Melanie Reid is currently a journalist writing for The Times in her weekly Spinal Column. Before that, she was a columnist at The Herald in Glasgow and a former associate editor of The Sunday Mail. Follow a horse riding incident in 2010, Melanie broke her neck and back and is now a tetraplegic. Melanie sits down and tells us about her journalism career and the importance of including those who are disabled.
Why do you think it’s important to have disabled people in the journalism world?
It’s very important but so far there aren’t a lot of us. The BBC are making great efforts, Frank Gardner etc, and Channel 4, but as far as I am aware I’m the only column in a national newspaper which is devoted to talking about life with a disability.
Did/do you find any hardships with your job? How did you overcome them?
I was already employed when I had the accident that caused my disability (fell off a horse and broke my neck). The Times were amazing and not only created a special slot for me but have gone out of their way to help me to continue to work as a tetraplegic. I work from home with office equipment.
What are your career and life aims?
One of my main preoccupations is staying alive! I will keep doing Spinal Column as long as they want it to continue, because I think it is great to have a disabled voice in the mainstream. I’m also writing a book reflecting my experiences since my accident – all this takes time because looking after yourself when you’re tetraplegic is time-consuming.
What would you say to anyone wanting to get into journalism industry yet are scared to because of their disability?
Don’t be put off trying. I think the industry is aware of its shortcomings in this regard and you might find that the door opens quite easily when you push it. If you’re young and photogenic and full of dynamism, then sell yourself as a presenter to the TV companies.
What has been your proudest achievement?
The column seems to appeal to two types of people. Able-bodied readers say that it helps them appreciate what they’ve got and stops them fighting with their family over wet towels on the landing or dirty coffee cups on the table. Disabled readers are delighted that someone is giving their hidden existence a voice.