Recently, I entered the Venture Competition at Brunel University London (my university) in the hopes of acquiring some funding to take the blog to the next level in terms of reach and impact. I was selected as one of the 9 finalists from 52 applications. Below is a transcript of the pitch I planned to give (it didn’t go quite like this, as is often the case with these things):
InvincibleWomanOnWheels is a blog that gives a realistic view on life with a disability through blog posts discussing disability issues, disabled traveller guides and accessibility reviews from the viewpoint of a wheelchair user
Where did this start?
So where did this story begin? If we’re talking about my personal journey with disability, it started with a cerebral palsy diagnosis around the age of 1 or 2. But that’s all I’ll say on that because InvincibleWomanOnWheels isn’t just about me or my diagnosis it’s much bigger than that.
InvincibleWomanOnWheels itself sprang from a girls trip to Palermo in Sicily. During this trip, we encountered many obstacles to be overcome, some were general holiday issues, but most were more specific accessibility issues. The sort of situations where we were under the impression that somewhere was accessible but arrived to find it actually wasn’t. In the course of overcoming these obstacles we came to refer to ourselves as “The Invincible Women”. It was from these experiences that my friends encouraged me to begin writing about the issues I face as a disabled person and the approach I take to life, as my “can do” attitude was not the attitude they were used to seeing about disabled people and they felt that my stories could help others. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant at the idea to begin with, mostly because, as the can-do attitude is the one I was always raised with, it was difficult for me to understand how there was any other attitude to have. It’s always a little difficult to step beyond your own perspective and see things from a different viewpoint.
But this idea of attitudes is the crux of the problem, disability is always painted as a negative thing, the world of sympathetic head tilts and “oh I’m sorry’s”, but it doesn’t have to be portrayed in this way. And I want to be a leading light in showing that disability doesn’t have to be seen in this way. Not just for society as a whole, but to support other disabled people in ensuring they know they’re right to not view their disability as a bad thing, and for parents of newly diagnosed children, disability isn’t the negative raincloud everyone makes it out to be, it’s the thing that’s led to me to stages such as this one.
Now, just a quick question to contextualise those issues that I face that I mentioned early: what percentage of the London Underground do you think have step free access [wait for answers] it’s actually just over 25%
Where are we now?
So, with that back story in mind, where does the blog currently stand? The blog currently has over 1.8k views from over 1.2k viewers in 26 countries, which I think speaks for the impact that it has already had on changing the problem around attitudes to disability that I discussed earlier. It currently comprises content including disabled traveller guides (from the viewpoint of trips I myself have taken to those places), venue accessibility reviews (from the largest venues such as Alexandra Palace to the smallest venues such as Koko in Camden) and blogs about wider disability related issues such as language around disability and behaviour around disabled people.
These posts have allowed me to start discussions with venues around improving their accessibility and opened discussions with big companies and institutions such as National Rail and Great Western Railway about the way they treat their disabled patrons. It has also opened up engagement with well-known musicians and some of Europe’s top mixed martial artists
Where do we go from here?
Now this dear reader is where I paraphrase, because of course I’m not asking you for money, with that in mind, here are the improvements I wished to make to the blog if I had received funding:
I have one overarching goal from this and that it is to turn this labour of love into something bigger, something more professional and something that goes beyond just me, because, as I’ve said before, this is more than just my story.
With that goal in mind there are two smaller aims going forward, the first of these is to expand and develop InvincibleWomanOnWheels as a brand, this will include connecting with more businesses to establish the blog as a more credible entity. This will also include more technical things such as upgrading the current blog site subscription to allow for improvements in content, or securing a non-subscription site and domain name, as well as finding ways to improve the SEO, all of this would also entail hiring a web designer to design a professional website.
I also want to branch beyond the written word to begin vlogging and using photographs, which would require the purchase of a good quality camera and editing software.
The second aim is to represent that global readership in 26 countries that I mentioned earlier. This means two things: firstly, travelling to other countries to review venues there and the general accessibility, suggested posts in this vein would include a trip to New York to review the accessibility of the Subway in comparison to the London Underground (which I have already reviewed to a degree). Secondly it would mean connecting with other disability bloggers in other countries and with other disabilities to provide a more rounded view of venue accessibility the world over.
Even though I was unsuccessful in my bid for funding this time, I hope that this experience of pitching to a panel of judges gives me the confidence to enter further funding competitions and develop InvincibleWomanOnWheels into a brand that changes the world, which I know it can be.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)