all features

Cerrie Burnell on Why Everyone Deserves to See Themselves in Fairytales

Ever since I was a little girl, my favourite thing to do was curl up with a good book. I gravitated towards fairytales and fantasy because I dreamt of being the adventurous heroine, though like most books I never saw myself represented in them as a disabled child. However, Cerrie Burnell’s newest offering aims to do just that.

Wilder than Midnight is “a bold and evocative new adventure novel from Cerrie Burnell, celebrating difference and found family.” It’s a retelling of Rapunzel, Snow White and Red Riding Hood all rolled into one with one of the main protaganists,Wild Rose, having a limb difference, just like Cerrie.

I was instantly drawn into this idea of fiesty girls and magic so was delighted to sit down with Cerrie over a cuppa on Zoom. What follows below was our conversation, edited for clarity.

all features

How Our Fave Disabled Female Activists Deal with the Bullshit of the World

Here at The Unwritten we are passionate about fighting for what we believe in, but we also recognise just how hard it can be keep going sometimes. As it’s International Women’s Day we wanted to remind you just how important it is to look after yourself first and we thought we’d ask some of our favourite women to help us out.

We asked some of our favourite female disability activists “how do you deal with the bullshit of the world?”

Rachel Charlton-Dailey Editor-in-Chief of The Unwritten and Freelance Journalist


Of course I had to start by answering myself, and if I’m honest, I don’t deal with it very well.

I am historically bad at setting boundaries when it comes to taking time off. Just this weekend I declared I was coming off Twitter for my mental health, but I’m already creeping back on. But I’ve found asking my best friends and husband to be tough with me when it comes to that really helps.

Sometimes he literally takes away my phone (but only to stop me from crying, not in a mean way!) while Cath and my bestie Gem will lovingly threaten me. 

When all else fails I grab my coat and my dog Rusty’s lead, and we head to the coast to scream at the sea for a bit. Oh and Stevie Nicks dance parties.

My community is what keeps me going every single day, so over to them…

Lady Tanni Grey Thompson, Paralympian


If there was one thing I wish is that people would understand it’s ableism.  It’s just exhausting explaining to people all the time. So I take a deep breath and defiantly smile and explain how and why ableism is actually a thing.

Lucy Dawson, Model and Advocate


I think one thing that many of us in the disabled chronically ill community do fantastically well is manage to find a glimmer of humour in almost every situation relating to society’s bullshit towards us.

The ability to laugh in the face of things that are said or done to make us feel horrendous is a pretty powerful coping mechanism and one that I have definitely relied on many many times. 

And for the absolute worst days when there is no comic relief, knowing that an entire community of people who are there in support & solidarity is definitely comforting

Punteha van Terheyden, Journalist and Editor of Lacuna Voices


I try not to let the bullshit in the world – or around me – erode who I am. If I lose myself or compromise my core values as a response to the often unpleasant fog of society and the wider world, then all the bullshit I have to cope with has got the better of me and I refuse to let it win.

Frances Ryan, Journalist and Guardian Columnist


Jokes. And the relentless belief that the world – in all its shit and inequality and injustice – does not actually need to be this way, and each of us has the capacity to make it better. 

Caroline Mcdonagh-Delves, Deputy Editor of The Unwritten 


Second hand joy. Even when I’m struggling, I look to the amazing activists who surround me and the incredible work they’re doing and the strides they’re making and that’s what gets me through.

Melissa Parker, Freelance Journalist


I have realised it’s about claiming our identity. So much of being a disabled woman never belonged to us. It’s a process of learning and claiming.

I know from experience that disabled women are torn down, diminished by the abled gaze. I think that’s why I continue on, because disabled children are taught to get on with it – that we mustn’t expect too much – even as we’re expected to give everything to everyone around us. I cope by thinking of the next generation – they will see our words, our acts.

I also take one day a week, at least, off to listen to Beyoncé or Motown or watch a film like Legally Blonde. I need those moments to regroup and feel all the emotions I need to feel to fight on.

Hannah Shewan Stevens, Freelance Journalist and The Unwritten Columnist


I find the most comfort in disabled communities, I find rest by talking to other disabled people. Because a lot of my friends are also disabled and/ or neurodivergent and I think spending more time with people who can understand the pressures of ableism and the impact that it has on our general well-being is the most comforting thing for me. 

But also I think I’ve learned a lot about respecting my own boundaries and realising that I don’t need to be informed about everything that’s happening to disabled people all the time.

I used to immerse myself in news related to disability so much that I could never escape the stress of seeing the stuff happening to my community. And I think, learning that the only way I can truly be an active activist is by taking care of myself first, played a huge role in how I’m kind of protecting myself from ableism becoming too overwhelming.

Charlotte Colombo, Freelance Journalist


Humour is my resistance and rebellion. To me, responding to life’s bollocks with jokes and memes sends the clear message that you’re unfazed and that whatever they wanted to achieve didn’t work, and also indicates that you needn’t dignify something so stupid and unfair with a serious response.

Don’t be afraid to shitpost through it.

Cath Poucher, Deputy Editor of The Unwritten


I’m not gonna lie, the bullshit of the world really used to get to me and wear me down. As I got older however, I learned to cope with it and not let it get to me as much.

It may sound obvious, but the first challenge is actually learning to recognise the bullshit. Only once I acknowledged what it was, could I then actually deal with it. In my experience acting on the bullshit once you recognise it takes a bit of patience and a lot of “no-nonsense” attitude.

While it may annoy you and make you angry, being all shouty tends to get you nowhere. Stand up for yourself, speak up. Do it firmly, for sure. But everyone is very shouty now, and in my experience shouting just creates more shouting and you end up shouting in an echo chamber. Think of a plan of action, and responses to the inevitable replies so you’re armed and good to go. Hold firm, and stand your ground. Take a deep breath. And go for it.

I think this post has proved two things, disabled women are badasses (like we didn’t already know that) and that there’s no right or wrong way to deal with the ableist bullshit of the world. Whatever works for you is good. Let us know how you deal with it in the comments.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled women. They are also likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time and suffer more severe injuries as a result of the violence. If you can, we’d appreciate it if you donated to Refuge today.

Here’s where you can buy the earrings used in the cover photo

Fuck the patriarchy earrings – Topple and Burn

Millicent Fawcett quote earrings – Three Little Tings on Etsy

Love our content? Want to help us pay disabled writers and continue to build this amazing platform? Find out how you can support us.

all Editor notes

Happy Holidays From The Unwritten

Today is the last day before the holiday season kicks off here at The Unwritten so myself and the rest of the editorial team wanted to send you all some festive wishes.

I know as disabled and chronically ill people this Christmas is going to be a bit different and it might be tough in parts, but we can make it special in our own way.

I hope you all have a Christmas time that is restful and full of joy despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. Most of all despite everything, I still have hope for 2022 and hopefully you still do too. 

I’ve also asked my lovely team to give some of their tips for getting through the holidays, and quite frankly, theirs are magnificent, as are they. So I’m going to start off with my slightly more mediocre ones first.

Naps are for heroes

 Yknow who naps? Captain America, probably. Yes I know he’s a supersoldier but are you telling me he doesn’t love a nap? (Bucky, definitely doesn’t nap, that’s why he’s so grumpy.)

Anyway that’s beside the point. Naps are the best. Naps are restorative, but they also give you a break from the noise of festivities leaving you to come back in a few hours feeling a little bit fresher.

Give yourself permission to say no

I know at Christmas it may seem like you have to do everything to please your family and friends but here’s a reminder – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you don’t want to go to someone’s house you don’t bloody have to, you’re an adult!

Break it up into small manageable chunks

In the old times, my Christmas morning consisted of around 25 people crammed into my grandparent’s house, we’d literally spill across three rooms! While I loved it, I now realise that this just isn’t feasible with my immune system.

So this year my aunties, uncles cousins, etc are all staggering visits to my grandparents. My husband and I are making Christmas eve a family visit day and breaking it down over 3 houses with small groups in each one, then we’re spending the “big day” as a family with our sausage dog Rusty.  This reduces the stress considerably. 

I’m going to hand it over now to my lovely team. Once again wishing you all a happy holidays!

Caroline McDonagh-Delves – Deputy Editor

If the holiday season can be happy for you, I wish that for you now. We all thought 2021 obviously had to be better than 2020 and in many instances it just… wasn’t. I hope that with a little help from your friends and some self care pointers, you can get 2022 off to the best possible start.

Stay safe. 

I know we’ve all been saying it for the best part of two years, and the words have mostly begun to lose their meaning, but it is still as important as ever.

Whether that’s managing risks from covid-19, making sure you’ve all the equipment and medication you need to get through the bank holidays, or looking after your mental health in what is often a trying time. If you haven’t ordered your medication, stop reading and phone your GP now!

Exert your boundaries

You don’t have to stay in a situation or conversation that you feel is detrimental to your health and wellbeing. You can turn down invites, change the subject, or simply leave the room. If this one is feeling difficult, excuse yourself to the toilet or ask a friend to call you for a perfect “leave the table” situation.

Manage your time

If, like I was last year, you’re unlucky enough to have to work this festive season, it doesn’t mean it has to be a bust. Christmas dinner or presents don’t necessarily have to be done on Christmas Day, you can schedule those things when they work for you. Also, don’t forget to plan for rest – you deserve it.

Cath Poucher – Sub-Editor

I’m sending all the readers and contributors of The Unwritten lots of love and best wishes for a fantastic festive season, with the hope of a wonderful few days for you all. As a seasoned optimist I’m keeping my fingers crossed that next year will get easier for us, so that wishing you a “Happy New Year” won’t be an empty greeting.

The holiday season can be difficult, and with a second festive season of limitations and restrictions, these are some self-care tips to look after yourself this year:

Give yourself a “pass” to remove yourself

Christmas can present lots of triggers and obligations that can make us uncomfortable or have a negative impact on your mental health.

While sometimes we can feel, or indeed are obligated to do these things, remember to know your limit. Sometimes it’s okay to say, “no”. Take a break if you need to; stick on a Christmas film, read a book or do something relaxing for you.

Plan Ahead

If possible, try to plan ahead. Any triggers, accessibility issues, or problematic situations that may occur? Try to think ahead and plan ways that will enable you to cope with that issue. Do you have someone that can support you in this difficult situation? If so, enlist them to provide support if needed.

Manage those difficult people in advance

Dreading confronting those difficult family members with awkward or downright offensive comments? While some people are confident in challenging or explaining how they make you feel, this isn’t always possible.

Instead, try one of the following:

  • Plan some answers in advance so you’re not caught off guard
  • Think about how to bring difficult conversations to an end diplomatically and calmly
  • Find an activity or alternative conversation to steer the person to instead.  

I wanted to end this by thanking you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting The Unwritten this past year. Thank you to all the amazing readers, supporters, writers and of course to my fantastic editorial team. 

This last year has been so tough for disabled people but our community is strong. I hope next year that we can continue to represent everything you stand for and given even more of you a voice.

The Unwritten will be taking a break until 3rd January, we can’t wait to work with you then. 

Happy holidays and here’s to a powerful 2022

Rachel and the editorial team

Love our content? Want to help us pay disabled writers and continue to build this amazing platform? Find out how you can support us.

admin all Editor notes

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.

all opinion

Why the Channel 4 Paralympics Advertising is Angering Disabled People

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Paralympics. On the one hand it does give elite disabled sportspeople a platform and raises awareness, but on the other the coverage is often surrounded by a lot of inspiration and trauma porn.

That for me can put a dampener on the whole proceedings, so when I heard that Channel 4 had set out its most ambitious ever Paralympic plans I was excited. With an over 70% disabled presenting team, live subtitles, audio describing and sign language it sounded like a real effort was being made to break the mould.

However the advertising campaign has let it down.

all Editor notes Essays opinion

Surprise, I’m a Disabled Person

Today on Twitter, someone informed me I was a person. This may sound weird but if you’re a disabled person who tweets about the injustices we live with it’s actually a regular occurrence.

all Essays opinion

I’m Struggling Through my Latest Lupus Relapse – and That’s Okay to Admit

Today is World Lupus Day, on this day I usually spread awareness and my own story but this year it feels different. After mostly being in remission and only getting the occasional flare for the past six years, my Lupus is relapsing and I’m feeling the affects much worse than I had.

all Editor notes features News

Introducing The Unwritten Disability and Abuse Survey

It’s been a tough few weeks for women, femmes and all those of marginalised genders who have experienced abuse at the hands of men.

Out of all of the hurt and pain however has come a new battle cry, a demand that we will not be treated like this again. But, unfortunately it’s something that disabled people have been largely left out of.

all features

Actor James Moore on Why Adults with Cerebral Palsy are “Second Class Citizens”

It must be a big shock to suddenly lose all support and healthcare when you turn 18, but this is the reality for adults with Cerebral Palsy.

As March is Cerebral Palsy Month, Adult Cerebral Palsy Hub, has unveiled a set of mock ‘Second Class Stamps’ featuring famous famous with the condition, to highlight the lack of support given to adults with CP across the UK which means they are treated as, the charity says ‘Second Class Citizens’.

all Essays features

Include Disabled People in Your Feminism This IWD and Beyond

TW: Stats about domestic violence, abuse and austerity.

Today is International Womens Day, a day when we celebrate how far women have come and how much we have left to achieve.

Unfortunately one group often left out of that is disabled women. Although we’re one of the biggest minorities, disabled women are often left out of – or not even able to access – discussions about equality.