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How Rose Ayling-Ellis’ Appearance on Strictly Helped me Come to Terms With Being Deaf

When I was just seven years old, the unthinkable happened. I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive benign mass that was tearing its way through my eardrum: a cholesteatoma. Cholesteatoma affects just one in 100,00 – and is even rarer when it’s congenital (meaning you’re born with it, which my doctors are almost certain that I was). 

When I was 7 and a half, I had my first surgery – what would be the first of many – to remove the tumour. When I woke up, my hearing was worse than it was before. The mass had caused irreparable damage. We tried many forms of treatment, including further surgeries, before I was referred to the audiology department, where I was fitted with my first-ever hearing aid. 

Going deaf at a young age, when everyone in your family – and pretty much everyone you have ever known– are hearing is so hard. There is no one to look up to, no one to see that is also deaf that would show me that, while it would take a little while to come to terms with my deafness, I would be okay. That there was an amazing community and there was beauty within being deaf.  


A Disabled and Neurodivergent Creators Gift Guide

With the end-of-the-year just around the corner, many of us are puzzling over a list of presents to give our favourite people.

At this time of year, it’s far too easy to fall prey to the marketing tricks of big companies and hand over all your hard-earned cash to the 1% who use it as pocket change. To help you avoid this and funnel your money back into the disabled and neurodivergent communities and small businesses, The Unwritten has compiled a list of some amazing creators who are selling their wares this winter. 

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When I Say ‘Endometriosis’ you Hear ‘Infertile’, and I’m Tired of it.

TW: This article contains discussions of reproductive health and fertility.

Seven months ago my consultant made the decision that it was in my best interests to be induced into chemical menopause. In the two years since my initial diagnosis via surgery, endometriosis had returned and spread to my bladder and was showing no signs of slowing down.

With the NHS waiting list for laparoscopy and cystoscopy looking dire, and my inability to finance surgery for excision privately, it seemed there was a ticking time bomb strapped to my organs – and medical menopause was my only feasible option. 

The concept of menopause at twenty years old is bizarre, though I trusted my consultant’s judgement. The injection I am taking, Prostap, has a concoction of side effects, alongside the existing unpleasant symptoms of menopause, but it feels the endurance of these side effects is the lesser of two evils.

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Disabled Students Thrived During Lockdown Online Learning, but Fear They Will Suffer Again Now.

For years, disabled students campaigned to have their accessibility needs properly met. However, universities had always told students that adjustments necessary for their studies were unreasonable or impossible.

For example, when acting as the Disabled Students’ Officer at the University of Cambridge, I was repeatedly told that it was unfeasible to record all lectures and upload them online for disabled students to access. Campaigns across the UK have faced similar obstacles in campaigning for accessibility for their disabled students.

This all changed when the first lockdown began.

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Making Space For Disabled Freelancers Is More Important Than Ever Before

In this sponsored post, co-founder of The Disability Collab Lydia Wilkins discusses how disabled freelancers are often left out of journalism and how they plan to change that.

“Just communicate better.” “You should be more sociable.” “You’re not disabled – you can talk to me!” “You’re, like, so inspiring for all that you do!” “Can you grow your arms back?” “Disability isn’t part of our diversity strategy, not this year at least.” *Ghosts your job interview on mentioning of a disability* 

If you’re a disabled person who’s tried to work a conventional office job, you’ve probably experienced comments like this – comments which can wear you down over time, on a very surface level. 

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Pain Chronicles: The Additional Cost of Being Disabled

Pain Chronicles is a monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way. 

Caroline’s note: I’ve written this month’s column along with my mum, Shaz. You can find my bits in regular type, and hers in bold (because she always is). Hope you enjoy.

I’ll always remember the doctors’ note I got at university so that I could type in exams rather than handwrite. The doctor mentioned I’d been doing the same in ‘A’ Levels. Inverted commas and all. I can’t quite remember how much it was, I think around the £30 mark. £30 so I could access the same education as my classmates. And disabled students’ allowance may have covered that, but the forms were arduous and I really didn’t have it in me to do it.

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Tech Companies: Focus on fixing the Infrastructure, not Disability

It’s like an ableist version of Groundhog Day. Except instead of Bill Murray as a disgruntled weatherman, it’s a young spectacled 20-something in a chequered shirt telling you how the seventh pair of sign language gloves “really is the one this time, folks!”

And if it’s not sign language gloves, then it’s wheelchairs which can make its user stand up or, more recently, vibrating shoes for the blind and visually impaired. Every day tech companies leave us spoilt for choice when it comes to accessible technology we actually don’t need – or want.

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#FreeBritney has Shown Just how Damaging Conservatorships are to Disabled People

Last week when Britney Spears bravely gave evidence in her own conservatorship case, the world was rightly horrified to hear how her abusive father and team have controlled her life for the past 13 years. However, the case has drawn light to how similar practices are used to overpower disabled across the globe, as H.J discusses. 

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Self Forgiveness After the Storm: how I Learned to Live a Better Life with BPD

TW: mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts/actions

At the best of times, the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) are like listening to rain gently tapping on your bedroom window; you know it’s there and that it’s probably going to continue to rain for a while, but it’s not necessarily distressing and the noise can easily pass you by. 

At the worst of times, it feels like the rain has poured through a gap in your window and is filling up your room while you’re struggling to keep your head above the water. 

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Disabled and Sexual: How Internalised Ableism Gave me Sexual Imposter Syndrome

Disabled and Sexual is a new monthly(-ish) column by Hannah Shewan Stevens which will explore all the challenges, comedy, and fun that disabled people experience as sexual beings, even while we are desexualised by a predominantly non-disabled society.

In daily life, the words ‘I am an imposter’ play on an interminable loop in my head. Most of the time, I shrug them off and dive back into whatever I’m doing, but when those words pop up during sex they are much harder to ward off.

Those words are also the reason you’re reading my second column a lot later than I intended. The original theme of this month’s column was very different and although you will still read it in June, these words just had to come first.

Every time I sat down to write, I felt like the word ‘imposter’ was emblazoned across my forehead.