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Disabled Voices Online: Interview with Nicola from View from a Walking Frame

Aidis Trust logo with the words "Disabled Voices Online" beneath it.

This is another disabled voices online interview, which is actually quite long, as we had a really in depth chat about blogging, youtube and being a disabled writer. This week’s interviewee is Nicola Golding from the blog View from a Walking Frame.

Nicola is a writer and youtuber with cerebral palsy, who shares her experiences with cerebral palsy with the world on her blog. She’s also working on novel and does online media work. You can find her blog at:

https://viewfromawalkingframe.co.uk/

Why did you decide to start the blog?

I started blogging for a couple of reasons.

I finished university in May 2012 and by April 2013 I was still unemployed and bored so I thought that blogging would help keep me busy. I did multimedia journalism at university too, and the constant feedback I was getting from employers was “well, why don’t you blog?” so I decided to start for both of those reasons.

I was nervous about starting a disability blog because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was just choosing what seemed like an obvious topic for me because, until then, my cerebral palsy had always been a side-note in my life and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

But, after talking to some friends about it and the other ideas I had for a blog about writing and books, but they said the disability one was the one they’d be most interested in reading, so I took the plunge and haven’t looked back since.

You say employers kept suggesting blogging. Why do you think that was? Do you think that was to get writing experience or do you think they felt they couldn’t employ you because of your disability, therefore you should work online or that you wouldn’t be able to work because of your disability therefore you should keep yourself busy blogging?

I think it was so that I could showcase my writing skills online and put into practice a lot of the SEO techniques that I’d learned at uni, but getting a job has been a total nightmare for me. I work as a freelance blogger/social media assistant/ other media-based things now though, so taking their advice has been worth it.

I’ve also done voluntary things through my blog and YouTube channel for Scope, The FA, The Unlimited Company, and now I’m talking to you, so lots of amazing opportunities have come my way as a result. I might not have started blogging at all without the feedback I got from interviews so I’m grateful to them.

Do you think that the fact that you blog openly about your disability has an impact on how freelance clients and potential employers view your writing?

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s had an impact on how people view my writing, but people do tend to respect how open and honest I am about everything, even when it’s hard to admit to things like the fact that I can’t tie my own shoelaces at 26.

How do you balance being open and honest about the things you cannot do because of your disability and talking about the things that you can do well? How do you balance getting people to understand, that you have limitations because of your disability, yet it’s just a small part of you, that doesn’t mean you’re unable to do most things everyone else does?

I think I always find it tough. At first, blogging about my limitations because of my CP was really hard for me because I wanted my blog to be a place where people could come and get away from those kinds of things a little bit, but the more I started to open up about them, the more people started to respond.

I guess now when I write posts about my limitations, I plan ways that I try to overcome them and blog about the whole journey. I’ve written about being too scared to get the bus alone, and then every time I did, I wrote another post about how it made me feel, and I did that over and over again until I could tell my readers honestly that the bus doesn’t scare me anymore.

That is one of the things I like about my blog. It acts like my diary to remember when I used to find things difficult, or when I had a particular treatment. The people who read my blog are all on my side like my own personal cheerleading squad.

I like blogging about things that are difficult so that I can prove to people who think I don’t fight hard enough that I do try. Plus, the thought of being able to write a post saying “I did it!” is extra motivation. I get lots of lovely feedback from parents whose children have CP and other disabilities that I inspire them and give them hope about what their child could achieve one day.

I once sat down to film a YouTube video about how I found it really frustrating that I couldn’t open a bottle of mouthwash because of the child safety lock on the lid and managed to actually open one for the first time on camera as I was filming. That was pretty special.

The thing I find the hardest to blog about is pain. I’ve been having a lot more of it than I used to over the past 12 months or so and I feel like pain is the only thing I talk about these days. It sucks but I have to be honest about it, and lots of the people who read my blog find it comforting to know their not the only one going through these things.

Do you use any assistive technology to create your blog or the videos you make for your Youtube channel or for anything else you do online?

No. I’ve tried using speech-to-text software but I found it didn’t really work for me. YouTube videos are harder though. At the moment I mostly just use my laptop’s built-in webcam because I find putting a tripod up really hard. The dream is to one day be able to afford to move into somewhere with my boyfriend that has enough room for an office so I can just leave my tripod up constantly and use a better camera.

Why did you try using speech to text software? Do you find typing difficult?

Only if I am typing for a long period of time. I want to be a published novelist one day so I spend a lot of time typing because I don’t bother writing on paper first. I think the main issue is that I get back and shoulder ache if I spend too long at a desk without moving so I had hoped I could just speak everything while laying on the floor or something, but it didn’t work out.

Why didn’t it work out?

It couldn’t keep up with how fast I was speaking and didn’t recognise my voice very well. Or put in the grammar properly, so correcting the mistakes just made more work for me.

Other than the physical writing, how else does your disability impact on your novel writing process?

I can’t carry my laptop around with me, which is annoying, but I have a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard now so I can actually work outside of the house without having to resort to handwriting. It’s made my life so much easier! It gets a bit boring having to work in your bedroom all the time.

Have you met any other disabled writers online?

There are quite a few disabled writers who I’ve met online but never met in person, but I have also met other disabled writers local to me by going to open mic nights. One of them has just done a guest-post on my blog.

Do you include disabled characters in your fiction?

Yes, I do sometimes. I started working on the rough draft of a novel about a girl with cerebral palsy a couple of years ago, and the rough draft novel I started writing for National Novel Writing Month last year has a character with Cystic Fibrosis in it. I have no idea if either of these projects will ever see the light of day, but it would be nice.

I also work on more than one project at once though so that if I get writer’s block on one project I’m still always working on something.

There aren’t that many books that feature disabled characters and many of the ones that do, feature them in a way that offends many disabled readers, due to lack of research or misunderstanding of disability by non-disabled authors. Are there any books that you think feature characters with cerebral palsy that you think portray them well? Do you think non-disabled writers should write about characters with cerebral palsy? If so, what should they do to make sure they get it right? If not, why?

Accidents of Nature by the late Harriet McBryde Johnson is a book that will stay with me forever. It’s a book about a 17 year-old girl with CP that I read when I was 17. It was the first time I’d ever read a book where I really felt that one of the characters understood what I was going through, even though it’s set in 1960s America.

The author was disabled herself, although I don’t think she had CP, but I felt like she understood the things I was going through and hadn’t dared speak to anyone about at the time.

I’ve read other books with disabled characters in that I’ve enjoyed a lot (House Rules by Jodi Picoult, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which have characters on the Autistic Spectrum) but I hadn’t found many about CP.

Although I did start the project about a girl with CF, I’d be really very nervous writing anything about another disability. I think when you have a disability there’s this expectation from the non-disabled community that you know everything about every disability ever, and I certainly don’t.

There are other disabilities that I’d like to be able to write about so that I can learn more about them myself, but I’d worry about causing offence.

I personally have no problem with able-bodied writers writing disabled characters if it helps to raise awareness, and they are genuinely interested in learning more about that disability. But I do think it’s important to admit that you don’t know everything, that everyone, even two people with the same disability, is different, and to actually spend some time talking to, and shadowing, if you can, some people with the disability you want to write about.

You have a Youtube channel and include vlogs on your blog. What inspired you to start doing this?

I started my YouTube channel a couple of years after my blog because I’d still only had the odd-bit of freelance work here and there and I was going through a really bad mental health patch with my depression and anxiety. My sister is quite a bit younger than me and was watching popular YouTubers, like Zoella and pointlessblog a lot, and it just looked like they were having a lot of fun.

I’d learned video editing and I’d enjoyed it so I thought it would be a good way to get back into that and experiment with a different kind of content. It helped me to start enjoying things again, and finding other YouTubers I liked gave me something to do at night when anxiety keeps me awake.

You write a bit about your mental health on your blog. Is it harder to write about than your cerebral palsy? Does writing about it help?

I find mental health so much harder to talk about than my cerebral palsy. I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was about nine and depression/low mood on and off since I was a teenager. I didn’t talk about it on my blog and YouTube for a long time, but then I had a massive slump and couldn’t bring myself to post because I felt like I was hiding a big part of myself. Opening up about it made it easier for me to keep creating stuff. I’ve had so much support since as well so I feel less alone, which really helps.

Why do you think mental health is harder to talk about?

For me I think it’s because I’m afraid that people won’t understand or that they’ll think I spend all my time talking about it and not enough time trying to help myself feel better.

Many people with mental health conditions or non-physical disabilities often say that people find what they’re going through hard to understand or are unwilling to acknowledge it’s a problem because it’s one they cannot see. What has been your experience with this?

I’ve always said that I consider myself lucky that my disability is so, so visible because people are understanding and willing to help me, and a lot of the time people offer to help me do something before I’ve even realised I need it, if that makes sense.

You mentioned that you do freelance work. What sort of things do you do?

I do a lot of media based things. Blogging for clients on their own blogs, copywriting, reporting, editorial writing. Most of my work is on social media accounts for clients at the moment.

Does your blog help you to obtain freelance work?

Not directly because I don’t really talk about my work on there, but I do have it listed on my CV that I show to potential clients/employers.

What do you like most about the internet in terms of accessibility for people with cerebral palsy?

I like the way that it gives people a way to connect and share our experiences. When I’m having bad cerebral palsy days it means I can talk to people without having to leave the house, and there’s always someone who understands.

How do you think the internet can be improved to better support people with cerebral palsy?

I’m not sure to be honest as I don’t use assistive technologies myself so I can’t say what is lacking.

What would be your advice to people with cerebral palsy wanting to start a blog or youtube channel?

I know it’s cheesy but it would be to just do it. I’ve made so many friends through doing it. Not many of my real-life friends have CP or physical disabilities in general, and to know I have a group of people I can talk about disability with, or ask questions about such things has changed my life for the better. I feel like I’ve helped people along the way too, which brings light into the difficult days.

Where can you be found online?

My blog – https://viewfromawalkingframe.co.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/viewfromawalkingframe
Twitter – @NicolaG01
YouTube – youtube.com/c/NicolaGolding
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicola-golding-a38773140/

Thanks to Nicola for taking part.

What are your experiences of writing as a disabled person? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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