Credit: Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

A lot has been written about how working from home has made newsroom work harder. But for journalists with disabilities who previously struggled to access physical offices, public transport or places to report from, this meant an unprecedented chance to work in the media.

To help them start or progress in their careers, social enterprise Ability Today created the Academy for Disabled journalists (ADJ), which provides online courses in partnership with NCTJ, financed by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Often my body doesn't allow me to leave the house but there is nothing wrong with my mind.ADJ student

"When we give disabled journalists the same opportunity and some support, they can do the same job as the next person," says Ability Today founder Grant Logan, who is behind the initiative.

"Often my body doesn't allow me to leave the house but there is nothing wrong with my mind," says one student.

The pandemic has broadened not only work prospects but also learning opportunities for disabled journalists. For instance, as the ADJ had to move online during the pandemic, students in Scotland, Manchester, London, Luton or Norfolk can now attend the training which they would have struggled to do previously.

Focusing on what we can do

First called Disability Today, the organisation started as a newsfeed in 2015 to provide practical information for people with disabilities. Four years later, it changed its name to Ability Today, to underscore its mission to spotlight what disabled people can do, not what they cannot.

From videos about water-skiing, to showing how a wheelchair user can access public transport, the website seeks to educate and inspire its audience.

The idea to train disabled journalists came to Logan as he started to delegate some of the activities, such as reviewing accessible holiday accommodation or extreme sports facilities, to volunteer reporters.

He said that one of the challenges to support the trainees is that there are many kinds of disabilities and everyone requires different support. The organisation now provides anything from Braille materials for visually impaired trainees to an extra mouse or a keyboard for those with reduced mobility.

"I’m am happy to describe myself as disabled but I’m still able to get on with my life," says Logan who became paralysed from the waist down in a car accident 17 years ago.

He previously worked in the music industry as a manager of artists and song writers, including Hearsay, 5ive and the late Stephen Gately.

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