This Q&A tag is a wonderful creation by Elin at My Blurred World who recognised that, in amongst all of the many blogger tags out there, disabled bloggers didn’t have a tag for themselves. I’m one of the people she nominated to do it, and I’ve also been nominated by The Invisible Vision Project, Amanda Gene and Life Of A Blind Girl, so thank you to all of you! 🙂
So here are my answers, as a post and a video. I hope you enjoy it and find it interesting!
1. When and why did you start your blog?
When I was preparing to move to London back in 2015 and 2016, I figured it might be useful to make more use of social media, to keep an eye on things that were happening in the city, and to see if there was any useful information for visually impaired people like myself. So I had every intention of treating it just like a rolling news service in that sense, following various accounts so I had a feed of useful information to scroll through – whether that be London attractions and theatres, transport updates for the Underground and buses, and charities like RNIB, Scope, etc.
But as I was randomly searching for things, I stumbled across some disabled bloggers and Youtubers, including some who were visually impaired. I knew blogging in general was a thing, and figured there must be one or two disabled bloggers out there, but I’d never looked into it before and found far more than I expected. And it was great to see so many people posting about their experiences and raising awareness online.
So I started following them as well, as I knew it would be useful to have that online support network there while I moved to a city where I didn’t know anybody. It was fun watching their videos and reading their posts, and I knew I’d be able to get advice from them if need be.
Part of me wondered if I could write a blog as well, but I dismissed it to begin with, as I didn’t think I’d be any good at it. I’d never blogged before – unless you count a rubbish journal I kept on an old, long since defunct and deleted, social media site in my early days of having the internet at home. So it was tempting, but seemed too daunting to think about.
But then Scope did their End The Awkward campaign which looked really good, so I bit the bullet and made a video to support it in 2015. It wasn’t great, but people seemed to like it, and they even included an extract in a compilation they put together. So that was a confidence boost. Then in February 2016 I tentatively started my blog, as writing felt easier than filming, so that’s when my blogging truly started. I decided to just focus on that for a while, and then later on I ventured back into video-making as well. And it’s just grown from there, bit by bit, as I’ve settled into it and got the hang of it.
2. Did you intend to talk about your disability online from the beginning?
Yes. Raising awareness of my eye conditions and my experiences as a visually impaired person was the main focus, pun intended. I knew I would want to write about other things as well, but I wanted to explain what life was like for me as a disabled person, and to show that having dodgy eyes doesn’t stop me from being successful and enjoying myself.
3. Have you ever been sceptical about talking about your disability online?
I would say unsure rather than sceptical I suppose, as I simply didn’t know what reaction, if any, my posts would get. I didn’t know if I would be a magnet for the trolls out there, or if there would be any interest in an amateur novice blogger like me, when there were already plenty of professional disabled bloggers who could write better. But the reaction has been entirely positive from the start, and I’ve had no trouble at all along the way so far. I’ve had a steady increase in followers ever since I started, and it’s resulted in more opportunities than I could have possibly imagined or expected. So it’s worked out far better than I’d initially hoped or expected.
4. What kind of response have you/do you receive in terms of your disability related blog posts?
Very positive. People seem to really enjoy my posts, and greatly appreciate the fact that I’ve been talking honestly about my conditions and showing that I can still live a fulfilling and happy life. Sometimes this is from people who have the same conditions as me, inevitably, but I’ve had plenty of great feedback from disabled people and disability charities too, and also non-disabled people.
A common response is that my posts have given people hope for the future. And in particular this comes from parents of children with my conditions, aniridia and nystagmus, who have clearly gone searching for those terms online when their offspring have been diagnosed with one or both of those conditions. I’ve had quite a few instances now where people have come to me saying things like “I was devastated when I found out my child had this condition, but you’ve given me hope that everything will be ok for them in the future.” And people with the conditions themselves have also said similar things to me.
It’s very humbling to get feedback like that, and just having one person saying something of that nature makes this all worthwhile. If my ramblings help people to understand that having sight loss or a disability isn’t the end of the world, so they see things in a more positive light, then it’s all justified.
So thank you if you’re one of the people who has reacted positively to my posts, by liking, sharing or commenting. It’s all greatly appreciated and spurs me on to keep doing this. 🙂
5. Do you write/talk about other topics apart from your disability?
Oh yes. I post a lot about the things I get up to when out and about, especially in London and also when I travel elsewhere, entertainment I enjoy like TV, music, audiobooks, etc, and a bit about the technology I like. It means there’s a good variety of content, for myself as well as my readers.
6. What steps do you take to make your blog accessible to yourself as well as other people?
I’ve kept the design of the blog pretty simple, partly out of necessity because I’m not a web design expert anyway, but also because it just makes things easier. Having a plain background means I can invert the colours easily on screen and still read it, so hopefully it allows others to read it easily and customise their own colours accordingly if need be. I’ve also created pages that organise some of my posts into categories e.g. disability and out and about, which is a handy reference for me to find previous posts as well as for other people.
I also use alt text to describe images on the blog, and also add descriptions on Twitter, having turned on the option to Compose Image Descriptions under Settings/Accessibility (why this isn’t enabled my default I’ll never know). On Facebook and Instagram I’ve been getting into the habit of adding descriptions into the text of photo posts as well, where practical and useful. I think Facebook does have alt text capability in some areas, but it’s a bit tucked away, and it seems easier just to do it in the text of the post itself.
And on Youtube I caption all of my videos that contain speech. It means video preparation takes a bit longer, but it opens it up to a much wider audience, and I’ve got quicker at doing it as time’s gone on.
7. What is your favourite thing about blogging about your disability?
The feedback I’ve had from it, as mentioned earlier. If I were just talking into the ether with nobody reacting whatsoever, then I would have lost interest ages ago. But people have reacted so positively, even to the point of inviting me to give public talks about living with my visual impairment, which have had amazing responses as well. And that’s made everything worthwhile and enjoyable. Knowing that I’ve been able to make a beneficial impact, giving much needed hope and support to people of all ages, feels very special.
8. What are your top three favourite disability related blog posts that you’ve ever published?
It’s hard to pick, so I’m going to cheat slightly and pick 3 pairs of posts that go well together for one reason or another.
Living With Aniridia & Living With Nystagmus were my first posts where I described my eye conditions, and they’re still 2 of my most popular posts, as are the Youtube videos I later made to accompany them. They still get views and comments to this day, which is wonderful.
Building My New Social Network & Growing Up With Sight Loss are posts derived from the 2 public speeches I’ve given so far, for the Nystagmus Network and a primary school respectively. I’d never given a talk about my disability before, and had never done any public speaking in general other than a best man speech previously, so I was really apprehensive about doing it. But the talks went really well, I was overwhelmed with the love and support I got for them, and they’ve made good posts too. So they mean a lot to me.
How I See & Room 101 – My Visually Impaired Frustrations were 2 posts that were picked up on by the RNIB, and they’ve been very supportive of my blog for quite a while now. The first post was for their #HowISee campaign, and got a huge response on RNIB’s Facebook page, plus they used an extract from my video in a compilation with a few other bloggers. It was also the video that led to my primary school talk, as a support assistant reached out to me as a direct result of it. The Room 101 post, meanwhile, had no connection to the RNIB at all to begin with, but they liked it so much that, with my permission, they shared an edited version on their website. So that was very flattering.
9. Do you think that the disabled blogger/YouTuber community is overlooked?
Yes, it is. Disabled bloggers and Youtubers don’t get promoted or shared as heavily as regular bloggers, so it’s much harder to get noticed. There are a few big names out there who have a substantial base of subscribers and fans, and are thus great influencers who are raising great awareness, which is fantastic. But there are lots of other smaller content creators who have to work extremely hard to try and get noticed. The issues around demonetisation on Youtube, combined with the lack of promotion on that particular site, has also made some disabled creators feel demoralised and frustrated.
But things like that mustn’t deter us from publishing content. People are noticing our work, and the more of us who produce blog posts and videos, the more awareness we can raise. Every little bit definitely helps – even if you’re changing just one or two people’s perceptions to begin with, it makes a big and important difference. And it only takes one person reading a post to give you a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness even further, like I’ve found with things like public speaking that I’d never expected. You never know what will come your way when you get involved with blogging, it opens doors to some very unique and interesting places.
10. Do you find it difficult to think of new disability related content to publish?
I thought I would to begin with. I assumed I would just write a few posts about my condition and how I do things, and that would probably be it. But things keep coming up, whether it be new experiences I’ve had (especially since moving to London), new technology I’ve tried, stories in the news, new campaigns by disability charities, posts by other bloggers that inspire me, or whatever. So I’ve been able to post about disability on quite a regular basis, and there’s no sign of that stopping any time soon.
11. Do you think that blogging about your disability helps to change people’s perceptions?
Yes, which is the most rewarding part about doing this. Among my disabled followers, particularly those who might be struggling, or the parents of disabled children who are find it hard, my posts have helped to change their assumptions of what the future will be like, giving them comfort and support. And among non-disabled people who have found my blog or heard me speak publicly, it’s been very useful and enlightening, highlighting their misconceptions and showing them that disability isn’t a bad thing to be afraid of.
Knowing that my efforts are changing the perceptions of people of all ages, both disabled and non-disabled, is very humbling. It means making this blog and my videos has been worth the effort, and therefore spurs me on to continue creating content. I’ve earned a lot of respect from it, and I’m very proud of that.
12. Who do you tag?
Quite a few people I follow have already done this tag or have been nominated to do it. And ultimately we want as many disabled bloggers to do this as possible, the more the merrier. So if you’re reading this and you’re a disabled blogger, I tag you, it’s as simple as that! Go do it!
And that’s it, I hope you found my answers interesting. Thank you very much for following my blog, Youtube and social media channels, I greatly appreciate it. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to post about, disability related or otherwise, let me know.