Ability Today is a news, resource and education platform. We deliver in real time, local, national and international news, covering topics on research, education, sport, leisure, travel and more – all relevant to the disabled community.
The aim of the website is to have a positive effect on the lives of the disabled community, give them the information and news that is targeted and relevant to them, and include a community that is often forgotten.
We have a directory on disability products, services and organisations, and in 2020 we launched the Academy for Disabled Journalists, helping to train journalists for the media jobs of tomorrow and make education and training accessible to all.
If you want to get involved, please get in touch.
About The Founder
On a sunny morning, September 2003 my life took a dramatic change of direction, which would alter the way I lived for the rest of my life.
I was working in the music business as a manager of artists and songwriters, working with them on all aspects of their careers. A busy life but I enjoyed it.
The day my life changed… I had gone to Exeter with a couple of friends on a weekend motorbike trip and on the way back I had an accident I have no recollection of. Apparently the bike skidded on some gravel on a sharp corner and I ended up in a farmer’s field, waking up two days later to find family and friends gathered around my hospital bed. I was pretty battered, high on morphine for the pain and through the haze of it all it was then I discovered that I had crushed my spine and I would never walk again.
It was a gruelling few months with various operations and rehabilitation but one thing stuck with me, while in hospital I have this vivid memory of a nurse coming and telling me that one-day I would realise I was one of the lucky ones! I wouldn’t understand what she meant until later on.
I was discharged just before Christmas 2003 and started on the road back to independence. Washing, cleaning, learning to drive (with hand controls). I had to master again the simplest of tasks that most people take for granted, I went back to work almost immediately and it became clear quickly that my type of work was going to be challenging in a wheelchair. I had travelled with my artists taking them to shows and events as well as accompanying them to press and TV shows, but I soon realised it had actually become more difficult getting me in and out of a building than them!
In the following months as I started the journey of accepting the new normal in my life things took a turn again and I came down with the hospital superbug MRSA. In some ways I think this had more of an effect on me than the accident as I became very ill and eventually had to have all the reconstructive metalwork removed from my back.
It was down to my friends and family getting me through this tough time, everyone rallied and I worked hard at staying positive. During this time I started asking more questions about disability, and without realising my research had started into something that was going to help reshape my life.
There are some fantastic organisations out there with some wonderful people helping the disabled community to help rebuild shattered lives, so I started to reach out to many of them.
My first experience was a multi activity course in the Lake District. I remember vividly the first morning sitting outside the B&B with about ten other wheelchair users when the organisers turned to the tallest mountain in view and said, “We’re going to climb that today!!” The feeling of sitting on top of that mountain and having the realisation that I could still achieve my dreams was a very powerful emotion. One that made me realise that I could still have a life.
That was in 2005 and in 2006 I went skiing to Colorado with The Back Up Trust and six other wheelchair users. Returning from Colorado, this was when the first of my ideas for building a website for the disabled came about.
My first venture was a site called The Wheel Life, the first social network for wheelchair users. This was before Facebook, when Myspace was the network of the moment and we connected chair users from all around the world and gave them a platform to express themselves on. It also worked very well for me on a personal level by putting me in the centre of the disabled community, this meant people, charities and organisations would contact me about events going on and ask me to help spread their message.
After engaging with professionals, organisations and other wheelchair users I soon realised there just wasn’t enough information readily available to the disabled community. It’s got much better but you really have to research things, it certainly wasn’t easy. So after hearing one too many wheelchair users say “I wish I had known about that” I decided to start Disability Today, now rebranded Ability Today, primarily to help give everyone the opportunity to access the information they need but often miss out on.
Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to be involved in some incredible adventures. From climbing Ben Nevis for Capability Scotland, pulling a jumbo jet along the runway with other wheelchair users to break a world record, to flying, gliding, micro-lighting, rally driving, quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, water skiing and even getting back on a motorcycle and racing round Castle Combe at over a 100 miles an hour! I was also a trustee at The White Lodge Centre for 10 years, supporting children and adults with severe disabilities.
In 2017 we set up Disability Today as a Social Enterprise and ‘not for profit’ and it was in 2019 I decided to change our name to Ability Today. It felt like the right time to change in a positive way and start focusing on what we can do, not what we can’t!
Pre covid I had a team of volunteers come to the office, all had their own disabilities and challenges but would support us and volunteer a few hours a week to help me run the website and do administration. I soon realised that I had a group of people that could carry on the video stories I had created of climbing Ben Nevis and my other adventures. So we set up the Roving Reporter program and started sending the team out on assignment. Steph went water skiing, Heather went Scuba diving and Khaleel went flying, gliding and off visiting different attractions and interviewing their staff.
So the next question was what could we do next? I picked up the phone to the National Council for the Training of Journalists and told them about our team of reporters. In partnership with the NCTJ and with funding from the National Lottery, in 2020 we launched the Academy for Disabled Journalists.
And then Covid struck… but actually it turned out to be an opportunity to expand who we could support. We took the classes online and in our first year we had students in Scotland, Manchester and all over the UK. We are now in our 3rd year of the ADJ and have courses at both A level (Certificate in Foundation Journalism) and a Diploma in Journalism. We hope to be expanding further and offer training in more work from home solutions soon.
So I’m 50 now and it’s been a serious rollercoaster ride so far, with definitely some ups and downs but I really do know………………“I am one of the lucky ones!!”
Ability Today CIC
Ability Today’s – Ambassador & Social Media Manager
Olivia Gallagher became our Ambassador in 2020 and has just taken on a new role within Ability Today as our Social Media Manager. Carry on reading to find out more about Olivia’s story …………
Olivia overcame serious health challenges and beat the bullies to become a record-breaking wheelchair racer. Born prematurely at just 24 weeks and weighing 1lb 11oz, Olivia was the only one of triplets to survive. Struggling to breathe and suffering a bleed to her brain, she spent nearly six months in a special baby care unit and needed oxygen at home for a year. When she was a year old, she was diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy in all four limbs and registered severely sight impaired and profoundly deaf.
Growing up, she was bullied at school and became increasingly unhappy. In 2014, her dad suggested that they go along to a taster session at the Weir Archer Academy, set up by Paralympic legend David Weir and his coach Jenny Archer.
Inspired, she started wheelchair racing and has never looked back. In 2015, she classified as a T33 wheelchair racer. After breaking age records, this year she represented England in the CPRISA World Games in Barcelona, where she won one silver and one bronze medal.
Olivia, who attends a mainstream school and is an ambassador for Ability Today, says: “At times I have found life very challenging as I have had to face lots of hurdles. Before I took part in sport, I was not the person I am today.
“When I first started at the Wier Archer Academy, I was finding it very hard to make friends at school. I didn’t want to do much with my life and had very little confidence to talk about my Disabilities.”
“This sport has given me the opportunity to make friends who understand what I have been through. I love the fact it’s a great support network, not just for me but for my parents too.”
In 2019 Olivia flew up the UK and world rankings to be currently sitting at BRITISH N:1 across 100-800M, top 3 in 800m and top 4 across 100-400m worldwide and with T33 finally having a pathway to the ParaOlympics Olivia has a sights set on Paris 2024.
In September 2020 after the Coronavirus pandemic Olivia embarked on a new stage of her life, one many thoughts was impossible all those years ago. Olivia begun her higher education journey at St Marys in Twickenham London studying sports Psychology, she then a year later wasn’t enjoying the course and chose the option to repeat her first year and study Marketing and Communications.
November 2021 Olivia received news that tore her Paralympic dream apart overnight.Her classification was removed from the Paralympics program for Pairs 2024 and had no pathway for future competing.
“I was devastated, I remember at the time thinking I have wasted all those years and commitment for nothing.”
Olivia decided she would take a back seat for a year and take time for herself without the demand of training and competing, experience different things and put her mental health first.
Olivia is always up to something, and she applied to work at a summer camp in America for three months. Olivia was placed at a special needs camp in upstate New York. Olivia went in headfirst and was thrown right out of her comfort zone. This overall experience enabled her to appreciate what she had back home, including the support of family and friends.
“No day was the same while working at camp, the campers were challenging and yes it was hard at times but it has definitely opened a new door for me, made me realise that I am very lucky to have the life and opportunities I have. I was able to take away so much from this experience.’’
In a blink of an eye Olivia was in her last month in America and began travelling. So with all her luggage, she went from New York to Chicago with a few extra stops on the way.
New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Cape Cod, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, Chicago.
“The travelling was the fun part, I was able to relax and meet new like minded people. I thought to myself if I don’t take this opportunity to travel now, I’ll regret it in years to come.
The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas were amazing, if I could I’d go back and do it all over again.
Before she knew it Olivia was on her way back to London and was reunited with her family and friends, including her own bed! After a few weeks of catching up on sleep and seeing people she decided she was ready to make a comeback in wheelchair racing and head (hopefully) to her first major Championships next July. Even though there are no Paralympics at the moment there’s a starting point and a realistic goal.”
“It was lovely to be reunited with everyone back home, let’s be honest I’m still catching up with people I haven’t seen since I left, a busy girl I know Ha! Ha! The decision to get back into racing wasn’t an easy one but I am pleased to be feeling fit again and having something to aim for, there is still a long way to go but this is just the beginning. Balancing university, training and having a social life is proving challenging but I am sticking to it and it all seems to be heading in the right direction.”
“The last few years have been a bumpy ride but haven’t they for everyone, I am so lucky to say I’ve come out the other side and have seen that it is perfectly ok to take time away from a sport. The support around me has been incredible I couldn’t ask for more andI can’t wait to be back on that track next season to prove that athletes with high support needs deserve the same opportunities.”
What a few years Olivia has had!
And now another chapter starts with Ability Today……
I first met Grant from Ability Today at The White Lodge, a centre for disabled children and adults where he had been a trustee for 10 years and I was a previous attendee. He invited me to come and meet him at Ability Today HQ and learn about what they do. Grant asked me to become an ambassador and help spread the message of focusing on ability, not disability! AT are a brilliant organisation, they have been supporting the disabled community for nearly 10 years with news and access to resources and information on disability products and services. In 2020 they launched the Academy for Disabled Journalists and now have over 60 students across the The Certificate in Foundation Journalism and the Diploma course.
I am really pleased to be joining the team and taking on their social media responsibilities, I will be sharing news and information about our students and what they are up to.
Olivia can be found on Ability Today’s Instagram @abilitytoday
and on her personal account @olivia_gallagher_
Ability Today – Advisory Board
We are delighted to have established an advisory board which includes members from various sectors within industry that advise Ability Today on how to achieve its goals.
Grant Logan – CEO Founder – Linkedin
Jacqueline Winstanley – Chair – Linkedin
John Black – Linkedin
Damian Bradbury – Linkedin
Colin Betteridge – Linkedin
Lee Davison-Poltock – Linkedin
Sarah Davison-Poltock – Linkedin
Phil Evans – Linkedin
Pete Kirtley – Linkedin
Craig Logan – Linkedin
Joanne Mickelwright – Linkedin
Andrew Moody – Linkedin
& Harley Logan – Ability Today Mascot !