Editorial Guidelines

Vintage typewriter. Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash.Thank you for your interest in writing for the Ability Toolbox. Please review our editorial guidelines below before submitting your article for consideration.

Keep your articles constructive.

The Ability Toolbox has a unique focus that makes it different from other websites about health and/or disability. We are all about “life hacks” — solutions and strategies for living well with a disability or chronic illness. This doesn’t mean we shy away from the difficult emotions that can surround life with a serious health condition — far from it! But we are about taking those feelings and experiences and moving forward with hope and resolve. When you write, think about what you’ve learned and how your knowledge can help others. That will keep you on the right track!

Articles should be of moderate length.

We prefer articles to be between 500 and 2500 words. We will consider exceptions for comprehensive guides and lists where a longer length is necessary.

Proofread and send us your best work.

In general, we expect writers to proofread their articles to fix spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. If you have a learning disability or other condition that makes doing so difficult for you, please let us know and we will take that into consideration. We don’t expect perfection, only that you do your best.

We use American English spelling, except when naming locations in other countries, in which case we use the local spelling.

We use AP style with the following modifications:

  • Book, film, and other titles are placed in italics rather than quotation marks, except in headlines where they appear in single quotes.
  • We use the Oxford comma!

While we appreciate writers taking the time to use AP style and American spelling, we will not reject articles simply because they need style edits.

Pseudonyms are OK.

We understand that some people are not comfortable being open about their health conditions for various reasons, including fear of being judged by family and friends or losing their job. We also understand that some people have an online persona under a nickname or use a name that better reflects their true self (such as transgender individuals). Therefore, you are welcome to write for us under any name you choose. If you are writing articles for pay, we will need your legal name and contact information, but it will be kept private.

Please note, once articles are published on our website, they cannot be removed except in an emergency. Removing articles causes links on our website and social media pages to break. By submitting an article to The Ability Toolbox, you agree that it will remain on the site permanently. However, in the event of a privacy or safety concern, we will gladly change the author name, and change or remove identifying details or material that you believe puts your physical or psychological safety at risk. In the extremely unlikely event that changing such details does not alleviate the safety risk, we will delete the article. Through this policy, we strive to provide a safe environment for writers while preserving the integrity of our website and community.

Use up-to-date, respectful language to describe yourself and others.

We welcome the use of both person-first (“person with a disability”) and identity-first (“disabled person”) language. If you have a strong preference for us to use one or the other when describing you, please let us know. Please do NOT complain about or try to change how another writer chooses to identify.

Avoid outdated language and euphemisms. Words such as “handicapped,” “wheelchair-bound,” and “special needs” will be replaced with modern terms. “Crippled” can be used in a reclaiming context, but should otherwise be avoided. We do not use the phrase “suffers from” — it should be replaced by a neutral term, such as “has” or “lives with.”

Avoid words that demean others with health conditions, even if they’re not being used directly as insults. Examples: “retarded,” “lunatic,” “idiot,” “crazy,” etc. However, you may use these words in the context of 1) explaining why they are harmful, 2) quoting someone, if responding to their words, and/or 3) in air quotes to reflect how you were feeling about yourself at the time. E.g. “After being told by so many doctors that they couldn’t find a diagnosis, I wondered if I was just ‘crazy.'”

For an in-depth guide to appropriate language surrounding disability and health, please refer to the Disability Language Style Guide at the National Center on Disability and Journalism.

Don’t overgeneralize or make unproven health claims.

We are all here because we want to help others. However, we can’t assume other people always feel the same way we do or that what works for us will be effective for everyone. So be careful not to use phrases like, “Everyone with [my condition] feels…” or “This muscle cream will make all your pain go away!” It’s especially important not to claim that something you recommend will cure or fix everyone. If there are scientific studies proving something works for a large number of people, please include a link to those studies.

We do not publish articles promoting alternative treatment of life-threatening illnesses/diseases as a substitute for evidence-based medicine.

Writers may not advertise multi-level marketing products they sell or promote becoming a seller for a multi-level marketing company.

Cite your sources.

If you are including a fact or statistic in your article, link the text stating that fact directly to the source. Example: According to the CDC, 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability. If the information comes from a book, link to the title on Amazon. We don’t need a list of works cited at the end — you’re not writing a term paper.

Send photos if you can.

We always prefer to feature photos of and by our writers when possible. We also welcome original artwork. Unfortunately, free stock photo sites (all our budget allows for at this time) have very few images of people with visible disabilities, and the images that do exist are often of able-bodied people pretending to use wheelchairs and other mobility devices.  However, we understand that some people can’t send pictures (especially if you’re writing under a pseudonym), so we will use stock photos when needed.

Neurodiversity Guidelines

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for people on the autism spectrum and those with sensory processing differences, ADHD, learning disabilities, and more. We support neurodivergent individuals’ right to self-identify and respect their choice to use identity-first or person-first language (see above). Like all disabled people, neurodivergent people deserve equal rights, are not “broken,” and don’t need to be cured.

Due to wide opposition in the neurodiversity community, we do not accept any articles supporting Autism Speaks, or promote merchandise that features the puzzle piece.

Mental Health Guidelines

We follow the Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide. Details of suicide attempts and completions should be minimized as they can trigger readers. Unless it is absolutely necessary to the article, suicide methods should not be disclosed, and if disclosed, must be kept vague i.e. no mention of specific drugs used. Do not use stigmatizing phrases such as “committed suicide.”

Graphic images of recent self-harm are not permitted as they can be triggering. Healed scars are permitted 1) in an overall photo of the person, where they are not the focus, or 2) when discussing body positivity and other topics related to recovery from self-harm.

When writing about eating disorders, avoid specific numbers such as how many pounds you lost or gained. Unfortunately, images of individuals with visible signs of eating disorders can be triggering, and therefore are not permitted on the website.

Guidelines for Parents, Family, and Friends

Do you write about someone other than yourself, such as a child or spouse with a disability? The Ability Toolbox is run by and centers around people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. We want to make sure that when non-disabled writers share details about their loved ones, it is done with respect and with consent whenever possible.

The first and most important rule of thumb is to consider: How would I feel if someone publicly shared this information about me? How would I have felt as a child if my classmates read/knew about this? If the answer to these questions is “ashamed,” “angry,” or otherwise negative, then that information cannot be included in your article, unless you have permission from your loved one. If your loved one is unable to consent due to their disability, then the information cannot be included.

Avoid sharing details of your child’s private bodily functions, or graphic images of surgeries or injuries. Details about meltdowns and other behavioral difficulties should be kept to a minimum. You can almost always convey the necessary information without violating a child’s privacy. Here is an example of inappropriate vs. acceptable detail:

  • My son Joey suffers meltdowns where he screams and bangs his head on the wall. We have found that a weighted blanket helps him calm down.
  • My son struggles with meltdowns that sometimes involve self-injury. We have found that a weighted blanket helps him regulate his senses and emotions.

It’s OK to talk about feeling sadness after an initial diagnosis. But unless your loved one is dying or died from their illness, your article should not stay focused on grief, but rather share your process of working through it to accept the situation.

Posts that discuss hating your child’s non-life-threatening conditions such as autism are not acceptable and will not be published on the website. This includes articles saying you love your child but hate their condition.

Avoid statements that blame your loved one or their disability for family problems such as marriage difficulties or financial strain. Keep the focus on lack of available programs and services that contribute to these struggles.

Submitting Pitches

If you are interested in our paid writing opportunities, you may want to submit a pitch before sending us a full article. A pitch is a 1-to-3 paragraph summary of the article you want to write. For tips on how to write a eye-catching pitch, check out this page. You can submit pitches by email and then send the full article via our online form once your pitch has been approved.

Submit a Pitch

Submit an Article

Once you’ve read our guidelines, please fill out the form below to submit your article. We look forward to having you as a part of our community!

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