From Elin Williams .. ‘My Blurred World’


Something you might not know about me – but you will absolutely gage through some of the content I want to write this year – is that I am a bookworm, through and through. The literary world is one of the places I turn to for escapism, enjoyment and education.

My younger self loved to be whisked away to fictional worlds that were devoid of any prejudice or misconceptions, but there was always something quite unnerving about that too. In what way, do you ask? Well, representation wasn’t rooted in anything I was reading which meant that I wasn’t seeing myself amongst the pages.

Books are often celebrated for the insight and distraction they can offer. Some afford us a window view into other people’s existence, whether fictional or not. But when the view from that window is the same, day-in-day out, it begs the question of what newness remains to be seen?

I’m always parroting the fact that I turned to the internet in search of stories from other vision impaired people when I was a teenager, but I longed to see that representation in the books I was reading too. I wanted to read stories that went beyond the statistics, and a narrative that reassured me that I wasn’t alone.

My online reading became a lot more diverse thanks to the advent of blogs; I came across other disabled people who were sharing snippets of their lives, as well as being exposed to stories about race, gender, sexuality and class.

I’ve profited in terms of knowledge from reading these experiences, and I’ve been able to grasp the fact that I’m not alone in terms of the challenges, the prejudice and the misconceptions I come across as a disabled person.

But discovering that representation on the bookshelf was another story – pun absolutely intended.

This concept of representation has played on my mind for a while now, so I want to delve into it a little deeper today, and discuss why disabled people deserve a place on the bookshelf.

Many do sit there already, of course – There are some incredible disabled authors out there. This is just a little ode to why that representation needs to be amplified and celebrated even more.



I think that the narratives we’re exposed to as children can have a lasting impact on how we view the world.

I catalogued a lot of misconceptions and microaggressions that I came across as a child, and somewhat believed them because I didn’t have any positive representation of disabled people to prove me otherwise.

I recently came across one of the short stories I penned when I was younger. Goodness knows how old I was when writing it, but given the errors that were peppered throughout, I’m guessing it would have been when I was on the periphery of my final days in primary school.

It struck me when re-reading the premise that I clearly extracted elements of my own life in order to create my own unique sense of representation.

Disabled characters made many appearances in the stories I poured my passions into. Whilst some of the storylines were characterised by an urge to highlight preconceived ideas and misconceptions, others saw disabled protagonists simply bundling through life; the words were laced with teenage anecdotes as my characters deciphered their path, and some of the plots were warmed with the familiar gravity of childhood friendships.

So, whilst my characters’ impairments didn’t overwhelm the pages in every plot, I was writing disabled characters into my stories, essentially creating the representation I was so desperate to see at the time.

I think my main agenda through doing this was to prove that, just like in the real world, we are here as disabled people; a part of life, a part of society, and that should be reflected in the books we read.

Disabled people deserve honest and positive representation in literature, as authors and as characters, but it’s not often that we’re exposed to those narratives. None of the set books I read at school had any disabled characters which only magnified my concerns that I was the only one. It meant that the chasm of underrepresentation and misinformation swelled into a larger space.

When I did come across a disabled character in a story, they were often on the periphery of the plot, placed in the background, seeking help or receiving pity.

This is why disabled characters need their own agency.

Disabled people need to be added to the stories in an authentic way, not only to show young disabled people that their lives and their stories matter, but to embolden the purpose we know we have.

We also can’t have one disabled character and think that’s enough, because that’s simply not what life looks like.


I think we often limit the landscape of what we choose to read based on relatability to our own lives. Perhaps we disregard other choices in favour of sticking to what we know.

But when you think about it, we’re always consuming and enjoying content that doesn’t mirror our lives in any way; whether it’s the latest Netflix series or our favourite film, there’s that one thing that lures us beyond the parameters of our own reality for a little while.

So why can’t that extend to more diverse reading choices too?