May 1st is the 7th Annual Blogging Against Disablism Day. I know what you’re thinking — ‘Why is that not marked on my calendar?’ It’s okay — you’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of BADD before. I have to admit it only came to my attention last year. But the concept is intriguing and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to reflect upon why we started the AthletesFirst blog (and maybe encourage others to share why they blog about disability sport and what other blogs they enjoy reading or writing for).
Blogging Against Disablism Day is the brainchild (as far as I can tell — my source is a Google search) of a blogger that goes by the name of ‘Goldfish.’ The concept behind BADD is to encourage people to make a post on May 1st on a topic related to disablism, ableism, disability equality or another related issue and to share the link to their post. The Goldfish (and a few helpers) categorize the links (employment, education, accessibility, personal stories, etc.) and share them on various websites and on Twitter (@BADDtweets or #BADD2012). It’s a way of raising awareness around disability related issues, introducing people to blogs they might otherwise not encounter and to create a sense of community among disability bloggers (and I would hazard to add blog readers). It’s a model that has been used to raise awareness and combat various forms of discrimination — there’s also a Blogging Against Racism Day and a Blogging Against Sexism Day.
Back to AthletesFirst — those of you who’ve clicked the ‘About this blog’ link at the top of the page will have read that this blog is part of a graduate student project at the University of British Columbia — more specifically it’s part of my PhD project. But you may also have noticed the ‘Meet the blog team’ link and regular readers will know this blog is certainly a team effort with everyone taking a turn at writing posts and joining in the conversations. That’s because this blog is a direct response to a ‘gap’ Courtney and I identified a few years back when we were watching some teammates at a training camp sit around a table updating their personal blogs — a lot of athletes blogging but weren’t necessarily connecting. That is to say they were writing great and interesting posts for their friends, family and fans but they weren’t necessarily using their blogs to share stories, resources, or ideas with other athletes. I think this is what internet theorist Jodi Dean meant when she said “Each voice must be heard (but they don’t combine into a chorus)” (pg. 82 of Blog Theory). Athletes have perfected the art of blogging but, for the most part, we still haven’t quite figured out how to harness the power of our blogs to create something of value to a broader network of athletes.
Even as Courtney and I identified the gap, we also saw some indication of how things could be different. A teammate of ours, Meyrick (he’s a guest blogger here on AthletesFirst and a frequent commentor in the discussions) had a fantastic blog that he used in a rather unique way. Rather than just posting about his latest competitions and how his training was going (although he did do some of that) – he also wrote posts that he thought would be useful to other athletes with a disability. For example, he wrote many posts (and a series of short videos) explaining some of the issues he encountered as an amputee taking up the sport of triathlon — what adjustments to make to a prosthetic leg to make cycling more efficient, adaptations to the swimming stroke, tips for other lower leg amputees when trail running. The result? He got an enormous response from athletes with a disability worldwide thanking him for his suggestions and sharing some of their own. His posts about encountering discriminatory policies when entering races also attracted a lot of readers and a lot of comments. He was obviously onto something.
That’s how this project started. It was a little slow to get off the ground (coursework, comprehensive exams and — oh yeah — the 2010 Paralympics! consumed me for a couple of years). But when I asked Courtney if she was still interested in co-authoring a blog about disability sport she said yes (for which I am forever grateful). She then helped me recruit Blair, Jason, Josh and Stuart — the amazing blog team. Together we try to come up with posts that we think will be interesting to others (athletes with and without disabilities, coaches, volunteers, spectators and general lovers of sport). Sometimes I think we succeed — AthletesFirst has been up for 5 months now and has attracted over 2,500 readers from 61 countries. The link to our blog has been circulated by email, posted on Facebook and tweeted about on Twitter. Each week the readership grows and a new voice joins the conversation.
So that’s the story of AthletesFirst and why I personally choose to blog about disability sport. What’s your story? Do you blog? Or maybe there’s a blog about (disability) sport you think is just awesome and others should be reading? Or maybe you want to tell us why you read AthletesFirst? Post your story and/or links in the comment section for others to see.