Since college, I have become interested in disability studies. Maybe this is because both of my parents are disabled. Maybe it's just because I plan to be a therapist and many mental health disorders can also be considered disabling or disabilities by themselves. Either way, I am now minoring in disability studies and have begun to take a class this semester on the topic.

One concept in this class has been particularly eye-opening: inspiration porn. Inspiration porn seems like another version of a microaggression, which, according to Merriam-Webster is "a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group." In this context, the microaggression is called inspiration porn, which is when a disabled person is called "inspirational" just for getting up in the morning and living their life. Yes, I agree, the name is misleading, but I think the reason for that is to catch your attention. And didn't it do just that?

Anyway, you might be thinking, "Why is it a problem for me to think that or say that? It's just a compliment." Well, yes, I'm sure some people really appreciate it, like my mom who has only been disabled for a few years and is attempting to make a difference through the CDC's "Tips from Former Smokers" campaign.

But after many years of it, it might get old, especially if the disabled person doesn't think they're particularly inspiring. They're just living life. Even my mom is surprised when people think she's inspirational, as she's just living her life and doing her part to help people not make the same bad decisions she made.

On the other hand, some people are super inspiring, like Stephen Hawking, for example. But he's not necessarily inspiring because he did what he did with a disability. He is inspiring because he is one of the best physicists in the history of the world. Calling a disabled person inspirational really only becomes an issue when you are calling them inspirational to make yourself feel better about your current position.

It's maybe a hard concept to grasp when we've been ingrained to feel bad for disabled people, but disability in itself is not a bad thing. There's so much more I could explain about this notion, such as the social model of disability, but for the sake of not overstepping my boundaries as a new student and not making this too complicated, I won't go into that. For now, just understand that it's important to ask yourself: When you find a disabled person inspirational: Are they inspirational? Or are they just living their daily life as I do, in a somewhat different situation than I live life?

I don't speak for all disabled people, or really any, except for maybe my parents, but I still think it's important for us to be educated on topics like this one, though my previous statements don't necessarily apply to all disabled people. It sucks that we have to be "educated" on this kind of thing, possibly further marginalizing disability, but education is an important step in rights for any misunderstood group. Until we change our way of thinking about disability, disabled people can never truly be integrated into "normal life," and without education, that mindset will never change.

I hope that someday the mindset will change, but I recognize that the goal might take many years to accomplish. I'm no expert, but I hope I've given you some idea of what inspiration porn is, and I hope that you take it into your own hands to become more educated. Ignorance is not bliss; it is the enemy of progress.