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Mel Wardle Woodend: Using Experience and Disability to Help Others

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Mel Wardle Woodend is Staffordshire Poet Laureate 2019-2022. And, much of her work is inspired by learning difficulties, mental illness and disabilities

Some of the poetry written by Mel Wardle Woodend is inspired by her OCD, while others are inspired by both her and her husband’s dyslexia and her experience with Meniere’s disease. She says, “I feel privileged to be able to do this because people have told me that some of my mental health poetry has helped them to feel less alone in what they too, are experiencing.”

So, let’s take a look at her work and career.

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Becoming a Poet Laurette

Mel Wardle Woodend

© Express and Star

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Mel has made some great achievements with her poetry. For many poets, becoming a Poet Laurette is a far-off dream that only happens to other people. For Mel, it became a reality in 2019, when she was awarded the role of Staffordshire Poet Laurette for her contribution to raising the profile (and popularity) of poetry in and around Staffordshire. While most of us were facing our own different challenges in 2020, during the pandemic, she had the extra challenge of adapting her work to online platforms.

This included the co-run event with Jon Watkiss, WORD Staffordshire. Running this online had the added benefit of helping to connect people who would otherwise be emotionally isolated during the strict periods of lockdown.

Dyslexia

Mel also creates dyslexic-friendly books. The motivation behind setting up her publishing company, Dream Well Writing, was her husband’s struggles with dyslexia, alongside her previous experience of working as a support assistant. Mel worked with young people who faced barriers to literary development. This prompted her to follow the examples of publishers, such as Barrington Stoke who format their books in a way which makes reading more accessible for people with dyslexia.

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Hearing Loss

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However, Mel faced further challenges when waking one day to realise she couldn’t hear properly in one ear. This was later diagnosed as Meniere’s Disease and spread to her other ear. She describes the experience as frightening, leaving her too concerned to walk down the street on her own, due to not hearing approaching cars or footsteps of people which she was always aware of until that point. This new disability affected her poetry as a career, because of the predominantly listening aspect. One example of this is being unable to hear responses from children during assemblies or participants during workshops.

Although hearing aids help, Mel describes some of the challenges involved in adapting to them.

“I find the things I used to enjoy as a routine part of life – going out to a café with friends, hosting poetry events, running workshops, and even watching TV – can be very exhausting as my hearing aids amplify all the sounds they pick up and send them straight to my brain! Then the brain has to work really hard to try to decide which of the sounds it actually needs to process (such as the person I am speaking to and not just all of the background noises). I know I will never hear words properly in my left ear again as those sounds have been permanently lost – but the hearing aid helps my right ear a lot with clarity and I have been learning lipreading, which is starting to help me a little too.”

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Further education

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© Pixabay

Before her hearing loss, Mel was looking into a doctoral research programme, which she put on hold in the hope her hearing would recover. After learning it wouldn’t, she made the decision to apply and is now taking her PhD at Aston University. The support from the university has been a great help, but it wouldn’t be possible without her determination and ability to adapt to some of the significant challenges thrown at her.

She shares an encouraging message to anyone facing similar or different challenges in life.

“I think, successfully applying and gaining my place and starting a new ‘journey’ as a deaf student has really been an achievement to be proud of. The one thing I have learnt is that you cannot let things hold you back – it is fine to have dark and difficult days (and completely normal when going through something quite life-changing) – but important to not let a disability take away the things that are important to you.”

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His Sickled Journey: A Must-Watch on Generation Black TV

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His Sickled Journey is a short film being shown on Generation Black TV. This compelling narrative follows Femi, a serial over-thinker, as he learns the ins and outs of sickle cell anemia to support his new girlfriend, Chanice. The film highlights the importance of understanding and empathy in relationships, especially when dealing with chronic illnesses.

The Storyline of His Sickled Journey

In His Sickled Journey, Femi is happily coasting in honeymoon avenue with his new girlfriend, Chanice. However, his anxiety begins to rise after she reveals that she has the genetic condition sickle cell anemia. Determined to be there for her, Femi decides to learn everything he can about the condition. As he undergoes this journey, he grows closer to Chanice, but his overthinking ways threaten to sabotage their budding romance.

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Inspiration Behind His Sickled Journey

The concept for His Sickled Journey was inspired by Her Sickled Journey, a personal blog about sickle cell awareness founded by Tito Oye. Tito is a 23-year-old London-based tenancy manager and lover of life. She has always had a passion for helping others and writes to help people realize that sickle cell doesn’t need to define their entire identity. Her blog serves as a beacon of hope and education for those affected by the condition.

Meet the Cast: David Ajayi

His Sickled Journey stars David Ajayi, a British-born actor with Nigerian heritage. Raised in South London, David studied Accounting & Finance at Coventry University before training at Identity School of Acting. In addition to acting, David is a writer, presenter, producer, and director, known for the comedy web series Minister in Training and the short film series Moments. He also has a music persona known as Gbenga De Rapper.

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Watch His Sickled Journey on Generation Black TV

His Sickled Journey is more than just a film; it’s an educational experience that brings awareness to sickle cell anemia. Generation Black TV is committed to showcasing diverse stories that resonate with a wide audience. By watching this film, viewers will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those living with sickle cell anemia and the importance of support and empathy in relationships.

The Impact of His Sickled Journey

His Sickled Journey not only entertains but also educates its audience about sickle cell anemia. It’s a powerful story of love, understanding, and overcoming personal fears. The film’s portrayal of Femi’s journey to support Chanice highlights the importance of learning about and understanding chronic conditions to build stronger, more empathetic relationships.

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Don’t Miss His Sickled Journey on Generation Black TV

His Sickled Journey
His Sickled Jouney

Tune in to Generation Black TV to watch His Sickled Journey. This short film promises to deliver a heartfelt story that will leave a lasting impact. With its strong performances and meaningful storyline, it’s a must-watch for anyone interested in stories about love, empathy, and personal growth.

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Bridgerton Season 3: A Milestone in Representation?

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The popular Netflix series “Bridgerton” has always been celebrated for its diverse and inclusive storytelling. In its third season, the show has taken a significant step forward in representation by including characters with disabilities and those who are neurodivergent. This move has garnered widespread praise from fans, especially for its nuanced portrayal of these characters. Here’s how “Bridgerton” Season 3 is making waves in disability representation.

Bridgerton Disability Representation Shines in Season 3

“Bridgerton” fans are praising the disability representation in Season 3, which features characters with diverse abilities. Among them, Francesca Bridgerton, played by Hannah Dodd, has captivated audiences with her introverted and musically inclined personality, leading many to believe she is “autistic-coded.” This subtle yet impactful portrayal is a testament to the show’s commitment to inclusivity.

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Nuanced Portrayal of Disabled Characters

Season 3 introduces Dolores Stowell, a young debutante who communicates using British Sign Language (BSL), played by Kitty Devlin, and her mother, Lady Stowell, portrayed by Sophie Woolley, who is deaf. This authentic representation of deaf characters using BSL has resonated deeply with viewers. Another notable character is Lord Remington, played by Zak Ford-Williams, who uses a wheelchair. His character’s integration into the social fabric of the Bridgerton world without being marginalized has been particularly praised.

Autistic-Coded Characters in Bridgerton

Fans have also speculated that Francesca Bridgerton and her love interest, John Stirling, exhibit traits often associated with autism. Francesca’s preference for small, intimate gatherings and her deep passion for music have led many to interpret her as autistic-coded. Similarly, John’s interactions and behaviors suggest traits of both autism and ADHD, creating a rich, layered portrayal that viewers have found incredibly relatable.

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Fans Praise Bridgerton’s Inclusive Approach

The inclusion of these characters has sparked a positive reaction on social media, with fans expressing their appreciation for the show’s thoughtful and respectful depiction of disabilities and neurodivergence. One fan commented, “Can we just talk about the disability representation in #BridgertonS3 for a minute? Not only is there a deaf actress using BSL to communicate on-screen, but there’s also an eligible suitor in a wheelchair. Not to mention the fact that Fran & John are autistic coded AF.”

A Step Forward in Media Representation

By featuring characters with disabilities and those who are neurodivergent, “Bridgerton” challenges the misconception that these conditions are modern phenomena. The show highlights that individuals with diverse abilities have always existed and deserve representation in all forms of media, including historical dramas. This representation not only enriches the narrative but also provides a mirror for audiences to see themselves and their experiences reflected on screen.

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“Bridgerton” Season 3 has set a new standard for disability representation in media. By thoughtfully including characters with diverse abilities and neurodivergent traits, the show fosters a more inclusive and empathetic view of the world. This approach has resonated deeply with fans, proving that representation matters and can make a significant impact on viewers.

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Drake’s Involvement in Media Maelstrom Involving disabled Journalist Christopher Alvarez

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Journalist Christopher Alvarez has been dragged into a media maelstrom, facing intense online speculation and ugly rumors, including false accusations of a physical altercation with Drake. Although Alvarez uses a wheelchair, he gets around and has enjoyed rubbing shoulders with celebrities and international pop stars, including DJ Khaled, and has aspired to become a broadcast journalist since high school. Alvarez has refuted the false accusations, emphasizing the need to stop spreading misinformation and highlighting the impact of this debacle on both himself and Drake.

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One thing that Ebony Prince has been heavily implying is that something happened between Drake, his team and Christopher Alvarez, a journalist who suffers from thanatophoric dysplasia type 2 and requires ventilator support to keep him alive. The accusation that Jimmy Brooks, the disabled character that Drake played on Degrassi, would not be happy with Drake that night, meant to a lot of people that Drake or one of his team mistreated him in some way.

Today, Christopher Alvarez has come out to clear the air. He talks about how we’re in a post-truth era where misinformation and perception rule.  He recently wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle regarding the Drake debacle: “I found myself at the center of a social media storm. As a journalist with a disability, I have faced unique challenges in navigating this ‘post-truth’ society”.

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Living as a journalist in a ‘post-truth’ society presents a myriad of obstacles. The constant battle against fake news, the pressure to maintain a strong social media presence, and the risk of becoming a target for cyberbullying are just a few of the challenges that journalists face in today’s digital age.

For journalists with disabilities, these challenges can be even more daunting. The need to constantly engage with social media platforms can be physically and mentally exhausting, especially for those with mobility or sensory impairments. Additionally, the risk of facing discrimination and ableism in online spaces adds an extra layer of complexity to the already demanding job of a journalist.

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Despite these challenges, journalists with disabilities have a unique perspective to offer in the fight against disinformation. Our lived experiences give us a deeper understanding of the importance of accurate and truthful reporting. We have the opportunity to advocate for more inclusive and accessible digital spaces, and to push back against the spread of fake news.

In order to thrive in this ‘post-truth’ society, journalists with disabilities must prioritize self-care and seek out supportive communities. We must also continue to advocate for greater accessibility and inclusivity in digital media, and work towards creating a more truthful and ethical online landscape.

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As a journalist with a disability, I am committed to navigating the challenges of living in a ‘post-truth’ society while continuing to uphold the values of honest and accurate reporting. It is my hope that by sharing my experiences, I can inspire others in similar positions to do the same.

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