Ableism In Four Words.

Social media is often portrayed as a toxic environment full of lies & fake news, & frankly, it’s a reputation well-earned. However, it also has the power to reach millions of people across the globe, & when you have a message that needs to be heard, it is a useful tool.

A lot of my social media content focuses on ableism, contains a colourful array of language that would make a marine jealous, & for some strange reason over 10,000 people think it’s worth following. However, compared to the juggernauts of Twitter I cause only the most miniscule of ripples.

That was until an unassuming Monday morning at the start of February, when I was trundling along into the office & had an idea. As I was waiting for my computer to switch on, I crafted a handful of tweets all using the hashtag #AbleismInFourWords.

Very soon tweets using my hashtag began to appear on my feed.

By the end of the working day, quite unbelievably, #AbleismInFourWords was somehow trending in fifth place for the entire UK, just behind Brexit which had only happened a few days prior, & coronavirus as two cases were confirmed in Britain.

As with anything of that magnitude on social media, it also attracted a fair share of trolling. Personal favourites included those using #AbleismInFourWords to patronisingly explain why talking to us as in a slow, condescending tone while gesticulating wildly was not ableist at all, which if anything only served to prove my point. There were several accusations of being an easily-offended snowflake from people who found my hashtag offensive. Usually I have very little time & patience for trolls, often blocking & reporting them before they can continue, but this time I decided to be the bigger person. So I posted this:

It seems that #AbleismInFourWords has had quite an impact on the disabled community, as I received many messages & tags commending me for what was really nothing more than a spur-of-the-moment idea. It was quick, catchy, & could be applied to an array of scenarios both funny & serious; there was really nothing more to it.

Social media, for all its numerous short-comings and faults, is not always the evil we make it out to be. Sometimes, a tiny spark of inspiration is all that’s needed to create a positive trend that reaches out to many, many people, spreading humour & inspiring people across the globe.

Third Time’s The Charm.

As of January 15th 2020, Diary of a Disabled Person is officially 3 years old! The terrible two’s are finally over, & like a rarely-seen aunt I simply cannot believe how much time has passed.

Celebrating 3 Years of Diary of a Disabled Person in white text, above a line drawing of cake, balloons, & party poppers, on a peach glittering background.

The past year of blogging has, as always, seen some changes to the way I work & the content I produce. I’ve won awards, expanded my following, taken on new projects, & even started making videos!

A year ago I had 200 WordPress followers, & my website had been viewed a few thousand short of 80,000 times. A year has seen me gain over 130 new followers, & the 100,000 views mark is so much closer! Considering that I spend no money on advertising, & rely almost entirely on social media & word-of-mouth, I’d say that’s pretty substantial growth.

Last January I accepted my first award of the year, the Flawesome award, & over the course of the year I have a accrued a few more, bringing me to a grand total of eight awards. The support of other bloggers has been confidence-boosting, to the point where I launched my own award to recognise the excellence of other bloggers & content-producers out there; The Fearless Snowflake award. I hope that with this award, I can return some of the gratitude & support I have received back to a community I am proud to be a part of.

I also released my third series of short stories over the summer, which seemed to be well-received. My workload means there won’t be any more series for a while, but I hope to return to the format for specials such as the Christmas edition a few weeks ago!

I’m not only present on the internet as a blogger, & can be found on social media too! My Facebook page & linked group (@diaryofadisabledperson) has seen some growth, in particular receiving support as I connected with more people on my personal profile, including from several professional wrestlers. My Instagram (also @diaryofadisabledperson) has seen some growth too, although I limit my time on this platform due to some of the more toxic elements I have seen there (including creepy messages that I can only presume have never actually worked at wooing anyone).

As always, the majority of my social media activity has been swearing about ableism on Twitter (@WheelsofSteer). At the time of writing my following has more than doubled in the past year, & I’m hoping to reach the 10k mark in the next few months. I’ve had quite a few people take to social media to lambaste me for taking such an interest in the statistics, & I would hope I never let my drive to increase my following lead me to do anything morally ambiguous, or “shady” as the kids call it these days. However, as someone who has always been mathematically-minded, I cannot help taking an interest & perhaps a little pride in watching those numbers climb.

Perhaps my largest development of the past year in relation to my blog started out as live-streaming on Twitter, & due to a mix of technical & accessibility difficulties, evolved into setting up a YouTube channel & producing the fortnightly show Weekend on Wheels for approximately 6 months. Making videos is definitely the most challenging aspect of my blogging work; I have a very basic qualification in IT & in performing arts, & up until a few months ago had never presented or edited a video. I built a camera stand out of Lego, used my phone to film myself, & downloaded some free video-editing software. After much searching on YouTube for instructions on how to use the software, ironically using videos that had been produced on said software, I began to learn the ropes. 6 months in I have decided to bring my edited show to an end, but will continue to release vlogs instead, & I have a humble following on YouTube to show for my efforts. I’m no PewDiePie, but then again I’m also not prone to racist outbursts, so perhaps that is a good thing.

Cliché as it sounds, I would be nothing without you – my readers, followers, commenters, & occasional trolls. Social activism can often feel like I’m screaming into a void, & compared to other “influencers” I’m not even worth a footnote, but I still feel like I’m making progress. I set up this blog to educate people about disability, & it would appear that I am doing just that. Constantly comparing yourself to others on social media has well-documented adverse mental health effects, & so I try not to let it dishearten me.

Over the next year I hope to keep producing high-quality content, both on here & YouTube. I’d also like to keep growing my following, to reach more & more people with my message of equality, & perhaps even to start on the book manuscript I’ve been promising for quite some time…

Here’s to another year of the little blog that could!

Saturday Streamer Starts Tomorrow!

Don’t forget to log into Twitter (@WheelsofSteer) tomorrow at 6 pm (BST) for my first livestream! You’ll get an exclusive look around my new home, an update of my health, & an introduction on how I plan to run these livestreams every other Saturday.

Living in Leeds: Saturday Streamer. 6 pm BST on Twitter.

Living in Leeds: Saturday Streamer.

Diary of a Disabled Person Presents Living in Leeds: Saturday Streamer. Watch live every other Saturday at 6 pm (BST) on Twitter, starting 13th July 2019. Pink & white text on a black box. Down each side is a black & hot-pink zebra style pattern. Social media links are listed at the top of the image. Twitter: @WheelsofSteer. Facebook/Instagram: @diaryofadisabledperson. Google: https://diaryofadisabledperson.blog

Having thoroughly enjoyed doing the odd live-stream on Twitter over the past few months, & having got excellent feedback to boot, I’ve decided to take up live-streaming on a regular basis!

Every other Saturday at 6 pm (BST) I’ll be discussing recent blog posts, providing an exclusive look at what’s to come on Diary of a Disabled Person, sharing anecdotes, reading comments & more!

A Legitimate TED-Talk.

Disclaimer: I wrote this a couple of months ago before I had even been offered the opportunity to deliver a TEDx talk, & it was scheduled for release at the time of writing. Therefore the timing of the post is purely coincidental!

Anyone under the age of 35 has probably been lectured about how technology is sucking out our souls through our eye sockets and we’re only one grammatical error away from Skynet doing its thing. Some of us will even have received the lecture via social media, the irony of the matter being lost entirely on the person posting their expressive art about technology’s role in the destruction of humanity online. Technology gives us cancer, and big corporations use it to brainwash us into buying their products, and we’re losing the ability to socialise properly, and it’s making us paranoid etc.

Technology is not all bad. How many lives have been saved because instead of having to find the nearest phone box, someone could call an ambulance at the scene? How much more data can scientific studies collect and analyse for even better results? How many people have received earlier diagnoses of progressive diseases that would have just killed them before? How much progress would have been made in the fight against ableism if disabled people didn’t have technology to help them voice their concerns?

Chances are that even the most disabled among us can still use technology. New apps and programs become available all the time that read out loud to the visually impaired, or translate between English and sign language for the deaf, or give someone who is unable to speak a voice. Social media has allowed people with the same disabilities from across the globe to connect to each other, so even the most isolated patients can find others like them and support each other.

Cameras are very useful for providing physical evidence of discrimination such as blocked access routes, and also the abuse we can receive when asking people not to block access. Once posted online the rest of the world can finally see for themselves the difficulties disabled people face in their day-to-day lives. Sometimes it can even result in legal action.

Perhaps most significantly of all it can be extremely difficult to organise a demonstration against ableism due to poor access to transport, and the fact that all of the affordable hotels in the area will only have one accessible room apiece, which will be quickly booked up. Technology has instead allowed us to break the taboo around disability and discuss it properly, highlighting and resolving issues, and raising awareness of the fact that we are also humans.

Nor can disabled people easily sue for discrimination due to the difficulties in finding employment due to access and transport issues, and also because many courts lack wheelchair access, even going so far as a have steps up to the witness box. Technology has allowed us to shame ableist actions to the point where public outcry has forced government leaders to tackle the issue.

Technology does have its drawbacks, but the truth of the matter is that technology has helped to improve more lives than it’s ruined. There was a point in history when reading and writing was considered unnecessary technology, but now those abilities are almost sacred to us. How much of technophobia is actually due to a genuine fear of technology, and how much of it is simply a fear of change?