The need for change

There are eight million disabled people in this country. Yet the children’s books we give our children come nowhere close to reflecting this.  Instead they depict a landscape which is completely skewed. 

For example, while thousands of new titles are published each year, only a handful of children's books feature a disabled character in the story or even show a disabled person somewhere in their images.  And those that do so in a 'real', accurate and fully-rounded way are exceptionally few and far between.  Thus disabled children grow up never seeing themselves in books, and non-disabled children often grow up rarely coming into contact with disabled people.  Imagine the difference we could make to attitudes if children grew up seeing disability as just a normal part of society, from a very, very young age.

It is not just about inclusive imagery, but also access to books.  Disabled children are often denied the right to enjoy books like their peers, simply because books are not created in formats they can access.  For example, 96% of books never make it into a format that blind or partially sighted people can read. The few books that are produced in accessible formats such as large print, audio or braille are often produced months, even years, after the standard print version.  Imagine having to wait years before you were able to read the next book in your favourite series, by which time all your friends have long moved on to the next big thing.  

There are so many ways in which disabled children are being short-changed by books.  

The children's book world also needs to continue to adapt and evolve in relation to other aspects of diversity - gender, culture, sexual identity, socio-economic background and family structure to name but a few. 

With the help of writers, illustrators, publishers, disability organisations and (importantly) children and their families, I hope we can start to bring about real change.

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