disability podcasts

Every week or so, Joshua Weston and Isaac Banks get together to discuss their lives and experiences as two men living with disabilities on the podcast, Man vs. Wheelchair. The two good friends met years ago at a camp for kids with muscular dystrophy and have stayed in touch despite moving thousands of miles away from each other and going their separate ways. Banks is married and has three kids, and Weston is single. They guess that they haven’t gotten together in person in almost 10 years, but every time they settle down in front of their respective computers to record their show, the time and distance disappear, and they quickly find themselves in the middle of interesting, often passionate discussions of life with a disability. Their podcast is a shining example of the potential that the recent democratization of podcasting could offer for people with disabilities, both for would-be content creators and the rapidly growing numbers of listeners.

In case you haven’t been listening, podcasts are all the rage these days. A recent study found that one-third of Americans ages 25-54 listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. They’re available for download everywhere, from Apple’s Podcasts app, to Google’s Play store, to seemingly every content-producing website. Why? From the listener side, they’re the perfect format for our on-the-go, multi-tasking populace — short, audio-only entities that can fill the down time on the ride home or some spare minutes before bed. From the producer side, they’re easy to make. A good podcast can be as simple as a recorded phone call or as complicated as slickly produced segment that wouldn’t sound out of place on NPR. All you need is a good recording device, one or two good microphones and a little computer savvy, and you are well on your way.

That’s how Banks and Weston got started. Both have backgrounds in audio production, and when they decided to start a podcast, all they had to do was buy some good, cheap microphones online and then log onto their computers and chat.

“When Josh and I got together and started talking about this, it was what can we offer with our experiences of being disabled, to share with people that are maybe lacking in relationships or lacking in determination or skillsets or anything? What can we do to share?” says Banks.

“We have the same attitudes about disability and about life, and both of us really wanted to make an impact,” adds Weston. “We had this idea about changing the mindset around disability. I call it reframing disability — the idea of turning your disadvantage into an advantage.”

That approach comes through in each of the 11 episodes currently available online. Episodes are on the shorter side (usually about 15-30 minutes) and tackle a singular topic, ranging from employment to dating to self-esteem. The conversations are fun, thoughtful and full of insights and ideas that listeners with and without disabilities will benefit from.

“Everything we talk about, even the romantic and intimate parts of it, all ties into having a healthy mindset,” says Weston. “That’s always been our number one goal — to get people into a healthy mindset, where they understand that even if your body doesn’t perform the way we would want it to, your mind can reframe things into a positive light.”

You can find the Man vs. Wheelchair podcast at manvswheelchair.podbean.com or on Apple and Google’s services.

Here are some other disability and SCI/D podcasts worth checking out. All of them are available via Apple and Google’s apps, and the below sites:

PUSHLiving Podcastdisability podcast

PUSHLiving.com was already one of the web’s best sites for well-written blogs, interviews and much more when site founder Deborah Davis had a simple idea while interviewing a guest for an article she was working on. “Her voice was so unique and so personable,” recalls Davis. “I thought, ‘This would be so much better if people could actually hear her.’” That’s when Davis decided to supplement the long-form interviews she posts on the site with podcasts of the interviews.

Now 18 episodes in, Davis has mastered the art of making enjoyable conversation and has amassed a diverse lineup of subjects with something for every type of listener. She takes the time to pre-interview guests, and the reward is crisp back-and-forths. The podcasts are well produced with music, sponsors and clean sound. “They’re really fun to do, and frankly I always learn something,” says Davis.

Episodes at pushliving.com/podcast-2

Disability After Dark

Relationships and intimacy are always a conversation starter, and for my money, nobody is leading franker and more enjoyable discussions than Andrew Gurza — the web’s self-proclaimed “number one queer cripple.” Gurza is quick-witted, funny and not shy in the least. Be ready for anything — one of the episodes I listened to was a great conversation with a “pleasure professional” with CP.

Episodes at andrewgurza.com/disability-after-dark

United on Wheels: Wheelchair Lifestyle Podcast

Proof that anyone can host a podcast these days, United Spinal Association pegged me to lead its entry into the podcast arena. Through our first five episodes, I’ve enlisted a rotating group of United Spinal staff and members to tackle air travel, relationships, advocacy, MS and common misperceptions about living with SCI/D. I’ll be the first to admit that it has been a learning experience, but the depth of knowledge and the insights shared by my peers and colleagues have made everything about this a blast. Let us know if there are any topics you’d like to hear us take on and keep listening as we get even better at this.

Episodes at unitedonwheels.blubrry.net

U2FP Curecast

Matthew Rodreick, the executive director of Unite 2 Fight Paralysis, and Kate Willette, now NEW MOBILITY’s research columnist, host this must-listen show for anyone looking to keep up on the latest in SCI research. The power duo knows their stuff and does a great job of keeping the jargon to a minimum as they talk with a never-ending line of interesting movers and shakers in the research community. (Full disclosure, I met Willette when I was a guest on the podcast.)

Episodes at u2fp.org/get-educated/curecast.html