“Disabled voices continue to be erased. Poetry is my way of raising awareness of ableism and writing back”
20 July 2022
Studying creative writing has led to Bethany Handley becoming an internationally published poet.
“I’ve always enjoyed been a creative person,” she says. “Creative writing has been a way for me to channel that creativity. I feel privileged to have studied Creative Writing at Cardiff, especially with Dr Robert Walton and Dr Ailbhe Darcy, who encouraged me to be creative inside and outside of my degree.
“They’ve helped me to develop as a writer and to amplify my voice.”
Bethany, who graduates with a First in Journalism, Media and English Literature with Creative Writing, has become a part-time wheelchair user in the past year and is keen to use her writing talents to promote inclusivity and equality.
“I have learned a lot about ableism since then,” she says. “Many people lack awareness of the realities of chronic illness and of part-time wheelchair users. There’s still so much stigma around using a wheelchair. I get frustrated when I experience ableist and ignorant attitudes and that frustration fuels my poetry.
“It’s my way of educating the world about my experience and of connecting with other young people who might not have the platform to speak about these issues.”
She says the pandemic and introduction of remote learning brought a new flexibility to her studies.
“It is definitely harder to access higher education as a Disabled or chronically ill student. One of the few benefits of Covid has been higher education becoming more accessible to more people. Degrees with the option to study remotely and all content being recorded and uploaded has been an incredible step for inclusivity.
“It meant I had time to write poetry as well as work and meet people on my degree. I wouldn’t have had that time to be creative otherwise.
“I think we are learning how to be a little more inclusive in how we work and how we learn. That’s really going to help the Disabled community. We need to ensure that we maintain hybrid learning after the pandemic to continue to make education more accessible. Everyone has a right to access higher education.”
As well as being published internationally, including in Poetry and on the Poetry Foundation, Bethany is a Young Company Member at GALWAD , one of twelve diverse young Welsh creatives from across Wales helping to imagine a better future. She is getting the chance to learn from some of Wales’ best creatives from across theatre, film and TV.
She was one of 20 new writers to be selected by the Sherman Theatre to take part in its Unheard Voices programme for 2022.
She also worked as a student producer for Creative Cardiff.
Currently, Bethany is working with fellow student and writer Megan Angharad Hunter to deliver a Literature Wales and Natural Resources Wales funded writing retreat for d/Deaf and Disabled Welsh writers aged 18-25. They aim to promote young Disabled voices in Wales.
Bethany has gone straight into work as a communications officer for Diverse Cymru, which aims to help create a nation where every person is equal and diversity is celebrated.
“I want to use my lived experience of inequality to help make a better Wales for everybody”, she says.
Bethany, from Monmouthshire, has achieved the best overall degree mark on the Joint Honours programmes within the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.
She says: “After everything that’s happened over the last three years, I’m really proud to be graduating. It feels like a huge achievement – we’ve all had to learn to be a lot more resilient since the pandemic and so this success is even more special.”