December 3 is International Day of People with Disability. It is also DiVine’s birthday. When launched in 2009, many people were excited about the DiVine website. As one of the first group of writers for the site, I was too.
Before the site was developed, the Office for Disability asked lots of people with a disability what they wanted from the web. The research found Victorians with a disability wanted their own space online. People reported feeling isolated, ignored and discriminated against online. They wanted their own space where they could feel included, positive and hopeful. They said it should be a place where people with a disability are the centre of attention.
For and by people with a disability
DiVine was the result of the research. All DiVine writers have disabilities. They typically share their stories with honesty and humour. DiVine has provided a space where people feel they belong. The website was an Australian-first.
Much work went into making the website fully accessible. Importantly, contributors need to write in plain English to ensure the articles are accessible to a wide audience. This is challenging for us, but an important feature.
A vibrant online community
Over 500 articles can now be found on DiVine. There are also hundreds of comments from readers. Allowing readers to easily leave comments helps build a more vibrant online community. As the site grows, more readers are joining in the discussions. I encourage you to all have a voice. You can even ask difficult questions!
There are now 35 writers who have been contracted, trained and paid to regularly contribute to DiVine. Another group of paid writers is joining the team soon. The writers have a wide range of disabilities, experiences and interests.
Many people in the wider community like to read DiVine, too. They want to know what it is like living with a disability. Pages about the DiVine authors are among the most popular on the site. Personal stories about life with a disability are also particularly popular.
I think all levels of government can learn from the articles on DiVine. Governments can make better laws and policies from what they learn about our life experiences.
Contracted DiVine contributors like being paid professional rates for their published articles. For us, it is proof that we have something of value to contribute. We also receive training and ongoing support to improve our skills. I am sure we are all more employable as a result.
For example, DiVine author Graeme Turner recently started work as a writer and researcher for Vision Australia. He thinks that being a DiVine writer helped him get the job.
DiVine is a great opportunity to allow people access into journalism in a professional manner, Graeme says.
It provides a chance for people to explore ideas and issues. (It allows people) to express themselves and share passions and experiences.Another DiVine highlight was Carly Findlay winning a TAC Yooralla Media Award.
What does DiVine mean to you? Let us know in the comments section below.