Dan Buckingham always knew he wanted a life outside of the ordinary, but he never imagined the route he would take to get there. Dan is a 34-year-old digital producer of AttitudeLive, a Paralympian and a world traveller. He’s played wheelchair rugby from Australia to Athens, and won a gold medal along the way. But it’s his role as producer on AttitudeLive that gives him the greatest personal satisfaction.
This innovative web platform delivers high quality shortform and long-form documentaries, live-streaming of Paralympic sport, video and written blogs. All led by people with lived experience of disability. It’s part of the Attitude Group, based out of Auckland, New Zealand. The company also creates television content with a focus on diversity and disability, as well as holding Notional Awards for people living with a disability.
How he got to this role is its own story. At 18 he was studying surveying at Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand. Sport was his passion. He was playing club rugby for Otago when a scrum collapsed. Dan found himself on the ground, unable to feel his legs. “I didn’t have any idea what spinal cord injury was, I just knew, something bad’s happened.”
Dan was instantly paralysed by the dislocation of vertebrae in his spine, resulting in tetraplegia.
It was devastating at the time, and for a while he couldn’t see his future clearly. And it’s one of the reasons he is a passionate advocate for AttitudeLive.
“How great it would have been when I had my injury to call up a story about another young guy who’d been through the same sort of injury I had, and come out the other side. That’s something I could really have done with early on, because it shows you just how a new path is possible.”
When Dan came out of the hospital rehabilitation unit, he had to reassess everything about his life, including finding a whole new career. A couple of years went by as he tried different options and then eventually started a journalism degree at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Television producer and CEO of Attitude, Robyn Scott- Vincent, was on the lookout for a presenter for her then new TV programme about people living with disability. When she gave a guest lecture at the journalism course Dan saw an opportunity, and so did she.
Recruited for Attitude Pictures as a presenter and researcher, Dan took a leap in the dark—one that fulfilled all the ambitions he had about a challenging and creative career.
“With Attitude I have met some incredible people… people who have made me driven to want to get more out of my own life, but also many people who have given me a greater sense of wanting to be part of something greater than myself by helping to make change at a higher societal level.”
Eighteen months ago Robyn came up with a concept of a web platform to host Attitude’s considerable library of programmes—more than 400 episodes documenting the experiences of people living with disability.
Dan took on the producer’s role and the concept grew into the goal of a creating a global online community— to deliver niche content to a world audience.
“We see it as a community hub for anyone living with disability, whether it’s the person with the disability or a family member. There are over 400 stories on the site, each one personal and unique. We also feature content from all over the world, both opinion pieces and factual reports. For instance, you can find everything from one of our staffers editorial “The day I stopped caring about what others think of my disability” to a report on a new smartphone that responds to eye movements.”
The design of the site has been taken to new levels. The brief was always to ensure the platform offered accessibility to all.
The platform has been designed with the highest accessible features, multi-lingual closed-captions, audio descriptions, and an option for dyslexia-friendly typography.
“It’s been optimized for screen readers, there’s captioning on every story, and we made sure it’s easy to navigate.” For many people living with a disability, the internet has been a social revolution, allowing people to connect with others whether they’re in a bedroom in rural New Zealand, or a tower block in Chicago.
“We’ve got an awesome engagement level with AttitudeLive, with people who arrive there spending a lot of time on the site. A big part of this is watching all the video content, but we also have a lot of really well-written opinion pieces and we deliver high level, distilled information. What we really want to do is connect the community.
An exciting development we have happening right now is the partnership we’ve developed with ABILITY Magazine. While we’re proud of what we do here, New Zealand is a small community compared with the reach ABILITY has—we’re looking forward to showing what we do over here, and seeing how Americans and the international community as a whole will react and engage”.