It is with great sadness that after 12 wonderful years of content and community service, Disability Horizons will be closing on Friday 14th April 2023. Our co-founder Martyn Sibley explains why he has come to this difficult decision and showcases the future projects being launched by our incredible team.
Back in 2010, Srin Madipalli and I had the dream trip of a lifetime. We visited San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles in less than two weeks. Flying into San Francisco and out of Los Angeles (where we randomly met Jack Black!), we road-tripped it between San Fransico to Vegas, and Vegas to LA.
We did it all! Thanks to lots of research and the odd accessibility related battle. We saw Alcatraz prison, the Hoover dam and the Fresh Prince of Bel Airs house. We ate delicious food by the ocean, drank cocktails by the poker tables and slept after full days of brilliant experiences.
Whilst sat on the beach in LA, we reflected on our lives in the UK and the dream come true trip we were about to finish. Both having Spinal Muscular Atrophy (requiring power chairs, care support and everything else that entails), we discussed how challenging school, uni, work, socialising and travelling were at times for us.
We also reflected on how the internet had changed things for disabled people like us. Information was becoming more available on access provision. Social media made it possible to connect with other disabled people. Blogging and vlogging were a way to publish and consume disability-related content.
What if there was a way to bring together disability lifestyle content and build a community of like-minded disabled people? That was on our mind and our lips sat there on that fateful day. Pondering a new idea, looking over the Pacific coast of the USA. What if…
Disability Horizons was born
As many of you now know Disability Horizons magazine was the outcome of this inspired trip. Launching in April 2011, after Srin bootstrapped the first website, we both wrote the first articles. Then our friends contributed. Then their friends contributed. Until many more people wanted their story to be heard.
Using WordPress, social media and bundles of youthful exuberance we grew the magazine quickly.
Over time we managed to get more appropriate help with the design and technology from people like AJ, Melissa and their team at Misfit-Inc. Very importantly others enquired how to help us with this ever-growing project.
In the summer of 2011 Srin and I had an email from a journalism graduate who’d been considering setting up something similar. Elizabeth Ransome (now Liz Croker) joined us as editor, after an inspired chat by the Liverpool Street station fountains. Soon after other brilliant talent joined our voluntary and freelance team including Zubee, Emma, Fleur, Raya, Rebecca and Zec. With so many others, it’s impossible to name everybody.
This enabled Srin and me to spend more energy on sustainable funding models. We tried everything in pursuit of a social enterprise model! DH discounts, DH second-hand equipment, DH research, DH coaching courses, and so on. I think we were a bit ahead of our time on some of these. But it was amazing having all these creative ideas executed on. We learned a lot and the community was always so supportive too.
I’ll come back to a few things that did work and remain positives to this day shortly.
The reason for the closure
As mentioned in the title and intro, and the bit you’re probably keen to know more about, we’re closing the doors at Disability Horizons after 12 great years. Its difficult to express the nostalgic sadness I have in sharing this news. Plus it’s difficult to explain in one simple sentence why it’s happening. Particularly as it wasn’t on the cards at the start of 2023.
Essentially it’s a combination of many things. Srin moved from Disability Horizons to Accomable to Airbnb and now advises tech start ups. I’ve not been hands-on at Disability Horizons since Purple Goat launched three years ago. Liz really lead the consistency of Disability Horizons throughout and continued solo three years ago with our brilliant team. Unfortunately, she had to leave the magazine in late January for personal reasons.
As ever finances played a part in the decision. With all the best efforts from myself, Srin, Chris and Joanna over the years, funding the full costs of running the magazine with advertising revenue has been a slog (to say the least). We’ve always relied on volunteers and always paid people when funds allowed.
There were some possible ways to keep DH going. With the three main people gone it would have been really challenging. However, the ultimate reason I’ve taken this decision comes back to why Srin and I started it in 2011.
Giving disabled people a voice
I believe Disability Horizons has had a fantastic run of doing just that. Giving disabled people a voice. Its given hundreds of disabled people a voice as writing contributors. Plus hundreds of thousands of disabled people had a place to be aspirational, supported and connected.
Most of all, with the evolution of social media through the past decade, the rise of disabled content creators sharing their powerful voices has been seismic. Leaving less need for a digital publication to enable that necessary progress we saw back in LA on that beach.
Disability Horizons’ legacy
Picking up on the earlier point of legacy and longevity. As some of you know, one of the successful social enterprise ideas we had was Accomable. The accessible travel website that Srin went on to scale and have Airbnb acquire it. Meaning something that grew from DH had a lasting impact on accessible travel.
As also mentioned I created the Purple Goat Agency three years ago. A disability influencer marketing agency that’s grown exponentially and works with the world’s best disabled content creators and largest brands. Along with Chris Cusack’s support, this grew out of some marketing service ideas we first trialed on DH. Another evergreen positive impact from the past 12 years.
Disability Horizons Shop
It has so far taken 40,000+ orders and helped many people, particularly during the pandemic with our essential supplies and face mask exemption cards.
The DH Shop will still be open for trading over the next few months and then Duncan will be rebranding and continuing the disability health and lifestyle products available on disabilityhealthshop.com. So all of the suppliers and customers need not worry about the shop going forward.
Our team’s future projects
Finally the team. Who I’m forever thankful and grateful for their passion, dedication and talent on keeping the magazine going all this time. Some of them, in particular Emma Purcell and Joanna Baker-Rogers, will be starting a new online publication called Crip Life™, which will be launching on Monday 1st May 2023. This will be a modern magazine for a modern world of modern disabled people. I’m really excited to see where this new venture takes them.
If you would like to share your story and continue reading disability content, please head to criplife.co.uk once it’s launched. In the meantime, you can follow Crip Life™ on Facebook. For content enquiries, email them at email@example.com.
You can also visit Emma’s blog Rock For Disability where she publishes disability, lifestyle and music content.
Zec Richardson, who worked with us doing product reviews, articles and most notably, co-hosting DHTV, will be continuing the online streaming channel alongside co-host Mik Scarlet, under its new name MZTV. You can join the pair on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Zubee Kibria has been a loyal volunteer and freelancer for Disability Horizons since its infancy. In 2018, she launched Access My Events, a business that helps organisations run accessible events and make them more inclusive for disabled guests. Zubee is aiming to grow this business and work with more companies. You can find out more at the Access My Events website.
Raya Al-Jadir has written many featured articles for Disability Horizons on entertainment, culture, lifestyle and mental health. She has her own blog Accessless and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Farewell Disability Horizons
As I write these final words and metaphorically turn off the lights one last time, I want to say a final message to our contributors and readers. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being on the journey.
The world isn’t yet perfect for disabled people, but it’s a better place for all of your input to DH. Please keep on aiming for an inclusive world and bring your ideas and energy to the disability movement. We need you more than ever to help define how much progress we can all make over the next 12 years!
Best wishes. Martyn 💜
By Martyn Sibley