An Essential Service for People Interested in Disability

It’s really important for us at Evenbreak to keep up to date with all the current news and events regarding disabililty, and this can be very time-consuming, particularly as the media tends to have its own agenda where disability is concerned. Thankfully, there is a service which helps to keep us informed and saves time (I have no relationship with the service other than as a very happy customer!). Learn more here from its founder, John Pring:

Disability News Service was set up to fill a gap.

Four years ago, despite the thousands of newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs published in the UK, not one of them focused on disability-related news.

There was lots of comment – particularly on the web – there were magazines that were strongly feature- and comment- based, and there were newspapers like the Guardian that often ran disability-related news stories. But there was nothing that just did news, and just did disability.

Just as importantly, the news stories that were written rarely featured the voices of disabled people themselves; they were more likely to quote a chief executive from one of the large non-user-led disability charities, or some other non-disabled professional from the disability and social care world.

There was a big hole that needed filling, and it was why I launched DNS in April 2009.

Four years on, it is still the UK’s only provider of in-depth news on the issues that affect the lives of disabled people, such as discrimination and equality, independent living, poverty, benefits, and human rights.

Or, to put it another way: stories about disabled people who are deprived of the right to board a bus, are denied a living income, have been forced to live in an institution, or have become a victim of a disability hate crime.

As well as the serious stuff, I also cover some of the important developments in arts and culture – particularly disability arts – and Paralympic sport.

DNS is set up like a niche news agency, although on a much smaller scale, and with some subtle differences.

Every Friday, I email my subscribers with the news stories I have written that week. Usually, there are between 7 and 12 of them, all independently-researched. My subscribers can use those news stories in their email newsletters or magazines, and particularly on their websites and blogs. Links to the stories – once they have been posted on their web platforms – can be used as the basis for messages sent out via Twitter, and posted on Facebook and other social media.

The stories allow subscribers to keep their websites updated with high quality content, boost their Google search ratings, and increase their followers on Twitter. They also alert their staff to what leading disabled people are saying about some of the crucial issues, and keep them up-to-date with important policy and campaigns developments.

So where do I find my stories?

As DNS ages – let’s say matures – more and more of the news is coming from disabled people contacting me directly, but I also attend protests and conferences, launches and parliamentary meetings. And there are the inevitable press releases, as well as ideas that come from Twitter and Facebook and from checking the websites of the national media.

Unsurprisingly, the government’s programme of cuts and reforms to disability benefits and services has taken centre stage over the last three years. From the direct action protests of Disabled People Against Cuts, to the many judicial reviews of decisions to cut spending, the continuing controversy over the actions of the fitness-for-work contractor Atos Healthcare, and the – how should I put it? – questionable accuracy of the coalition’s statistical welfare announcements, every week produces something new that could impact on the lives of every disabled person in the country.  

Although many of these developments are mentioned on blogs and tweets, and in comment pieces, only rarely are they dealt with as news stories, ie with a focus on the facts, figures and evidence, while DNS also ensures that disabled people have their voices heard.

A big part of what DNS does is to breaks exclusive stories that would otherwise not find their way into the public arena. During the London 2012 Paralympics, DNS covered the glory and the excitement of the games, but it was also the only news organisation that consistently raised concerns about the access issues that sadly took away a little bit of the gloss.

DNS has also exposed the dubious influence of the US insurance giant Unum on the UK welfare agenda over the last 20 years; it broke the story that Baroness [Jane] Campbell would be the first peer allowed to bring a personal assistant onto the floor of the House of Lords; it has run campaigning stories about the criminal justice system’s failures on disability hate crime; and it persuaded several Paralympians to speak in advance of London 2012 about the importance of disability living allowance, as the government prepared to slash spending and replace the benefit with the new personal independence payment.

And now, as a way of recognising the many talented disabled people I come across in my working life, and some of those I don’t, DNS has launched The List, which aims – eventually – to rank the most influential disabled people in the UK.

But The List will only work – like the news service itself – if DNS continues to listen closely and carefully to the views and opinions of disabled people themselves.

John Pring is the founder and editor of Disability News Service,

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