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One Year On

A year ago today, we opened the doors to The Unwritten and my life changed forever. I hope you understand that I’m going to gush for a little bit here and will probably cry.

When we launched, the site had a simple aim – to give disabled people a space to share their stories without reducing them to trauma or inspiration and to pay them fairly for their work.

The response to the launch by the disabled community was something I could never have predicted. I knew there was a market for The Unwritten but I completely underestimated how much the community needed a publication like this.

The truth is disabled people were so lacking in representation and it was so rare for us to see content that was written for us, by disabled people with lived experience instead of about us.

The most important point I impressed when telling people about The Unwritten was that this was somewhere disabled people didn’t have to filter themselves to fit the nondisabled gaze. That you, your story, your life experience is valid; no matter what.

The thing that became abundantly clear was what we thought was simple was actually groundbreaking.

Whenever we opened the inbox for pitches we were inundated with disabled people who wanted to share their stories. We were humbled by how many people wanted to help us pay our writers, especially those who have bailed us out on the trickier months.

But it went further than that. The support we have received on Twitter was beyond compare. Our community has been there every step of the way, rooting for us and standing with us. As we stood up for them.

I am so proud of everything we’ve produced this year as a publication, every piece we’ve put out has made me stop in my tracks. It’s been an absolute joy to work with some amazing established writers such as Shona Louise and Bethany Dawson and to nurture some brand new talent like Melissa Parker, who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring this year.

I always wanted to ensure that we included a vast array of narratives and opinions on important issues. It’s safe to say we did that! We weren’t afraid to tackle sensitive subjects and make people think about things from a different angle. Some of my favourite pieces that did this were Faith’s piece on Sia’s ableist movie, Charli Clement discussing Spectrum 10K and H.J writing about conservatorship and #FreeBritney.

We were also thrilled to launch two columns this year. First up was Disabled and Sexual by Hannah Shewan Stevens, a column exploring the disabled experience as sexual beings. This was important to me as we’re so often desexualised by society.

The second, Pain Chronicles by Caroline McDonagh-Delves intersperses advice with personal stories about coming to terms with different parts of disabled life, the fact that I read it all in Caroline’s voice is purely a bonus. Another big highlight for us was when Rosie Jones shared it.

When I started the publication this time last year I would never have dreamed that I’d be closing out our first year as the winner of the Women in Journalism Georgina Henry Award for Digital Innovation. Yet that’s what happened last Wednesday, isn’t it! This means we’re going to be able to do even more amazing things next year.

I just wanted to thank you all for supporting us these last twelve months, it’s meant so much to all of us.

So here’s to year two! I can’t wait to see where we end up.

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By Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Founder and Editor in Chief

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