ABILITY stopped by the media giant, BBC, in London, where Ouch!: Disability Talk is making sound waves. We had a great chat with Damon Rose, who launched Ouch! disability website 14 years ago and the award-winning Ouch podcast a few years later. He and his colleague Beth Rose, news journalist for digital current affairs, treated us to tea on a lovely afternoon.
ABILITY Magazine: How did you get involved with Ouch!?
Damon Rose: I was the launch editor, but it’s changed a lot since then. We started off in another department in quite a different BBC back in 2002. At the time we were quite humorous—a sharp, caustic wit—and I think we’ve kept some of that. We started as a kind of online magazine including photos, stories, and videos.
It was quite cutting-edge, quite different. We’re now part of BBC News. We don’t have a message board. That’s one of the big things that has changed about us. But then, who does any more with social media? We do news stories and podcasts and use Facebook Live, and we’re really excited to be doing a live storytelling event in a couple of months. We’ll be hiring out a comedy venue where we’ll film it.
AM: As a one-off?
Damon: It’ll be our first one; it’ll come out in March on the theme of love and sex ‘cause everybody likes talking about that in the disabilities world, I’ve noticed. So we’re hoping that’ll do well.
AM: It should be called, “Love, Sex, and Trump.”
Damon: Oh, dear! (laughs)
It’s car-crash TV for us British who went and voted
ourselves out of Europe, which was ridiculous. But we knew if Brexit could happen, then Trump could happen.
AM: There are tremendous challenges facing us all. While staying in our lane, we’re always asking ourselves: “How do you change society’s attitudes?” Daniel Biddle, who was on a plenary alongside ABILITY Corps during the RI World Congress in Edinburgh, acquired a disability during 7/7 (July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings in London). He tells his story to raise awareness for things like creating access into buildings. We saw your correspondent Emma Tracy interview him live on Ouch! Facebook.
Damon: It’s interesting that he’s doing something. We’ve spoken to other 7/7 survivors like Jill Hicks. She lost her legs in the attack. What I find interesting is she had a high-powered job in the city, but decided after the bombings that she had better things to do with her life. She got a new perspective and wanted to do peace campaigning, so they portray her as this great peace campaigner. But what they never show, other than this amazing hero, is how she struggles. If you talk to her off mic, she’ll say: “I’ve got no money. How can I survive? I don’t have a job. I don’t have anything.”
AM: There’s no money in peace.
Damon: But coverage is driven by that sort of mainstream interest, I suppose.
AM: In the States, we had 9/11, but we don’t follow other people’s issues too much. We’re self-centered like that.
Beth Rose: We can’t get away from the US news at the moment. It’s dominating everything over here.
AM: That’s the way we like it!
So you had a publication at one time, or was it always an online publication?
Damon: Just online. I launched Ouch! in 2002, but I originally came from the BBC’s Disabilities Programs Unit, where somebody made a couple of TV shows regularly. So Ouch! was born out of that.
AM: Did you come up with the name?
Damon: I did, in the shower one morning, after flippin’ months of trying to find something that would work. It’s tough to come up with a disability name that works!
AM: We would love to unite all of ABILITY publications under one umbrella, to see if we can’t create an even bigger voice. Chats are initiated, but go silent after a while.
Beth: It would be interesting to collaborate.
Damon: And we’re hooking up with Australian ABC.
AM: In New Zealand there’s a really good one worth talking to called AttitudeLive. They have a lot of video content around disability. Partly funded by the government.
Damon: One of my ambitions is to make an international network of our podcast. As you’re also hinting at, there’s a lot of shared international stuff around disabilities, garnering a bigger audience and getting some very similar messages out there.
AM: It would help a lot if we looked beyond our own borders, such as ABILITY’s partnership with China, for example. Meeting with a counterpart publication in Beijing and doing a content exchange. Perhaps podcasts are next. Let’s talk.
Damon: Would you like us to come to California and do your podcast?
Beth: For three months, during winter?
AM: We should coordinate your coming in March for the International Conference on Assistive Technology (CSUN).
Damon: Oh, CSUN! We could do something and get you on our podcast. When the presenters are here, not us. We’re nobodies.
AM: So you started Ouch! and since then you’ve become a nobody?
Beth: There are only three and a half of us, normally.
AM: Are you the half?
Beth: I’m not. Our person in Scotland is three-quarters, and then there are our presenters. They just come for a day in December when we record.
AM: What is your agenda?
Damon: We have so many different agendas. Our aim is to make everything we produce mainstream enough to get it onto the front page of the BBC News. The more niche, the less likely anyone will read it, because it’s not going to get promoted.
AM: Do you try to figure out what the market wants?
Damon: We know personal stories go down really well. We ran an article the last year, for instance, about a woman who’d gone blind because she got diabetes as a young person and didn’t look after herself. That went down really well. ...
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