Writers Victoria recently surveyed everyone who registered for Write-ability events since the program began in 2012, along with WV members who identified as people with disability (PWD). While the statistics collected are invaluable, it’s the experience of participants that matter most. We’ve learned much from participants’ comments and stories and have already implemented changes to the program based on that feedback.
Write-ability was launched in 2012 to provide writers with disability the opportunity to develop writing skills and connections. It began as a Melbourne-based writing group and has since expanded to include Write-ability Fellowships and mentoring.
Last year Writers Victoria received funding for Write-ability Goes Regional and Online (WGRO), which is now twelve months into a three-year rollout across Victoria. WGRO includes an Own Voices: Why Writing Matters forum and a facilitated writing group in each regional NDIS area; and skills development webinars that can be accessed live by anyone, anywhere and are then archived on our website.
Write-ability events are free for people with disability, recognising that finances are often a barrier for participation in the arts.
The work done within the program has changed the way we operate as an organisation, and surveys such as this are vital as we continue to build our membership and services. We extend a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to send us back their thoughts and help us to ensure Writers Victoria continues to be ‘all about writers’.
Of the people who responded, 58 per cent live in metro Melbourne and 42 per cent in regional Victoria. WV is currently funded to run WGRO only in regional areas, but email and phone inquiries are telling us there remains a need for and interest in Write-ability in metro areas. As such, we’re looking at options to hold events, workshops and potentially writing groups in and around Melbourne.
In the meantime, anyone can register to take part in the webinars run as part of WGRO through the events page on our website.
Participation and communication
Write-ability workshops were the most attended Write-ability activity, followed by writers groups, webinars, other WV workshops, fellowships, commissions, Own Voices forums and mentoring.
Twenty-eight per cent of respondents, however, had not participated in the program. This was reflected in feedback that many members were unaware of Write-ability before they received the survey. Comments such as ‘I would love to have more opportunities through Write-ability, but I’m never aware of them’ and ‘I don’t feel like I’m included or communicated with very well’ show a failure on our part to advertise the program beyond WV’s social media and fortnightly enews.
In response to the survey, information about Write-ability will be included in WV’s twice-yearly program and the Write-ability Newsletter is now a regular monthly email containing details of Write-ability events and other opportunities in the arts for PWD. To register to receive the newsletter, email email@example.com.
Write-ability aims to employ writers and industry professionals with disability. The survey recorded PWD had worked as tutors, assessors, speakers and commissioned authors for the program. Many took part in Write-ability as a participant before being employed, and the program has provided more than 30 paid opportunities for PWD in its lifetime.
Connection and inspiration
The program provided respondents with new knowledge and ideas; sparked their imaginations and desire to create work; and provided access to activities they would not otherwise have been able to participate in.
Many said the program had been successful in helping forge new connections. ‘I liked meeting other people with disabilities, the ability to be able to network with other like-minded folk,’ noted one respondent. Another said, ‘Being able to connect with others in the disability community is invaluable. Especially linking in to the various genres people are writing because I think doing so, and listening and learning from other participants, will be of considerable benefit to me.’
One of Write-ability’s primary objectives is to increase participants’ connection with the writing community. The survey showed this had not been as successful as we’d hoped and we’re working to improve this outcome.
Some respondents noted uncertainty about whether Write-ability was a separate program, or only for PWD writing about disability.
Write-ability is not something you need to register for separately. It’s a collection of events and programs that PWD can attend for free. Some events are open to allies, who pay an attendance fee.
Write-ability recognises that PWD are under-represented in publishing and exists to support skills development and connections to the writing community. WV encourages the Own Voices of PWD when writing about disability, but there is no requirement for participants to write about disability, or to want to be published. As one respondent said, ‘no one is just their disability. I am a writer first and foremost.’
The program is designed for writers with disability, but participants do not need to tell us or other participants about their disability. The Social Model of Disability focuses on making society accessible to everyone. This is why WV asks every participant registering for every event – Write-ability or otherwise – if they have access requirements.
People with disability are not limited to only attending Write-ability events. WV prides itself on being an accessible organisation for all writers at all levels and in all genres.
Suggestions and feedback
Many respondents suggested ways in which the program could be improved, including increased communication, reinstating the Melbourne writing group, workshop topics, and more online options. WV has taken all of these on board, as we do with all feedback. But you don’t have to wait until the next survey to have a say. We’re open to feedback at any time – what you love, what we could improve, what you’d like to see us include. If you have any suggestions, email the Write-ability team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 9094 7855.
About Alex Fairhill
Alex Fairhill is the Write-ability Project Assistant, writes YA and is a stats geek.