spot: move my legs, lift my knees, push me back, etc. I tell them precisely what I need until I’m comfortable. This might mean moving one leg a half an inch, or lifting one knee five times. Even the smallest movements can improve or worsen my positioning. And if I don’t get comfortable, it can annoy and/or hurt me all day, or at least until I go to the bathroom again.

Personal hygiene: I can do most of the rest myself, to an extent. For instance, I brush my teeth on my own, but my carer puts the toothpaste on the toothbrush and turns on the water. I can brush my own hair, but I can’t pull it into a ponytail if I want it up. I can drape a shawl over me (most times, though it can take a few minutes), but I can’t put on a jacket.

I know that sounds like a LOT, but my carers and I have been doing this for so long that we’ve got it down to a science. All of the above from start to finish usually takes only 30-40 minutes. (Longer if I choose to put on make-up, but that’s due entirely to my lack of make-up skillz and not to my disability.)

Most of the rest of the day, I don’t need much help. In high school, the most help I needed would be asking a classmate to retrieve or put away a textbook from the backpack that hung off my chair. I almost never went to the bathroom during school hours, because it was an annoyance and meant I had to miss some of a class period.

In college, I lived on-campus, and campus was small enough that I didn’t have to drive to class. Assuming I didn’t need to go off-campus, the most help I’d need would be running home to go to the bathroom, and help with the occasional door from a passerby.

Now, if I had to go off-campus, things could get tricky. I can’t drive, because while I’d be capable of driving with some training, the modifications I’d need are HELLA expensive. So if I go anywhere, someone else has to drive me in my van. In high school, that meant my parents. In college, my friends or carer. It’s usually not an issue, but it is a consideration.

The biggest difference for me with leaving the house, though, is that I constantly have to be aware of how much I’m drinking. Because I use a hoyer lift to transfer on and off the toilet, I can’t go to the bathroom anywhere outside my own home. Mostly that means two things:

  1. Make sure I’m not drinking too much of anything (which can make going out with friends for drinks tricky, because alcohol goes through me so much quicker than soda).
  2. I can’t be away from the house longer than 5-6 hours (and anything more than 5 is pushing it).

That means I can pretty much never go on day-trips or to events that I know will last a long time, unless I’ve already planned a way to go back home in the middle.

Those are obviously not all the differences in my day-to-day life, but barring sadly common access issues, they’re the ones that impact me most and are things abled people may not have considered before. I sincerely hope this is helpful, and if you’re writing a wheelchair-using character and have any more questions, let me know!

Kayla Whaley: On Bullying

Kayla WhaleyKayla Whaley has a BA in political science and is currently finishing her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She interns for both the Atlanta Young Writer’s Institute and Month9Books. Her bookshelves consist almost entirely of kidlit and she writes YA fantasy and contemporary.

Kayla was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy III, a neuromuscular disease, and uses a power wheelchair.

I don’t remember the first time I was bullied, but I do remember the moment I finally realized that I had been bullied. It was a couple years ago. I had just presented my undergraduate thesis, the last big hurdle before graduation, and a group of us went out to celebrate after. I don’t know why I was telling this particular story, because I’m sure they’d all heard it before.

The story goes like this: All through high school, almost daily, I’d be driving down the hallway and someone would throw their friend against the lockers screaming, “I saved you! She would have KILLED you!” Different people every time, too. It was hilarious for them, and the way I always told it, with a bemused “Kids, eh?” attitude, made it hilarious for everyone I told.

That night, as I was telling it for the millionth time, something clicked. I stopped mid-story and said, “Oh my God. I was bullied.”

In retrospect, it was obvious that’s what that was. I thought back to how those incidents always made me feel: confused, embarrassed, ashamed. I’d duck my head, and drive faster down the hall. By that night in the restaurant, four years after high school, I’d forgotten how I always used to stare at the ground when I drove, hiding behind the binders and books I held against my chest.

I wondered how I could have missed it. I thought about how I have always dealt with what I now recognize as bullying with a nonchalant, play-along kind of humor. Because, like I said, it never FELT like bullying. It certainly didn’t feel good, but I didn’t have the language to understand what it actually was.

In one of the early episodes of Glee, there’s a scene where Artie, who uses a wheelchair, is stuffed into a porta-potty by a group of football players. While Glee obviously aired well after my formative years, this is the same portrayal of bullying I’d seen growing up time and time and time again. Bullies were violent; they beat you, pulled your hair, knocked your books down. Or they were verbally abusive, cussing you, calling you names. Bullying was something done TO YOU. It was obvious and hateful.

Nothing was being done to me, only around me. No one ever directly assaulted me (physically or verbally). And I hadn’t been given the tools to understand what was happening.

As soon as I had that realization in the restaurant that night, I also realized exactly how often I’d been bullied. In elementary school, in middle school, in high school, and even in college. It was always relatively subtle. Just subtle enough for me to ignore my feelings, and for me to think I needed to be in on the joke or else I was being too sensitive. No one ever said this to me, but I could see the relief on my friends’ faces every time I joked about those incidents. It made them so much more comfortable if I laughed about it, if I encouraged them to laugh about it, too. Because that meant it wasn’t a big deal.

I could give you a list of all the times someone has belittled me, insulted me, or dismissed me because of my disability. I could tell you about the times even my closest friends did it without realizing, because I didn’t even realize. I could tell you about all the guilt I felt after that night, thinking I was stupid for not seeing it sooner, blaming myself for not stopping it.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that, as always, representation matters. Bullying as violence/verbal abuse should not be the only view of it we see, because it is not the only manifestation of it. Does it happen? Absolutely. Should we talk about the fact that it happens? Absolutely. But that should not be the end of the discussion.

If you’re writing a disabled character who deals with bullying, I’d encourage you to consider a more nuanced portrayal. The big, mean jock beating the kid in the chair is not the only story to tell. And frankly, bullying was not that big a deal for me. It happened, yes, and I can see now how it affected me, but at the time? I had scores of friends. I was near the top of my class. People liked me. And I had so many other, more important problems to deal with than the idiots in the hallway.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s complicated. As most things are. Bullying may very well be a part of your character’s life, but it may not be the most important part.

Kayla Whaley: Sister Act

Kayla WhaleyKayla Whaley has a BA in political science and is currently finishing her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She interns for both the Atlanta Young Writer’s Institute and Entangled Publishing. Her bookshelves consist almost entirely of kidlit and she writes YA fantasy and contemporary.

She’s previously written about her disability at DiversifYA.

The “disabled sibling” trope is arguably one of the most common disability tropes and definitely one of my least favorites (not that I have any favorites). You could certainly write a respectful, awesome story where the main character’s sibling has a disability, but this trope isn’t that.

The trope tends to involve a healthy dose of inspiration porn mixed with an even healthier dose of dehumanization. In my experience, the disabled sibling exists purely to make the main character’s life more “difficult,” more “sympathetic.” Oh, that poor dear, the writers want you to think, having to deal with such a horrible thing. It must be so hard.

The sibling with the disability is a source of frustration, anger, sadness, and general tragedy for their able-bodied sibling. It is not their story. They are not characters – they are props.

None of this is to say that having a sibling with a disability can’t be difficult or sad or whatever for the rest of the family. But it’s certainly not ONLY that, and in my case, it was RARELY that.

Growing up, I didn’t have very many doctors’ appointments (about one check-up a year), we didn’t have any medical bills thanks to our excellent insurance, my little sister was never expected to help take care of me, I wasn’t hospitalized but once for six days after my one surgery in fourth grade. As a family, we sacrificed little because of my disability. Sure, my parents acted as my primary caregivers until I went to college, and I’d occasionally feel badly if I needed to call for one of them more times than usual in the night to roll over or go to the bathroom. Vacations were a little trickier than they would’ve been otherwise, but not much.

I obviously can’t speak to how my family felt, but I very rarely felt like a burden on anyone, and certainly not to the extent I saw on TV and in books.

Of course, my sister and I had our difficulties, but they rarely had anything to do with my chair. I was always jealous of her artistic abilities; she was jealous of my grades. I was really religious; she was really not. I liked following rules, meeting expectations; she liked “rebelling”, finding her own path. I thought she got the most attention from our parents because she was the baby; she thought I got more because I was the “good kid”. In reality, I think we both knew we were equally loved.

And see how none of that was because of my disability? It wasn’t an issue. (Of course, maybe my sister felt differently as I can’t speak for her, but we’ve spoken about it before, so I feel pretty confident.)

So I couldn’t help feeling frustrated seeing those “disabled siblings”. It reflected nothing of my experience or of my family’s experience. Of course it offended me to see characters with disabilities relegated to those roles, but it also upset me to think that’s how people assumed my sister felt about me. That people assumed we weren’t close, that we didn’t love each other and learn from each other and admire each other. That we didn’t fight (boy, did we fight). That we didn’t do things like spend all afternoon lathering ourselves in Bath and Body Works glittery lotions.

That we weren’t sisters first, above all.

According to so many shows, books, and movies, my sister must have resented me. She must have fought to see the good in me and ultimately have learned to love me despite how horrible my disability made her life. Nay, learned to be inspired by all that I’ve overcome.

Fuck that noise.

I love my sister and she loves me and we always have and always will. Do we fight? God, yes. Do we get mad and jealous and spiteful? Absolutely. Do we dance and laugh and tease? Yup. Does she steal my stuff? Mmhmm. Do I think her boyfriends aren’t good enough for her? Sometimes. Is there anything, anything, I wouldn’t do for her? Not a thing. Am I sure she would say the same? Yes.

In short, we’re sisters.

And I think it’s a shame when stories ignore all the incredible, complex facets of any sibling relationship. It dehumanizes ALL your characters, both the disabled and able-bodied siblings. It’s disgusting and a waste and lazy.

Be better than that, writers. Be better for your characters, for yourself, and for all the disabled and able-bodied siblings who deserve to see themselves and their relationships in the stories they read.

Discussion #4: Disability tropes

For our final discussion post, we asked our contributors the following question:

Which are your least favorite disability tropes?

Here were their insightful answers:

Kayla Whaley:
My least favorite disability tropes may also be the most common (at least in my experience), which is precisely why they’re my least favorite. These tropes are some of the only representations of disability people see, which is very dangerous. After all, the media we consume greatly impacts how we view the world, so seeing these tropes only reinforces ableism and ignorance.

The first (though these aren’t ranked in any particular order) is that of the disabled saint. The pure, innocent, good little cripple. These characters serve largely as inspiration porn for both the audience and the other characters. Think Tiny Tim. It shows the ablebodied that those of us with disabilities are perfect despite (or perhaps because of) our tragic disability. So if we do anything outside those ideas of “goodness”, it’s quite a shock for the ablebodied around us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed or talked about drinking with friends and have gotten actual gasps and nervous giggling, because if I’m in a wheelchair, I must be a saint, right? I must fit into their tiny, preconceived box of “good”.

The second is the disabled villain. Interesting how the two most common tropes dealing with disability are polar opposites and neither come even close to reality, huh? There are so many examples of the disabled, disfigured, disgusting villain: Darth Vader, Captain Hook, innumerable weekly baddies on shows, etc. The (typically visible) disability serves as a cue to the audience that this character is one deserving of your revulsion and fear. Yeah. That’s definitely a message I want sent to the world.

Marieke Nijkamp:
Apart from the whole disabled character as inspiration (see inspiration porn), one of the tropes I hate most is the magically healed disabled character. The one where, at the end of the quest or story, the crippled character finds himself able to walk again because he’s learned to be nicer, or the blind character finds herself able to see because she was willing to sacrifice herself for her friends. After all in real life, everyone wants to be healed/disability makes you incomplete/if you only try hard enough…?

Because that’s the implication of such story lines. That disability equals something incomplete at best and more often something that’s morally reprehensible. It implies that only if you learn how to overcome that, only if you learn you’re too be generous, you’ll be healed and happy and be able to reach your full potential. (And secretly, that’s what we all must want.) Heavens forbid you’re happy just the way you are.

s.e. smith:
Obviously, magical cures are a big frustration for me–the disability that is magically fixed to further the plot, the disabled person stripped of her identity as a disabled person by a cure (and usually so appreciative of being saved from the eternal suffering and torment that is disability). This narrative positions disability as something tragic and terrible that needs to be fixed, and sometimes as something a character should be ashamed of–only after the disability is cured does the character become whole.

I also really loathe one-note depictions of disabled characters, where the character becomes consumed by the disability and doesn’t have any other qualities or characteristics. This is often compounded by another trope, such as the super crip or bitter cripple, two other depictions of disability that also make me gnash my teeth in frustration. These one-dimensional depictions aren’t authentic to real experiences and they also contribute to ableist attitudes in society.

Disability-as-educational-tool is another trope that should have been taken out back and shot long ago. Disabled people are human beings, not object lessons or props for character advancement. If a disabled character is being used to educate other characters, give them some kind of motivation, or teach a Very Special Lesson to other characters and/or readers, that character is being abused. Every time this kind of depiction of disability comes up, it reinforces the idea that this is the role of disabled people in society, to teach and educate the people around them, rather than to live as just another person navigating a sometimes complex and always diverse environment.

Maggie Desmond-O’Brien:
In my opinion, one of the most damaging disability tropes is the idea that a disability can be “healed” through sheer force of will, without treatment. That instead of the infinitely more difficult task of living with the disability, you can simply eliminate it in one fell swoop by being “tougher” or not buying into the “system.” My experience with this has been mostly in the mental illness arena, which is tricky–some acute mental illnesses really do pass with time. But others, such as certain types of depression, bipolar disorder (my own disability), and schizophrenia, tend to be lifelong battles. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days, you’ll have days where you accept it and days where you don’t, but the truth is that it’s never going away and you just have to deal with it–no matter what pop culture tells you.

Corinne Duyvis:
My first pet peeve is the disabled relative–sibling, parent or child–who only exists to further the main character. The disabled character rarely has an actual personality or plot line of their own, and does not get to have a normal, complex familial relationship with the abled character; instead, they exist to provide angst or obstacles, or to make the abled character look sympathetic and heroic for taking care of them. Sometimes both! Remember: disabled people are fully-rounded people, with lives and passions of our own, not merely bit parts in abled people’s lives.

My second pet peeve is the ~magical~ disabled person, who often holds–or is–the clue to saving the day. They’ll be the only person with a magic ability, or, in a world where these are commonplace, their ability will be the most special or powerful. Examples include Dinah Bellman from Stephen King’s The Langoliers or Little Pete from the Gone series. This trope can also be used without any supernatural aspects, in which case the disabled person will have savant-like abilities such as Kazan in the film The Cube or Kevin Blake from the TV series Eureka. This trope bugs me because it’s so Othering; the disabled character is something to be ooh-ed and aah-ed over, feared or worshipped, set apart, instead of just being a regular person dealing with their own crap alongside the rest of the cast.

Kalen O’Donnell:
My least favorite disability trope? Yeah, that’d have to be ‘character has a deep dark secret – turns out he/she is bipolar, or else someone close to them is’. Sure, usually this one is trotted out with the best of intentions, as our heroes learn or express by the end of the story that its nothing to be ashamed of or they love and accept them in spite of it, etc, etc. But a book is more than just its climax or last three chapters. If a story makes an impression on a reader, its the whole book that’s going to stick with them, not just the shiny red bow that wrapped everything up all nice and neat at the end. And so while the author may have hoped their story would impart the idea that a bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, to any reader who can actually relate to that, they might actually just be confirming that ‘yup, people are ignorant about this sort of thing and there is a reason to keep it a deep, dark secret….at least unless and until you meet that special enlightened person who loves and accepts you anyway.’

So how about we see more bipolar characters who are living with it with grace and dignity, neither hiding it nor flaunting it. Who don’t shy away from discussing it with the romantic interest if and when it ever becomes relevant, and is comfortable enough with it to refuse to be belittled or patronized by people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about? That’s a trope I could get behind.

Kody Keplinger:
I’m forever frustrated by the “damaged disabled person” trope – wherein the disabled character is a brooding, broken character, scarred both physically and mentally, etc etc. I see this way too often, and it makes me so angry. Where are all the happy disabled people, yo?

What about you, dearest readers? Any thoughts on the above tropes, or do you particularly loathe a trope that hasn’t been mentioned?

Discussion #3: What would you like to see more of?

For this week’s discussion post, we asked our contributors the following question:

“What would you like to see more of in MG/YA lit, in terms of disabled characters?”

Read on for their thoughts!

s.e. smith:
My focus as a reader, writer, and critic is on young adult literature, so I’m going to concentrate there although I love middle grade too. I want to see more characters who just happen to be disabled, where their disabilities aren’t central to the story and don’t play a critical role in the plot, but are still present. In other words, I don’t want to see the disability version of the whitewashed form of diversity sometimes seen with authors trying to write characters of colour where a one-off mention is made to a character being Black or Latina/o and it never comes up again, depriving characters of cultural context–I want to see a character’s disability mentioned and playing a role in the narrative, but not as its own character. (A wheelchair user who’s a hacker, for example, and gets frustrated with the stairs at the local hackerspace. A schizophrenic character who thinks her meds need adjustment when she really is seeing ghosts. A D/deaf or HoH teen witch who’s pissed about uncaptioned YouTube videos. Get imaginative!)

I’d also really love to see more representations of the diversity of disability; I want nonverbal autistics, I want teens with fibromyalgia, I want depictions of mental illness beyond depression (the most commonly depicted mental illness in YA), teens with FOP and OI. Teens with acquired as well as congenital disabilities, teens in that liminal space between nondisabled and disabled as they struggle with seeking a diagnosis for an elusive condition. And I want these stories told from the point of view of the disabled person, not the friends and family around her, not doctors, not her culture. Remember these fighting words from disability culture: ‘Nothing about us without us.’ Integrate them into your work.

Kayla Whaley:
I want to see more characters with disabilities period. But I’m selfish – I’d especially like to see more characters, ideally main characters, with disabilities and experiences similar to mine. It wasn’t until recently I even realized I’ve never read a book with ANY characters similar to me in that respect. It didn’t occur to me to be upset about it because, well, characters in books are able-bodied, right? So, please, more characters in power wheelchairs who aren’t recently paralyzed (the only reason I can remember seeing for a character to use a (typically manual) wheelchair).

However, quantity should not happen at the expense of quality. I want to see more representation, but I also want to see accurate, respectful representation. Of course, the argument can and probably should be made that anything less isn’t actually representation at all, but I think you get what I mean.

I’d also REALLY like to see more characters with disabilities shown enjoying typical aspects of life that are frequently denied them in fiction: sex, romance, healthy body image, successful careers, children, etc. And I’d like to see those characters in main roles, active roles, meaningful roles.

Marieke Nijkamp:
I’d love to see more disabled characters in MG/YA, period. I’d love to see characters–main and otherwise–who happen to be disabled, dealing with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental illnesses. I’d love to see ensemble stories that don’t solely include able-bodied characters. I’d love to see characters who struggle with their disability and characters who don’t. I’d love to see characters whose disability is not the driving point of the story, or, worse, the solution to every problem ever. I’d love to see disabled characters who fall in love and fall out of love, disabled characters who figure out who they are and find their own place in the world, disabled characters with hobbies and passions, disabled characters with hopes and fears and dreams.

In short, I’d love to see fully developed characters, whose disability, while informing who they are, isn’t their only identifying marker but part of a complex set of characteristics. Just like any other character, really.

Discussion #2: Tips for Research & Respectful Writing

Last week’s discussion on inspiration porn garnered some great responses, and we’re so excited to be sharing today’s discussion. We asked our contributors if they had any brief thoughts to share on the following topic:

Tips for Researching and Respectfully Writing Disabled Characters

Here’s what they had to say…

Kayla Whaley:
I fully believe that respectfully writing a character with a disability requires a solid research foundation. First, and most obviously, know what your character’s disability is. Read up on the causes, symptoms, prognoses, but DO NOT take anything you read wholesale. Most disabilities vary WIDELY. For instance, with my disease, I stopped walking at six. Others I know stopped at 14 or 15, while some never walked at all. Some use manual chairs, while I’ve never had the strength for one. I can still sit up, hold my head up, eat on my own, while others can’t. There’s so much variation from person to person. So, yes, know the medical realities of the disability, but know they aren’t all realities for every person.

Research absolutely needs to go beyond that, though. Talk to people with either the same or similar disabilities. Your character won’t feel real if you just talk about how, for example, SMA is caused by a mutation on the SMN1 gene (I actually had to look that up – I had no idea which gene mutation caused my disease). Show the reader how she’d always rather drive uphill than downhill because gravity makes it harder to sit upright going downhill. Or how sometimes her left pinky toe goes numb from sitting cross-legged all day (her preferred position though her doctors hate it). Or how in eleventh grade the elevator broke and she spent all day in her Latin classroom hearing the same lecture over and over, but it was totally awesome because NO MATH. It’s all in the details of the experience, not the science. (You know, in my experience. See what I did there?)

Of course, to write a character with a disability respectfully, don’t focus only on the disability. Don’t even primarily focus on it. Focus on the character. Write them the same way you’d write any other character. Get to know them: their wants, needs, motivations, fears, faults, likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. Whatever you normally know about your characters without disabilities, know those things about those with disabilities too. Above all, write them as full, complete human beings.

Kody Keplinger:
I feel like the most important thing is to talk to a person (or many persons) with the disability you’re writing about. Too many authors do research just to find ways to make the disability fit the story they are trying to tell as opposed to truly researching the disability as a whole. Look at many different avenues – for instance, if you’re researching blindness, look at many different causes. But most importantly, talk to real people.

And when you talk to them, don’t just ask them things like “How do you do X, Y, and Z?” Also ask things like, “What things should I avoid writing about to make this real? Or there any stereotypes I should steer clear of?” chances are they’ll have a ton to tell you about, but you might not get that information with a basic line of “How to” questioning.

Holly Scott-Gardner:
It’s hard to get a disabled character right, simply because no two people with a disability are the same. Some of us are confident, some like studying, think watching sport is awesome, but as with any group in society that isn’t the case for all of us. We have different personalities, our likes and dislikes differ and even the way we respond to our disability varies.

I’m going to focus on visual impairment here as I can relate to it personally. Some blind people use a cane, some a guide dog, many use both. Most people who are classed as legally blind have some useful vision, I am a Braille user but other blind people read large print. I’m trying to highlight here that you can’t just decide to write a visually impaired character and go for it, you must do your research. Google is great and you can find out a lot of information about assistive technology, programs specifically for the blind and tools we use in the classroom. But the only way to really know what it’s like to be blind is to talk to a blind person. I’d recommend if you’re writing a character with a disability to talk to a number of people who have that disability. As I said we don’t all do things quite the same way and so from talking to a range of people with that disability you’ll get a more accurate idea of the way you’re character might behave.

Don’t be scared to approach us, 99% of us would be relieved to know that an author is doing research and more than that they are actually reaching out to people with that disability so that they can write an accurate portrayal of it. So often I see badly written books where the blind character is helpless, or uses technology that is outdated or even doesn’t exist! Knowing that an author wants to put the effort into researching blindness and writing the best portrayal they can is extremely encouraging.

s.e. smith:
Research is one of my favourite things in the whole world, as both a journalist and a writer of fiction. I love outlining, pulling together a story, and then delving into the facts behind it—with fiction, there’s always the added tension of seeing if my characters and world are sustainable, believable, and immersive, whether I’m writing about cyborgs in space or demonically possessed watermelons. When it comes to depicting real actual human experiences, research is so critical, both to make stories better, and to make them authentic; people want to see themselves in fiction, and as an author, you have a responsibility to depict minority groups with care, because your readers will take away messages about them from your text.

And my advice is: get ready to absorb a lot of information. There are tons of disability blogs out there as well as memoirs, which gives you a great chance to get a broad perspective on different disabled lives and different experiences with the same disability. Disabled artists and creators make comics, films, and other creative works that are another great informational tool. Identify a couple of people with the disability you’re writing about and approach them, politely, to ask if they’d be willing to work with you as research partners. Offer to compensate them for their time. Do your research ahead of time so you can ask them appropriate and useful questions, and treat them respectfully. If they’re willing to read drafts of your work, take advantage of that opportunity, because as they see the whole work come together, they can identify issues that may arise, or point out things you haven’t thought about (why did your autistic character cover her ears while riding the train because the noise was too loud, but seem totally fine with the noise of a jet engine?).

Nisi Shawl’s fantastic transracial writing for the sincere is a recommended read for anyone writing minority characters, because what she has to say applies not just to transracial writing but also to writing about disabled characters, queer characters, and people from minority groups. Shawl’s Writing the Other is another fantastic text to use; yes, you need to research how to research! (Sorry.) If you don’t share the experiences of your characters, you need to research them, rather than assuming that the lessons of pop culture and assumptions of society have prepared you. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to fail; the question isn’t whether you will fail, but whether you will learn from your mistakes.

Sarah Bromley:
Of course you want to maintain respect for people living with whatever condition you are researching for writing fiction. I find personal interviews to be a better source for research because it allows the interviewer to go deeper with the questions than just mining the internet for articles, but personal interviews also demand a high level of respect. If you have someone close to you with that condition, you can approach that person and tell him/her you want to write about it. Most people are willing to talk about their conditions and make sure you are accurate in your description of the condition.

And that’s the thing here. Accuracy versus exploitation. No one wants to feel like they shared information and it was used to exploit their condition. So assure anyone that you’re interviewing that you won’t be sensationalizing what they share with you, that you’ll be giving an honest look at what it’s like to have that particular condition.

Corinne Duyvis:
Aside from all the great advice above, one thing I want to urge people to do is ask themselves this: What do I know about this disability? Where does this knowledge come from? Most of the time, the answer is ‘pop culture.’ Too many people will write what they think is a certain disability with bits of info scrounged together from various books and movies. Scratch everything you think you know and research from scratch. Turn this research into a project: don’t treat it as an hour-long Google/Wikipedia search or a quick interview, but immerse yourself for weeks or months on end in articles, blogs, and discussions–about everything from RL annoyances to iffy media portrayals. Become acquainted with disability tropes and clichés and figure out exactly why they’re so bothersome.

Particularly, when you write a disability, don’t look at a list of symptoms and and wonder, “OK, now if I were in this situation…?” because disability is more complex than that. You must research beyond the objective physical aspects. People become used to disability over the years and find ways to adapt; don’t get so hung up in a character’s limitations that it takes over their entire being. For a number of people, disability is legitimately terrible. For others, it’s an annoyance along the lines of wearing glasses. Others equate it to not owning a car, which has both downsides and upsides.

Whichever route you go, make sure the character’s personality traits, habits, and plotlines are influenced rather than defined by disability.

Disabled readers, anything to add? Authors, will this change how you approach your disabled characters, or did any of this raise further questions?

We’d be delighted to hear from you in the comments!

Kayla Whaley: Being a Poster Child

Kayla WhaleyKayla Whaley has a BA in political science and is currently finishing her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. She interns for both the Atlanta Young Writer’s Institute and Entangled Publishing. Her bookshelves consist almost entirely of kidlit and she writes YA fantasy and contemporary.

She’s previously written about her disability at DiversifYA.

I was an adorable child. Straight up, I was SUPER cute. Here’s me (on the right, my sister’s on the left) when I was around four:

Kayla Whaley & sister

Right?! I was also articulate, intelligent, sociable, personable.

In other words, I was the perfect poster child.

A poster child, to me, is a child with a disability who is “shown off” as a way to generate funds, awareness, understanding, more funds. Mostly funds, in my experience. As the name would imply, one way to do this is to put the child’s face on a poster, but it’s certainly not the only way.

I want to be clear: I loved being a poster child (though I didn’t know the term at the time). Loved it wholeheartedly.

You might be familiar with the Jerry Lewis Labor Day MDA Telethon. If not, every year on Labor Day weekend, Jerry Lewis hosts a telethon to help fund the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which is the largest nonprofit in America dealing specifically with Muscular Dystrophy (MD). (My disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type III or SMA, falls under the massive umbrella that is MD.) There’s a national broadcast that features tons of star-studded performances, massive checks being delivered, etc. There are also cutaways to local broadcasts throughout.

One of the first years after we moved to Atlanta, I was invited to be interviewed for the Atlanta Telethon broadcast. It was a big deal. My whole family stayed at the downtown Hilton where they filmed and I got to hang out with a bunch of my friends with MD. Of course, being six or seven, I was mostly thrilled I was going to be on TV. The interview itself was fairly short – less than five minutes – and straightforward. They asked about my favorite class in school, my hobbies, my family. They asked what I’d like to say to those watching at home. What their donation could do to improve my life.

I’ll never forget that immediately after, the hundreds of phones in the room all started ringing. I swear, it sounded like every single one, and I knew all those people were all calling because of me. The interviewer, a local news anchor, even told me they hadn’t rung that much the whole weekend.

After that interview, I did several more “poster child” events. I went to a kick-a-thons at karate schools. I went to jump-a-thons at preschools. (It did occur to me even at the time that it was strange to be watching all these kids do something I couldn’t and it was meant to benefit me.) I was interviewed again, for several years in a row, on the Telethon.

I loved it. I felt important. I felt liked. I always liked being the center of attention, and how much more central can a kid get than being on local public broadcasting?

I didn’t actually do as much promotion as a lot of my friends. Several of them were chosen to be ambassadors for the state of Georgia. One is picked each year, and they travel all around the state doing those same kinds of events. I was happy for them, sure, but I was also SO jealous of them. (I’m pretty sure my mom told them not to pick me; we wouldn’t have had anywhere near the money or time to do it anyway.) I thought, “I’m better at this than they are. I’m funny and people like me and I’m so cute.”

Eventually, around late middle school, they stopped inviting me to “whatever-a-thons”. They stopped asking me to interview on the Telethon. It made sense. I wasn’t an adorable kid anymore. I was an awkward teenager. The money’s in the little kids.

I was a little hurt, but I wasn’t that upset. I understood. And besides, I wanted MDA to get as much money as they could, with or without me.

I want to be clear again: MDA does, I think, a lot of good work. They help provide flu shots, wheelchairs, other assistive tech, research, etc. The thing they did that most affected me directly, though, was hosting an annual MD summer camp. Camp deserves a whole post of its own, but suffice it to say that that one week each summer was always, always, the best week of my year.

So I wanted them to get money. And I wanted to help when I could, and stop when I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until probably college that I figured out there were really problematic aspects to the concept of “poster children”. The concept feels very similar to inspiration porn to me (see last week’s excellent discussion post on that topic), only instead of some fictional character, I’m the one starring.

(Oh man, I’m a porn star. NOBODY TELL MY MOTHER.)

As a poster child, your worth is in your disability. You’re there to inspire the able-bodied audience. To inspire pity, sadness, fear, guilt, etc. You’re the poor, poor cripple whose life would be that much more horrible without their monetary contribution.

I feel like there should be a moral here. That using “poster children” is wrong. And it is. It’s icky and condescending and othering and dangerous, just like inspiration porn is. But I almost don’t feel qualified to make that judgment because I still look back on my own experiences fondly.

And yet I know the things I enjoyed were largely lies. I wasn’t important – my disability was. People didn’t like me – they pitied me. I wasn’t the center of attention – my chair was. It wasn’t really about my benefit (though I did benefit in some ways) – it was about benefitting the organization.

I have a Master’s in nonprofit management now, so I understand even better the financial incentive behind using poster children. But I also now understand that it is WRONG.

Surely, surely, there’s a way children with disabilities who want to be involved can actually be involved, not used. That they as whole humans can contribute to organizations they believe in, not be commodified and sold to the able-bodied.

I think the answer here is simple, as it tends to be. It all boils down to treating with children with disabilities as whole people with dignity, agency, faults, etc.

Simple, and yet, so rarely done.

Discussion #1: Inspiration Porn

Welcome to our first discussion post! We’ve selected a topic for each Thursday of this month, and asked our contributors if they had any brief thoughts to share on that topic. This way, we can showcase a variety of perspectives and opinions.

This week’s topic: inspiration porn. Don’t know what that is? You’ll find the answer below–we asked our contributors how they define this concept and what they feel about it. Read on!

Kody Keplinger:
To me, inspiration porn is any sort of media (a picture, a movie, a book, etc) or even a view of an individual, that tries to fabricate an ordinary action as something extraordinary. For instance, a meme depicting an amputee with a prosthetic leg walking with the caption “Brave!” (Yes, I have seen this before). It can also be imposed on an individual. For instance, I’d say I’ve been turned into inspiration porn by strangers who tell me that I’m “so amazing” for – no kidding – walking down the street with a guide dog or a cane.

I *hate* inspiration porn. I can’t even convey how much I hate it. To me, it’s such a dangerous thing because, even if the intentions are good, it implies that the average disabled person is weak or lacks independence. So when people tell me I’m “amazing” for being out in the world, it implies the average blind person is a shut in. In reality, disabled people are people and want to be treated like normal people. This means not being seen as “brave” or “inspirational” for average, every day actions. Unfortunately, the news, modern lit, modern film, etc, seem to think this is the only way to tell the story of a disabled person. The plot is always “Character X has Disability Y, but she STILL MIRACULOUSLY MANAGES TO OVER COME IT.” Disabled people in the media are always treated as extraordinary and not ordinary. And, to put it eloquently, it sucks.

s.e. smith:
That Oh So Special way of viewing disability. Inspiration porn positions disability as a terrible burden, assuming that disabled people have no quality of life, but they can find some redemption in inspiring nondisabled people by doing novel, heroic, and amazing things like having jobs, getting good marks in school, or participating in society. Inspiration porn is photos of disabled athletes with sappy captions. It’s news stories about brave little disabled children boldly ‘not letting their disabilities stop them.’ It’s handing awards to disabled students for doing what everyone else is already doing, like they’re freakish, fascinating objects rather than human beings. It’s the treatment of disability as a valuable learning experience for nondisabled people, rather than just something that’s a fact of life for some members of society.

And in fiction, it’s pernicious. Disability is often used as a plot device to teach characters something, and disabled characters frequently show up as object lessons or figures of inspiration to the other characters, particularly when they are not the narrators or the centres of the storytelling. Thus we have stories where characters are ‘inspired’ by the fact that disabled people exist, or do things in the name of their disabled object lessons. It deprives disabled characters of all autonomy and objectifies them; from human beings, they have been transformed into mere caricatures, and they aren’t allowed to just be themselves.

Want to avoid disability porn? Focus on this: people should be inspiring because of their deeds, not because of who they are. Thus, for example, a woman like Hannah McFadden isn’t inspiring because she’s a wheelchair athlete and it’s just amazing that someone who uses a wheelchair for mobility can be an athlete. She’s inspiring because she’s a world-class athlete who competes on the international level with some of the fastest, strongest, most amazing athletes in the world.

Mindy Rhiger:
Recently on my bus commute home from work, an older lady leaned over to me and said words I have heard so many times in my life: “You are so inspiring.” I still don’t know how to respond to that even though people have been saying it to me since I can remember. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder how the woman saw me. Clearly I was not just another commuter reading a book on a bus. I knew I looked different—the hook-shaped prosthetic arm took care of that—but what did she think that meant for me?

I wanted to tell her that what she could see didn’t mean as much as she thought. That my life was pretty normal, really. But she had already leaned back in her seat and turned her attention elsewhere. The conversation was over without any contribution from me. I understand that inspiration is a tricky thing, and I don’t want to take good feelings away from anyone. I do, though, caution people who are willing to listen that inspiration based on assumptions may be more de-humanizing than they realize.

Corinne Duyvis:
Inspiration porn, I feel, is a way of simultaneously focusing on how incredibly tragic a certain disability is and robbing the disabled person of any agency or complex feelings about it. Instead, it fawns over–fetishizes, almost–the aspects that make abled people smile sappily. After all, isn’t it amazing how well this wheelchair user can navigate public transport? It’s so inspiring! Just leaving the house is already an act of immense bravery, worthy of applause. In other words, the bar is set at a condescendingly low level.

In inspiration porn, it’s fine to linger on how much pain someone is in, or adversity they’ve faced, because all of it strengthens just how brave they are for trudging on regardless–but lord forbid you mention things disabled people might struggle with every day, such as accessibility, ableism, policy, benefits, healthcare. Inspiration porn glibly bypasses those issues to tell a narrative that won’t make anyone’s conscience sting, or feel like they might need to change their attitudes. The audience is abled people, and the goal is to make them feel good, and screw what actual disabled people might want or need. Disabled people act as props in this narrative. One spot-on example: the Glee episode “Laryngitis” in which a disabled character appears solely to inspire Rachel.

Kayla Whaley:
To me, inspiration porn is any story where a character must overcome the horrible tragedy of their disability, thus inspiring the able-bodied audience. This can be found in any and all types of media: books, movies, TV, etc. The first time I remember seeing it was in a Disney channel movie back in the day called Miracle in Lane 2, where Frankie Muniz heroically races soapbox cars despite using a chair. I had no language to understand what I was seeing or why it made me so profoundly uncomfortable, but now I do.

How we portray reality affects reality. Culture is made, constructed by an infinite number of tiny (and not so tiny) decisions we each make. Inspiration porn, therefore, affects how individuals and the wider culture see me. For example, I’ve had a lot of recommendation letters written for me (for scholarships, internships, awards, jobs, etc.) and I’ve read quite a few of them. Every single one so far has said something along the lines of, “Kayla never lets her wheelchair stop her. She’s such an inspiration.” And every time I think, “Really? Of all my accomplishments and qualities, that’s what you chose to lead with?” The media I consumed both as a kid and now tell me I’m not allowed to be a person; I have to be an inspiration. Whatever that means.

Marieke Nijkamp:
A college counselor once told me they really couldn’t accommodate me. Not because I was disabled—they had funds and scholarships for that. But those were only valid as long as I wanted to do what Normal People™ did. And I had just expressed my interest in doing a double degree, because the undergrad degree I was working on at the time was not challenging enough for me. She pointedly told me (though not in so many words) that if I did not stick to their preconceived notions of disability, they would not be able to help me pursue my academic plans. True to their word, they didn’t.

Inspiration porn, to me, is that preconceived notion that either turns disabled people into objects or into lesser humans, depending on the narrative. It is offensive, it is discriminatory, and most of all it is dangerous. It tells us, disabled people, that “normal” is the best we can (and should) achieve, glossing over the fact that “normal” is a culturally constructed concept, based on individual experience that should (but not always do) include ours. It tells society to expect only that and all that. If we do what everyone else does, we are objectified as an “inspiration”. If we create our own normal, we are Othered. This lowers our value and significance as human beings in the eyes of other human beings. And it tells abled people that they should not expect more from us, not just in terms of what we achieve but in terms of who we are. We can be inspirational. We can be pitied. But we cannot be happy, sad, competitive, curious, lazy, sarcastic, struggling, in love, in hate, in any way or shape complex at all. Let me give you a hint though: we are. And that is our normal.

Haddayr Copley-Woods:
I have found that inspiration porn is, like porn-porn, about how the viewer feels — not about the disabled person depicted. Inspiration porn makes the viewer feel feelings. Generally pity, and generally a profound gratitude that they are not a cripple themselves. They cannot imagine how someone manages to go through life on crutches, being autistic, twitching, or using a wheelchair — without putting a bullet through their brains. They watch us struggle, or ride a bike, have one glorious victorious moment, or sit in a chair in slowmo. And they feel very, very warm inside. They get weepy. They whip out their compassion and stroke it until it explodes into fuzzy self-congratulatory peacefulness. It’s so inspirational! They say.

But what exactly does this inspire you to DO? Does it inspire you to step on a land mine, be lucky enough to have the money and resources to have blades as prostheses, and become an athlete? No? Does it inspire you to coach basketball and give every kid a chance to try out instead of giving That Autistic Kid only one chance to get a basket in four long years? No? To demand that special education services are fully-funded? No? So where is the inspiration? What. Are you. Inspired. To DO?

If the answer is “share it on Facebook,” please stifle. I don’t share my favorite xhamster videos. Let’s keep it clean, folks.

What do YOU think, readers? Were you familiar with the concept of inspiration porn? Did these thoughts shed a new light on the subject for you?

Share in the comments!