A guide to disability websites
In the run-up to next year's Paralympic Games in London, disabled athletes and disability culture is set to become more prominent than ever before. I was born partially deaf, so I’ve spent much of my life being very aware of everything deaf-related; from books to films and websites.
It's only in the last few years that I’ve become more aware of different disabilities, and of news, arts and sport from a disability perspective. Here’s a few of the websites that have given me an insight into a rich and vibrant world I’m still getting to know.
Let's start with Channel 4's Paralympics site. The broadcaster has the broadcasting rights for the 2012 games along with a great website that provides athletes’ video diaries, news items and inside stories. You can filter information by sport or by athlete, narrowing it down to the bits you’re interested in. There are also features on the history of the Paralympic Games, which is rarely covered in the mainstream press.
Additionally, the BBC has an excellent disability sport site which will also help you find out who the key individuals are in the run up to 2012.
With blogs, opinion pieces, disability news and message boards, the BBC’s Ouch! blog has covered disability with humour, honesty and a fresh perspective ever since editor Damon Rose thought of the name for the site while taking a shower!
Regular columnists have their own unique take on disabled life, while the highlight of the site is the award-winning podcast, which is presented by comedian Liz Carr, and regularly manages to pull off the trick of being hilarious and informative at the same time.
There are two other disability sites I really enjoy. Able Magazine’s website has a range of sections for all tastes, covering a wide range of areas including travel, the arts and even motoring. There are some great columnists - look out for opinion pieces by Lorraine Hershon and Jane Muir in particular.
Disability Now, meanwhile, is the website for Scope’s magazine, with news items, features and content from the magazine, balancing a focus on lifestyle with a strong sense of disability politics. I really enjoy the readers’ letters - which give a real insight into their views.
For people who are visually impaired, the BBC’s In Touch site features “news views and information for people who are blind or partially sighted,” catering for people who would benefit from listening to programmes.
Another area of disability that has come to the fore in recent years is disability arts, with many artists across different media going on to achieve international renown.
Disability Arts Online features reviews of plays, films, music and exhibitions by disabled artists. There are also artist profiles and blogs (I enjoyed posts by Penny Pepper and Jon Adams), news, listings and an opportunity section that can help you get involved yourself!
Most importantly, the site gives you an idea of the newest work, with an insight into the thinking behind it. Sign up for their monthly newsletter to keep fully up to date.
If it’s theatre you’re interested in, Graeae are perhaps the best known disability theatre company, having worked with a range of disabled actors, writers and directors on a range of high-profile productions since they were founded in 1980.
Another prominent company is Mind the Gap, a touring theatre company focusing on actors with learning disabilities. Then there’s Deafinitely Theatre, who produce plays presented in BSL (British Sign Language) and English, from a deaf cultural perspective. With all three companies, their sites help you find out about their current productions and where to see them (with performances in London and across the country) as well as the training, support and opportunities they offer.
I hope the sites I’ve mentioned here give you a great start in finding out all about disability and particularly about disability sport before the Paralympics. Most of the sites also have a range of further links to other sites with even more information! So have a browse and explore a whole new world.
Charlie is a journalist and scriptwriter specialising in articles and films featuring deaf culture and sign language. He has written for the Guardian online and has contributed to programmes for Radio 4, while his films have won international awards. He also works in the arts, helping to make theatre accessible for deaf people.