Lucy Webster: What disability pride means to me
Lucy Webster is an accomplished freelance writer, political journalist, and disability advocate. As a full-time wheelchair user, Lucy is passionate about changing the conversation about disability. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, Radio 4’s Today, and Newsnight. Lucy has also spoken at various awareness events in schools and colleges. We spoke to Lucy about what Disability Pride means to her.
What does Disability Pride Month mean to you?
My disabled identity is essential to my work as a freelance writer and journalist. Almost everything I cover has a disability angle. I focus on subjects like:
- social care
- cultural representation, for example, in TV or books
I couldn’t do any of this work without being proud to be a disabled person. Because I wouldn’t want to cover these topics if I was ashamed. Journalism is about shining a light on things that are hidden, and I am proud to bring these topics to a new audience.
I am especially proud whenever I successfully pitch a disability story to a big national publication. Sometimes they have never covered the issue before. Getting the commission shows that they are starting to care about these stories. And respect my ability to tell them.
It’s even better when an editor wants to cover a disability story and asks me to do it for them. It means that my work is reaching people and having an effect. It makes me proud to know that what I’m doing matters.
It’s important that editors use disabled freelancers to cover disability stories. Too often, non-disabled journalists tell stories that don’t fully reflect the real situation.
There’s also a tendency to tell stories from a place of pity, which is both offensive and unhelpful. Using disabled journalists helps to avoid these issues. I am proud that the industry is beginning to recognise our value. Using a diverse group of writers helps publications to tell better stories.
Freelancing can be hard for disabled people because it involves uncertain hours and pay. So, personally, I am proud that I have made this career work for me.
How does your disability pride come through in your work?
Disability pride comes through in my work because I always write from the angle of the social model of disability. Whatever issues I am writing about, I aim to show that they are created by society’s ableism and inaccessibility. Rather than an individual’s impairment.
I always stress that disability is not a bad thing. Indeed, I often write about how proud my interviewees are to be disabled. I hope this challenges common stereotypes.
I aim to show my disability pride by always letting disabled people tell their own stories.
With a few exceptions for policy or scientific experts, I make sure I only interview disabled people. I want them to share their experiences in whatever way is right for them. I always show them as full, interesting people. Rather than the one-dimensional representation we often see in the newspapers.
Being able to do this makes me proud of myself and the community. And the thing that makes me most proud? Sometimes, when I interview a disabled person, they say that they are only speaking to me because I am also disabled. My disability allows other disabled people to trust me with their stories. Because they know I understand and won’t write anything ableist.
I am proud to provide a safe space for people to share their feelings and experiences. I genuinely believe that being a proud disabled person allows my interviewees to be more honest and open. And all of this means I tell better, more diverse stories, which is good for my editors and for me as a journalist!
Lucy is a writer, political journalist, and disability advocate.