“Vloggers” – or video bloggers – cemented their status last year as the future of marketing, advertising and fame. Now a new brand is emerging, one that teaches you what it’s like to be a young person living with a disability.
The format is the same – someone talking into a camera about whatever is on their mind – but at the heart of the videos is an important message: I’m a young disabled person and this is what my life is like.
BBC Ouch spoke to three disabled vloggers to find out why they do what they do.
Robyn Lambird is an 18-year-old Australian with cerebral palsy who goes by the YouTube name T-Rex because of the way she walks. She started vlogging after people commented on her Tumblr photos asking about her disability. “I did it to let people with disabilities know they aren’t alone,” she says.
Her videos are about life with cerebral palsy, along with general updates and fashion vlogs. It’s important, she says, that viewers get the full picture when it comes to disability, and she wants to challenge any negative perceptions of her.
“You’d be surprised at how many people come up to me on the streets and, with a shocked look on their faces, tell me I look cool,” she says. “It shouldn’t be a surprise to people that a person with a disability might be interested in fashion.”
Rikki Poynter, who is hard of hearing, agrees with Lambird. Her early videos were also about fashion, as well as make-up – a popular topic for vloggers.
She started making YouTube videos in 2010 after finishing college, to combat feelings she was having of boredom, loneliness and depression.
Poynter became tired of talking about make-up and, changing tack, now creates videos that focus more on her disability – how to socialise in a loud environment with a hearing impairment, for example.
Right now she has a new aim, campaigning for all vloggers to add closed captions (CC) to their videos making them accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people. She recently encouraged vlogging star Tyler Oakley to include them.
She now spends a lot of her time emailing and hand writing letters to popular YouTube stars, encouraging them to think more about deaf viewers and, in time, hopes to increase people’s knowledge of disability.
Pointer says it’s difficult to get people who genuinely want to learn, and receives a lot of unwanted messages below her videos, including dismissive remarks like: “deaf people are so sensitive”.
She says there’s not much of an appetite for those YouTube videos made by deaf people using sign language so gaining an audience is a little easier for her as she can speak. Pointer adds that people leave mean comments about her voice which she says is a response deaf people often get.
The disabled vloggers we spoke to believe they are giving honest coverage of what it really means to be disabled, and creating important online communities for people to discuss the minutiae of their daily lives.
Jack Binstead vlogs about his life with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease), and using a wheelchair.
One of his videos, Wheelchair Tricks, shows Binstead performing creative manoeuvres in his chair. He does wheelchair BMX in his spare time and in this video teaches others some of the more simple elements involved in chair control.
He starred as Leslie “Rem Dogg” Remmington in BBC Three’s Bad Education, but now wants to make a career out of vlogging and motivational speaking.
“There was nobody in a wheelchair in my area when I was growing up,” he says. “I just want to show them that they can do whatever they want with their lives. I would have loved to watch vlogs from other wheelchair users when I was a kid.”