The access and inclusion debate is limited in public spheres, in this article we talk about how understanding what inspiration porn is can help us create a more accessible world.
There are no go zones across the country, the world even, areas that people daren’t enter for fear of judgement and attack. These areas include public spaces, train stations, educational institutions and even our biggest cities. It’s a rhetoric you have heard before. But we’re talking about access.
It’s about the fight that millions of people across the world have to engage in just to exist. This fight is often ignored and scoffed at, people respond with remarks like “I would love to be sitting down/in bed/at home all day”, or “But, are you really disabled? Like, to be disabled you need to be a, b, c, d, e, f…and there’s a lot of criteria that I, as an abled person, can judge you on”.
To which all disabled people respond with a sigh.
But isn’t inspiration porn good?
Nope, inspiration porn reinforces this divide by following a narrative with these key features;
- abled people claim ownership of the disabled person, and by doing so objectify them.
- They share the disabled person as if “it” is an object; made only for their consumption and paraded around to restore their faith in the humanity of abled people.
- Because *important background information* without abled people, disabled people lack the ability to exist.
- The disabled person is always portrayed as lesser, weaker and in need of an abled person.
Inspiration porn helps fuel the self-congratulatory approach that people and organisations make when they do something inclusive. Being inclusive and accessible isn’t something you should be proud of, it’s something that you should strive for. Every single day.
Equally, failed attempts at “inclusion” shouldn’t be defended. As Yoda says, “there is no try, only do”. Disabled people aren’t congratulated for their existence*, so why do we defend the existence of failures instead of learning from them? Mistakes should be owned up to, and disabled people should be consulted about how to better access and inclusion. Accessibility and inclusivity ideas tossed around behind closed doors are embarrassing. Failed inclusion is exclusion, and that is embarrassing. But, more than that, it is damaging and harmful. To disabled people, disabled families, the elderly and our communities.
What inspiration porn does make clear, however, is this;
Abled people know that the world has not been designed to be accessible or inclusive. Inspiration porn is one part objectification of disabled people and one part self-congratulation for using a basic human skillset.
Consider that: In knowing that the world is not accessible or inclusive, the choice is still made to objectify another human being and engage in self-congratulation instead of creating accessible and inclusive spaces.
So what next; Expectation versus reality.
By objectifying disability, you make it static. Assumptions are created about what constitutes “disability”, and those assumptions are enforced in benefits tests and doctors’ offices.
Here’s the thing; if disabled people created benefits tests, there would be far fewer abled people scamming the system. What every “abled” person’s disability benefits scam tells us is this; the abled people running the scams totally and completely understand what the expectation of disability is versus the reality of disability. With that in mind, they play to their advantage. The system responds by making the parameters for a “disabled person” to exist within narrower and narrower. All because the creators of the system don’t want to admit that they do not have the life experience necessary to create a robust and responsive system to accurately assess disabled people and their needs.
Instead they use a system based on ableist stereotypes, that abled people can take advantage of. But, in the outrage of media coverage we never talk about that important fact, or the ableist behaviours and judgements that many of us engage in.
Fun fact: did you know that most people who need a wheelchair/cane/hearing aid/accessibility/mobility aid put off buying it because they don’t feel that they are “disabled enough”?**
Disability isn’t static, and for every coo, tear to the eye, warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see a disabled person doing something out in the world***, or worse; uncontrollable congratulation that you give a disabled person for being out in the world, you unwittingly add to the divide.
*We are, however, often congratulated for our ability to exist as a disabled person.
** This is internalised ableism and it affects everyone
***This is known as “living their life”