Living Well When You’re Unwell

26 September 2019

Welcome to Living Well When You’re Unwell—a column that answers all your questions about navigating uni, life, relationships, and jobs with disability and chronic illness.

I’ve heard the term being thrown around a bit, but I don’t understand what it means. What is inspiration porn?
– What Exactly Does it Mean?

Have you ever given a person with a disability a compliment? Was the compliment about something they did despite having a disability? That is inspiration porn. It is when you say a person with disability is inspiring solely because they are living with a disability.

Now, if you know a really rad person who has done really great things and you give them a compliment and call them inspiring, that’s not inspiration porn. That’s just acknowledging they’ve done something pretty cool!

An example of this would be telling your best pal that they’re inspiring because they’ve gotten all H1s and managed to work part-time and worked an internship all at once. Inspiration porn would be telling your best pal who uses a wheelchair that you’re inspired by them because they came to class while in a wheelchair. See the difference?

How do I know if I’m using the right terminology when talking about disability and people with disabilities?
– Afraid of Being Offensive

There’s no one right way to talk about disabilities, but you’re probably already aware of some words you definitely shouldn’t use. It’s always important to refrain from using any and all derogatory terms, but if you want to find out what kind of language is used, you can take a look at this language guide from People with Disability Australia: https://

What do I do if I’m talking to someone with a disability who has difficulty speaking and I don’t understand what they’ve said? Is it rude to ask them to repeat themselves?
– Let’s Talk About It

It’s generally okay to ask someone to repeat themselves if you didn’t understand what they said. It’s definitely better to do that than pretend you understood! If you want to make sure you heard correctly, you can also repeat back what you think you’ve heard to make sure that you’re correct.

Remember, there are other ways to communicate, too! You can always text, write on a piece of paper, use sign language, or anything else that might work in the conversation you’re in.

Is it okay to ask someone how they became disabled?
– Always Curious

Unless you have a genuine reason to ask someone how they became disabled (e.g. you’re their medical professional), you probably don’t need to ask someone how they became disabled.

If you’re curious, you might be dying to ask, but remember that it’s not polite and it’s really not something you need to know. Some people might experience emotional trauma around the topic and others might just want to focus on something else more relevant, like shared interests or the latest episode of Black Mirror. Curiosity alone is never reason enough to make someone uncomfortable.

Have a question on the general topic of disability and chronic illness? Send an email to to get your question answered. You don’t have to be living with a disability to send a question—any questions you might have about disability and health are welcome.

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