Once again, it’s that time of year. The sun is getting warmer. The snow starts to melt. The birds begin to sing. The days are growing longer. Rain and thunderstorms are in the air. And, in preparation for prom, millions of teenagers make great gestures, plan after-parties, buy dresses, and rent tuxedos and limos.
With prom season upon us, we will soon be barraged with the recounting of several stories in which upstanding young men and women invite someone with a visible disability to a once-in-a-lifetime dance.
The stories will go viral on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, with kind, well-intentioned individuals leaving pleasant comments and thanking the young adult’s parents for raising a considerate human being. As happy as I am to see so many nondisabled teens accompanying disabled teenagers to prom, I don’t want this to make the news. Befriending a teen with a disability isn’t unusual, and it shouldn’t be front-page news. People with disabilities don’t exist to inspire nondisabled people.
Prom is a rite of passage for many teenagers, and all teenagers should enjoy their prom if they would like to. Proms and school functions need to accommodate all students. Disabled students are students too. If it were normal, all teenagers would make the news for their prom dates.
Isn’t it sending the message that individuals with disabilities are so different and less-than that it’s astonishing they were asked at all by highlighting the young man or woman and thanking them for being so thoughtful? Or that they are known as a member of a basketball team? Or that they have friends who defend them against bullies? Why is this making national headlines? Inclusion should be standard practice rather than a surprising gesture worthy of making the nightly news.
Suggested reading on “inspiration porn.”
Christian, Aimee. “My Disabled Daughter Isn’t Your Inspiration Porn.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Feb. 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/02/19/my-disabled-daughter-isnt-your-inspiration-porn/.
Perry, David M. “Opinion: Inspiration Porn Further Disables the Disabled.” Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera America, 2 June 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/6/inspiration-porn-further-disables-the-disabled.html.
Pulrang, Andrew. “How to Avoid ‘Inspiration Porn.’” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Dec. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2019/11/29/how-to-avoid-inspiration-porn/?sh=ab706b35b3db.