Stories you won't read elsewhere

Making media for the disability movement in 2023
Picture of Peter at his desk, smiling and wearing a Santa hat. Peter is white, has glasses and a beard with speckles of grey. He's wearing a Judy Heumann hoodie that says 'I wanna see feisty disabled people change the world.'

Dear Debriefers,

This time last year I asked for help to go all-in on the Debrief. Your response was incredible. Friends, colleagues, and strangers all came forward to support something that's freely available to everyone.

It's hard to describe my gratitude. Your support means I can do something I love and that helps people change the world. It's like I fell, trustingly, you caught me, and lifted me up beyond anything I could do alone.

In the past twelve months, the Debrief library has grown to now catalogue almost 4,000 links from 150 countries. And with a growing pool of writers, we've published reporting from around the world.

As a newsletter and library, Disability Debrief is relied upon by people in the disability movement all over the world for information, analysis, and narratives on the lives of disabled people. There isn't anything else like this.

This is my annual stocktake and ask for continued support into next year. There are many more stories to tell in 2024.

Fundraising for 2024

One of the ways of helping is giving money. 13% of Debriefers already contribute directly or through their organisations. If you're able, join them through:

For US-taxpayers making a gift of $1,000 or more, it can be done as a donation through a 501(c)(3).

To support as an organisation, get in touch.

Stories you won't read anywhere else

In February this year I set out a vision for a disability lens on world news. It's a vision for grounding the expanse of evidence and analysis on disability in our lived experiences. And it's a vision that comes out of writing with and for the disability community.

As an editor, the overview of information I curate on disability means that I can prioritise stories and reporting that adds a new dimension, or covers a subject that no-one else is looking at. And through the connections I have in the international disability movement, I know the people who can make it happen.

One of the best demonstrations of writing in community is that this year's most popular Debrief editions weren't those written by me. I love that contributors bring us new perspectives and reach wider audiences. 2023 favourites were:

These three articles also speak to the range of what the Debrief does. They contain analysis, reporting and personal experience. The climate and data pieces help navigate considerable information on these topics elsewhere. And the piece on protests in Peru covered a subject no-one else had written about.

But you don't have to take my word for it. See the incredible things readers say. To mention just one, Tina Lee, who edits Unbias the News, said that the Debrief is “such a welcome addition to my inbox, frequently containing topics you literally won't read anywhere else.”

We can only tell these stories together

As well as the most-visited articles, I'm particularly proud of the reporting I did on the disabled people in the conflict in Sudan and the recent interview with an activist from Myanmar. Not enough attention was being paid to these contexts and even less to the situation of disabled people.

Both pieces were only possible because of the Debrief community. To report the piece in Sudan I texted a friend who'd worked there. Within half an hour he'd come back with contacts who'd agreed to talk with me. And as for Myanmar, I'd wanted to cover that situation since the coup in 2021. But it was only this year that became possible, through a careful introduction made by a reader.

It's the same for the articles that contributors write, too. Andrea's article from Peru was written in partnership with SODIS, a Peruvian NGO. That gave it a unique access to the disability community there. Jennifer's piece on data came from collaboration with statistician friends. And Áine's reporting comes out of an almost two-year long collaboration.

Authenticity and quality take time. I had to learn a new way of writing for this newsletter, and so do my new contributors. The results are thoughtful and intimate, as Anna Maria showed in her reporting on disabled people providing care in India, and Fazilet Hadi in her piece on the state of advocacy in the UK.

It's not just in the reporting that the community makes this possible. Feedback and reader comments are one of the most important motivations for this work. And as I note in the acknowledgements below, many have given time to advise and guide me on how to take this project forward.

The Debrief's year in numbers

The Debrief has grown significantly since last year. At the end of 2023:

Much more content, from a wider group of people.

  • 40 newsletters published so far, compared to 23 last year.
  • Four writers and three illustrators; last year one of each.
  • Myself and contributors all identify as disabled.

A quickly-growing library of disability news.

  • The library now organises over 3,900 links to news and resources, almost double last year. We also have a new hub on climate change.
  • Resources come from 152 countries and regions, compared to 117 last year.

More people are reading and using the information.

  • 22,000+ unique web visitors this year. I don't have comparable data for the whole of last year, but the quarter of September to November is up 125%.
  • 2,400 people on the email list, up 35% from this time last year.

A growing resource base and investment in original reporting.

These figures are in progress as I'm two-thirds of the way through a financial year that starts and ends in April. But they're already higher than in all of last year.

  • Subscriptions from twelve organisations, compared to seven last year. These now include several mainstream organizations too.
  • Fundraising this year already £46,844, compared to £42,466 in all of last year.
  • Investment in contributors is £6,183, compared to £2,557 in all of last year.

See more details in the accounts.

Flying higher in 2024

The Debrief is much more established now than it was at the beginning of the year. I know what I'm doing and have the resources to carry on doing it. With your help, I'll take it to another level.

Behind the scenes there are some administrative ducks and registrations to get in a row. It's especially important to get them in order as I look to grow the number of people involved in the project.

To develop more reporting I've been talking and working with writers from eleven different countries. Many of these discussions are still preliminary, several are reporting as we speak, and an article from an activist in Yemen is basically ready for next year.

There are many bright ideas of how the Debrief can expand - podcasts, events, etc. Sure, let's do them someday. But it's a rare situation to have funding to report on disability news and I want to pay it forward. I'm planning how the Debrief can support the wider ecosystem of disability media. If we expand, it should be to make the whole space bigger.

Ways you can help the Debrief do more

Being written in community means there different ways to be involved:

  • Sharing. Tell people you know about the Debrief. Or invite me to a webinar or podcast so I can tell them myself. Share this post.
  • Supporting financially. Contribute on a one-off or recurring basis, from your organisation, or introduce me to others that might support.
  • Connecting. Information and insights from readers are essential to keep a finger on the pulse. Be in touch with feedback, comments and links.

Thanks for being in this with me. We go further together.


Correction: an earlier version of this article said that thirteen organizations subscribe to the Debrief, but it is in fact twelve.

Please share this with friends, as that's how people find the Debrief. On socials we're on Linkedin, twitter at @DisDebrief and I'm @desibility. And hit reply to say hello!


Thanks to Áine and Zach for feedback on drafts of this email. The photo of me at my desk is a self-portrait and I'm wearing a Judy Heumann hoodie from Bonfire.

There are many people that made this year possible. I want to take a step back to thank some of those that have been doing it behind the scenes.

Áine Kelly-Costello has, as well as their own writing on the Debrief, been an invaluable colleague and friend in thinking through matters large and small. Celestine Fraser has been giving me writing coaching that I, and readers, benefit from. (And was recently recognised for her contributions to media in the UK.)

I've been profoundly guided by friends and well-wishers who help me understand and develop this project. In a list that inevitably leaves many out:

Eddie Bearnot has been a generous mentor and friend with his cheerleading and business brain. Susan Scott Parker comes up with good ideas faster than I can send emails. Zachary Vanderburg taught me to look at people when I ask them for money.

If I have a conundrum one of the first people I message is DJ. Catherine Hyde Townsend and Kathy Guernsey have been constant companions and guides. Alberto Vasquez keeps me in the loop. Shashaank Awasthi nurtures ambition and vision.

Tracy Vaughan Gough helps me believe in myself. James Strachan helps me with the turning circles of media and business. Steven Davis gives me new concepts to understand what the Debrief can do. Mary Keogh, Tushar Wali, Nick Corby, Sander Schot and Tom Palmer help me think. Tanmoy “Dada” Goswami is a friend and role model.

And Diana Samarasan told me to carry on enjoying myself.