We’ve looking back over the journey we’ve been on in that time.
It’s a mark of how things have changed that fewer and fewer people in recent years have asked me why we call our publication Able Magazine. Most people can now understand the essential message that in fact, the positive term “able” is extracted from within the word “disabled”.
It’s heartening to see that our original idea still resonates, perhaps even better than it did when founding publisher, Steve Craven, had the idea to launch a disability lifestyle publication written from a relentlessly positive perspective. In fact it was an earlier indicator as to how the magazine would develop parallel with the interests of disabled people, since it actually changed from its original name, Disability View.
Around this point, we also coined the phrase: ‘What disabled people can do, not what they can’t’ that really encapsulates what Able Magazine is all about – and is as true today as it was in 1994. Although Able Magazine was never meant to be a political publication, disability issues inevitably require discussion in the context of the political backdrop – and how this affects people’s rights. In a sense, being more political would indicate a lack of belief in the ability of disabled people to navigate the political landscape for themselves and to that end, Able Magazine steers clear of preaching or pressing readers into what to think.
It was soon after our first edition that disability civil rights were given a huge boost in 1995 when the Disability Discrimination Act came into force, making it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities as they relate to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport. Able Magazine in a sense, was ahead of the curve since it was based on very similar ideals to start with. (The DDA was replaced by the wider remit of the Equality Act, 2010.)
The Act didn’t fix all of the issues overnight but gave disabled people confidence to push for more and ask questions of service providers, etc. However, at this point the law still defined disabled people using a medical model of disability – in other words by their disability and by extension, by what they couldn’t do.
Able Magazine’s approach was always different. The Social model of disability had been developing since the 1960’s but was nowhere near as familiar to people as it is today. The social model of disability was only named such in the mid-1980’s and focuses on changes required in society. In a broad sense it describes disability as an issue created by a society that is not designed for use by all – and therefore has inherent obstacles to disabled people. Arguably, without the obstacles and negative attitudes, disability would cease to be a significant factor.
In Able Magazine, readers suddenly found a place where they could read positive stories of ambition, independence and achievement – as well as a host of answers and solutions to apply to their own lives. Able Magazine doesn’t disregard difficult issues but aims to help readers tackle them by putting them in touch with specialist organisations or by showcasing the latest technology and so on. In our own small way, by inspiring individuals we hope that those individuals have inspired others and others and others.
What we do know is that Able Magazine has always been read with real purpose and we’re always looking at the broad disability landscape in order to identify the trends and questions that disabled people want us to cover. Our biggest challenge is dealing with such a diverse readership: for instance, the challenges faced by somebody with a physical disability are likely to be quite different, although related, to those of somebody with a sensory disability.
Perhaps we make it look easier than it actually is since we’ve always had rivals, some of whom that set up on little more than what they thought was an Able Magazine ‘template’. Anyway, imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery and of course competition keeps everybody on their toes but it takes more than that to hold the number one spot for 25 years!
Perhaps even bigger challenges lie ahead. The first is to support the trend to ‘normalise’ disability and to help Society understand that disabled people are ‘people first’. The challenge with this is ironically, not to push too hard, too soon – and avoid disabled people becoming judged as “not trying hard enough” to cope with their situation independently. The balance between being supportive and at the same time being respectful is delicate. Secondly, no matter how far Society travels on the road towards disability equality and disability confidence, we always need to be doing more. Able Magazine is about how to live well as a disabled person. For many people, their own journey starts with a traumatic moment of injury or illness and so there will always be more people looking for advice on how to move forward. In the context of how Society also continues on its journey, it’s important that we keep disability confidence current and relevant for years to come.
Our first year…1994 was a year of incredible changes
• Able Magazine launched.
• The Church of England ordained its first female priests.
• The Channel Tunnel between England and France opened, enabling passengers to travel between the two countries in 35 minutes.
• The last Russian troops left Germany as the Cold War started to thaw.
• The Provisional IRA announced a “complete cessation of military operations”.
• A letter by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, announcing that he had Alzheimer’s disease, was released.
• Paralympic swimmer, Ellie Simmonds was born. She became the youngest athlete to represent ParalympicsGB when she competed in the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.