Being disabled is exhausting. Utterly exhausting. The world isn’t designed for us and every little thing takes us longer, is more complicated and can negatively affect our health. I wrote about my visit to London and how there either wasn’t disabled access to the tube or, if it did exist, you had to be Sherlock-bloody-Holmes to find it and that ticket machines were too high for anyone in a wheelchair to use. Cracked, sloping and uneven pavements are a nightmare if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter and many don’t have dropped curbs to enable you to get from one place to another. Supermarket shelves those in wheelchairs can’t reach, checkouts which are too narrow, cashpoints you can’t get money out of…………the list goes on, and on and on.
The web is often the one place we get to be like everyone else………..at least it should be, but as many of you know that isn’t the case either.
I began blogging here on WordPress in 2012. I’m on a low income and it’s free – that was the biggest draw for me. WordPress also do all the design work, security and technical stuff for you which was my second reason for chosing them. Some days my brain is so poorly I struggle to make a shopping list, so designing a website is totally out of reach.
WordPress.com (not to be confused with the paid-service WordPress.org) is free because it uses advertising. Fairy nuff, the owners and staff have mortgages and need to eat too and it’s the trade-off for having ‘free’ web space for us users. No issue with that whatsoever. However, the more traffic your blog gets, the more adverts your readers are subjected to and the more intrusive it becomes.
Last year when I went on my blog there was a humongous advert in the side bar. It was bright red (a colour my brain struggles with) and used flashing images. As someone who can have a seizure to flashing lights I had a legitimate issue with this particular advert, so contacted the WordPress forum to complain about it (the downside to a free WordPress.com site is that there is no support or way of contacting WordPress, ie Automattic the company who owns WordPress). I was told that if I didn’t want adverts I should upgrade and pay for a package which didn’t include adverts. It boils down to the fact I had to pay money because I was disabled and the site wasn’t taking into account my disability. I’m fairly sure there’s a law against that.
This year, not content with adding adverts to the bottom of posts and to my menu bar, WordPress have decided in their algorithm-wisdom to insert adverts between the paragraphs of my actual blog posts. They clearly don’t have painful hands which find continual scrolling a nightmare, or use a text reader. I’m also careful how I write my posts, as many of my readers have severe brain issues and I know can’t read long sentences or single bodies of text, so I do try to use lots of small paragraphs and by doing that seem to be attracting yet more adverts.
The adverts can be wildly inappropriate – there is currently one about mould removal, which is incredibly insensitive on a site which is read by people with life-threatening mould allergies. So I also complained about that and was told advert content is outside of WordPress’ control and, once again, told to upgrade to a paid package which didn’t include adverts. They basically just made my blog unusable for people with my kind of disability/illness and are holding me ransom to make it disabled-friendly. I’m fairly sure there’s a law against that too, but even if there weren’t I wish the suits who made these decisions could live a day in my shoes. Could struggle to get dressed. Could struggle to make a meal. Could struggle with the pain of using a screen and it’s bright lights, let alone the risk of a seizure from being hijacked by moving images. Could struggle to make ends meet on a low income in a world which just keeps asking for more and more and more money in order to participate from my bed (laptop costs, landline charges, internet charges, mobile phone charges because sodding everything these days demands you use an app………..).
The thing that makes me the most sad, however, is that these large corporations don’t give a crap about people like you and me. They don’t spend a second of their day wondering how bedbound or housebound people participate in the world. Don’t give a crap about how poor people afford internet access. Don’t give a crap how being sick or disabled isolates you from society or how difficult it is to do the most simple and basic of activities. They’re not disabled y’see. At least not yet. I’d love to speak to them again when they’re 80, like my parents.
I don’t have the energy to fight WordPress/Automattic about the advert issue and even if I did I’d be wasting my time because they absolutely don’t care. They just want to make money and aren’t the slightest bit bothered whose life is made harder in order to do it. I’m too exhausted from spending the last 26 years sick and disabled to fight anyone about anything these days and can feel myself becoming more and more isolated from society as a result of the struggle to have my challenges recognized. I’m actually tearful as a type that. It really has been a monumental struggle for decades simply to do the ordinary things healthy people take for granted and I’m tired. So tired of my already difficult life being made more difficult by a society that sees me as a nuisance or a whinger or a burden. And I know many of you feel the same way.
So I used the Christmas money I received and was going to use as my first treat in nearly two years (a massage for my painful back and neck) to upgrade to an advert-free blog. Well done WordPress, you win.
To add insult to literal injury, as you know after I contracted meningitis I acquired dyslexia and my spelling is truly appalling. I only survive online because everything I type is auto-spell checked. WordPress used to have a spellchecker as part of its editing software, until about a year ago when it suddenly disappeared. My posts are fairly much gobbledegook until my spelling is corrected, so I had to find a browser extension (Grammarly) which checks the spelling for me on WordPress – more hassle and it’s much more obtrusive than the built-in WordPress one used to be.
I recently started a new blog on my bungalow renovations, but discovered that it contained a new WordPress Editor called Guttenberg. It’s appalling and a good lesson in how to turn a perfectly good content editor to crap. Not only do captions and descriptions about photographs appear over the top of the images rather than underneath as they used to so you can’t actually see the photos (whose flippin bright ideas was that?!), but they’ve split each blog post into paragraph blocks……….which now don’t work with the Grammary spellchecker. So now I have no way of spellchecking my posts *sigh*. I’ve raised the issue on the support forum, but if my last request for help was anything to go by I’ll just be told to upgrade to the business version of WordPress, which means I can install the Classic Editor as a plug-in. Seriously, how to ruin a perfectly good blog hosting business by making it ridiculously complex and user-unfriendly. I’m thinking of ditching the site altogether and moving my blog, and it’s million hits and nearly 1000 followers, somewhere that values its users, because this site no longer does.