Laura Kalbag

16 August 2018 11:40 IST

This Saturday 18th August 2018, it’s one year since I announced I’d written Accessibility For Everyone. And that announcement got more attention that I could’ve imagined.

As a result of that early publicity, A Book Apart opened pre-orders. And those pre-order sales were nothing to sniff at. However, I still feel a little resentful when people suggest that the particular tweet “did me a favour.” (I’m not going to show the original tweet here, as it just attracts more harassment.) My end goal is that more people make websites more inclusive, and so more sales help me reach that goal. But I want to explain the feeling I had when I wrote this tweet:

“Sorry, I’m so new, I’m still learning the correct language. Nothing I wrote, let alone the book, would be worthwhile without other people.”

It was late at night. I felt small, and that I didn’t deserve to have a book published. And anxious that people would think a) I didn’t have the right to have a book published, and b) that I was ungrateful to all the people who made the book exist.

The resulting outcry, and massive wave of support, felt incredible. So many people, so many I didn’t know, saying kind things to me. It lessened that anxiety, and when people told me I should feel proud of my achievement, I really felt proud.

But then came a lot of responses along the lines of “you should be grateful, he did you a favour.” Because his big name brought publicity that my little name would not. People have said this to me in person too. Kind people, meaning well. Someone even suggested that I should get him to print artwork to include in the book. The suggestion horrified me. I’m not grateful. I was so excited to share that I’d been working on a book for three years, but that announcement was hijacked by a well-known person publicly chastising me.

I don’t want a book about inclusivity to be tied to a tweet that made me feel excluded. And yet people will introduce me at conferences talking about that tweet. If I bring the book up in conversation, people will bring up that tweet. I’m not cross with the folks who want to deride the nature of the tweet, or the systemic inequality that leads to such a tweet. But it means I can’t escape that feeling of being small, or knowing that many people think I owe a person for making me feel that way because it may have resulted in a few more sales. You might notice I find it very difficult to call it my book. I call it Accessibility For Everyone or the book I wrote.

Sometimes I’ll make a knowing reference to the whole event when talking about the book. Like, I WROTE A BOOK. Or (jokily) implying that famous people endorsed my book out of the blue. But I don’t want to make a big deal of the event, or celebrate it, because I can’t escape the implication that I’m indebted to a person who wanted to publicly berate me. Or a social system that makes men think it’s ok to patronise women and marginalised people based on the assumption that a man knows best and everyone else must want to hear him. I do not consider “victim of mansplaining” to be one of my life’s achievements.

I am grateful to the people who took thirty seconds out of their day to bolster me when I was feeling exposed. I’ll never forget sitting in a burger bar on the Malmö coast, reading supportive tweets aloud to my boyfriend. That strangers considered how I might be feeling in that moment, and tried to make me feel better, was so incredibly kind.

Sales are still going steadily, so I’m really happy. That’s a steady number of folks who care about accessibility. And with the audiobook out this month, I’m hoping that we’ve made the book itself more accessible too.

Two Accessibility For Everyone paperback books stacked.

I’m posting this as a note so it doesn’t draw unnecessary attention/further harassment. Still, I thought it worth publicly documenting my feelings about it. I started writing a little post to note the announcement’s anniversary and it spilled out into feelings. So I want to be able to point people at this explanation.