How do you get 90,000 views of your blog as an undergraduate with a disability?
Chloe Tear knows how. She’s a final year student at Leeds Trinity University studying Psychology and Child Development and shares her fascinating journey with Learning to Leap. It’s a story of personal growth by discovering her talents and pursuing her interest in social action. A post for anyone interested in student disability, blogging, and learning.
Why did you start blogging?
“I have mild cerebral palsy which affects the left side of my body as a result of being born 8 weeks early and weighing 3lb 3oz, as well as seizures, chronic pain, and impaired vision. My first blog was in 2013, Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and I was 15 – if you can’t start then, when can you start? I wanted to document my experiences because other people don’t necessarily understand what that’s like. My first post was just before starting my GCSEs. It has had 400 views since then. People must have Googled the topic because I wasn’t on social media. I included favourite quotes and spoke about family and friends.
To begin with, my blogging was intermittent as I didn’t think I could keep it going or had enough content. Then I started writing about things that were an outlet for me, to process what was happening during my disability journey, and how different I was even though no one was reading it.”
Having a disability can shape your life, whether you like this or not, being a disabled young adult is no different. I think acknowledging how it can shape us is important in understanding the role it plays within our identity.
The law of attraction
“People started asking at the end of 6th form while volunteering for Scope, the UK’s leading disability charity. Anne Eliot, an American author of young adult fiction, asked me to help her as her main character had cerebral palsy. I got a reference in her second book. I wrote a review for her first book which she shared and that’s when my audience started to grow. Also, I started sharing on social media for the first time.
Parents started contacting me which is really nice. I always show I’m doing normal things which gives people reassurance. Then it became a monthly post, a mix of life updating and educational topics. In the sixth form, I emailed about 20 disability magazines asking if I could write for them and 13 said ‘yes’. This is the only time I’ve done outreach.
Then I wrote quite a controversial piece on my opinion of Kylie Jenner using a wheelchair as a prop. People loved it. It wasn’t planned or structured, rather something topical and that I felt strongly about.
My local town gave me an award. I’d worked with my local MP on disability hate crime and he got questions into Parliament. That’s when my campaigning started. My first really big thing was being shortlisted for a National Diversity Award while still at school.
People started to come to me when I started at uni. I didn’t have a Twitter account until then. Currently, there are 116 posts on my site with another 100 for other sites including the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, and the Times Higher Education.”
What does blogging mean for you?
“Blogging has given me a lot of opportunities. I’ve been interviewed for BBC TV and radio and interviewed (blind ex-Minister) David Blunkett about employment opportunities for disabled adults. Campaigning has given me a voice to help children with cerebral palsy and their parents. I’m someone they can relate to and I can show what’s possible.
I’ve been recognised for many achievements. For example, I am on the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 of Britain’s most influential disabled people; received a Points of Light award from the Prime Minister; I’m a UK Blog Award finalist this year for education.
My blog is my baby, my pride and joy. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it or I’m writing something. Through practice, my writing has drastically improved in the last six years. Yes, Imposter Syndrome still lurks, but it doesn’t stop me. Although I gain a regular income by writing for others, my primary goal of educating people about disability remains the same.
What are the insights from your experience so far?
- Starting to share it was a big moment, I wasn’t confident before that. Even my Mum didn’t know of my blog’s existence for over 2 years!
- Making connections with other disabled bloggers who are now some of my closest friends. We can relate to each other’s content. Each of us becomes the go-to person for that disability. I’ve written a couple of blogs recently about what disability means to me as a student including quotes from my disabled friends. They are an informal focus group where we reference and support each other.
- You’ve got to enjoy what you do and do it for yourself first and foremost. I do more discussion pieces now. I know my style and it’s OK not to be like others.
- People say humour is always in my blogs, that I’m honest and thought-provoking. I’ll test assumptions and challenge what people think they know or understand. For example, did you know that of those people who register as blind or with impaired sight, only 3% of are totally blind whereas 97% can see something?
What do you feel strongly about?
Do you enjoy writing and learning out loud?
How could starting a blog reveal your passion, commitment, and talents?
What would you write just for you whether you posted it or not?
Give it a go and see where it takes you!
Check out Chloe’s brilliant blog and campaigning activities at cpstudentblog.blogspot.com. Subscribe to her newsletter for regular updates and exclusive material. Also, connect with her on Twitter @chloetear. Thanks, Chloe!