I've been working on Ouch! the BBC's disability website, since October 2005. Before that, I was already a fan of the main site, with it's clever, cheeky and refreshingly honest articles and features. But it was the team's plans to begin producing a disability focused, presenter-lead audio talk show which inspired me to relocate from Ireland.
The Ouch! Talk show is fronted by two disabled presenters and most of the production team have disabilities too. Each episode is highlighted by an interview, previous guests for which include the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner, quizzed by the presenters to make sure he was receiving all his disability entitlements, Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend, who has a list of impairments as long as your arm and is only too happy to crack jokes about her situation and Big Brother's Nikki Grahame, who spoke candidly about living with an eating disorder and told harrowing tales of her teenage years, spent predominantly in hospitals and institutions.
The show also features a regular news section, a game called Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable and music by a disabled artist. However it is often the less scripted, more free-flowing and general discussion and debate which grabs the attention of our audience.
We've now made 56 episodes over almost five years and, as far as we are aware, nothing similar is being produced anywhere in the world at the moment. For the first time, funny, intelligent and passionate disabled people have a platform to discuss the things most important to them. It's not only about critical issues, like the on-going battle for access to basic services, but also the less essential stuff like how to find fashionable clothes suitable for a wheelchair user. When radio or TV tackles these issues, not everyone taking part in the discussion has a disability. That's the difference.
The Ouch! Talk show audience is 20 percent disabled and 80 percent non-disabled. This figure also applies to the rest of the site and is a reflection of the general population. We get a constant stream of emails, both from UK residents and from podcast downloaders in countries as far flung as the US, Australia, Mexico and Argentina. Most express surprise and delight to hear disability being discussed in such an accessible and entertaining way. Others use the show to practise their English. That's fine too. The more the merrier.
Before I go, a quick update on a previous Ouch! project. At the start of the summer, Damon Rose told you about our Dis Connected celebrity video interview series. One film was published each Monday for 7 weeks, with the last one going online on the 9th of August.
Reaction from the disability community and beyond was very positive. Even the Ouch! message board regulars, the site's most vocal critics, gave the series the thumbs up.
The talk show and Dis Connected are but the tip of the Ouch! iceberg. The site is updated multiple times each week, with opinion pieces by disabled writers, cartoons, a round up of disability stories from the papers and more. Our weekly newsletter contains links to all new Ouch! content from the previous seven days.
Emma Tracey is a Content Producer on Ouch!