How The Mighty Exploits the Disability Community

How The Mighty Exploits the Disability Community July 27, 2018
Photo Credit Shutter Stock

 

In 2014 I got my start as a contributor to The Mighty. The Mighty, at the time, was branded as a website that was for parents raising children with disabilities. In 2014, they were smaller and less diverse, and many of the people writing for them were new writers or bloggers looking for exposure. By 2016, I had published more than 30 articles. I grew sour of the treatment I received as a contributor. During this time I realized The Mighty existed not to help the disability community but to profit off and exploit the community it served.

As the website grew, they began to diversify their content and began to include more topics, and started a public relations campaign to brand their site as a site for all individuals within the disability and mental health community. They began to feature more writers that were living with disabilities of their own, and I was happy to be a part of a community that I thought was doing good at spreading awareness about disabilities.

I was published by their site more than 30 times. Articles I have written for them, have been featured on Huffington Post and Yahoo Parents. Millions of people were reading and responding to the content I was delivering. I was churning out work that at the time I thought was amazing, but as I look back, I realize how green I was as a writer. I also realize how naive and inexperienced I was in understanding how the world of Digital Media worked.

In the entire time that I was writing for the Mighty, I never received a dollar. Each time I wrote an article for The Mighty I provided them upwards of 1200 words and digital images for free. For anyone that is not familiar with images for websites, all photos have copyright by the photographer that has taken the picture. For The Mighty to save money on royalties or paying for stock images, they had contributors provide photos to them for free.

Not only did they get their images for free, but they also got their content for free. New writers or individuals with small blogs commonly submitted articles to The Mighty. The Mighty consistently told writers they did not have advertising on their site, and they could not pay the writers. Somehow, they continued to get people to submit content and say “We will give you exposure.”

What I didn’t know then but know now is that real media companies will pay writers for their content. Generally, a 1200 world article can sell for $25 – $100 for a restricted license. If they had paid me $25 a piece, I would have received $750 in income. I never got paid, and they still don’t pay their contributors to this day.

When I contributed to The Mighty, I never signed a contract. I was merely a mom that was dishing them out content that was driving thousands if not millions of views to their page. In the world of digital media, the more page views you have, the more money the website makes. The Mighty was making hand over fist in income from contributors like me, and none of that income was being spent paying us for our work.

Can you imagine working for free?

Imagine going to an employer and asking for a job. They give you the position and tell you, “I can’t pay you, but this will help your exposure.”

However, you then see your employer’s business explode with success. Instead of paying you to work, they keep finding more people to work for free. All the money they make is going to only them.

The Mighty is an organization that pretends to care about the disability community. However, they are just another organization that preys on and exploits our community. Those of us in the disability community are under-employed, or unemployed due to our mental health, disability, or the needs of a loved one.

Many of their writers are adults living with disabilities. Most of the writers don’t hold full-time jobs.  Many are looking for a way to earn money to live. The Mighty promises them exposure for free content. Writers pour out their souls and share their darkest secrets. None of the writers receive payment. The Mighty exploits all of them.

When I left work to care for my son, I looked to writing as a way to supplement my husband’s income. My goal is not to become a millionaire. However, I do expect that if someone wants to use my content, they will offer to pay me.

If you are considering contributing to The Mighty, please be careful. Any content writers provide to them is visible on their site indefinitely. The content you submit can generate them millions of page views. You will make no money for your work. Additionally, Editors can edit and publish your content without consenting you first. Titles are altered to generate Click-Bait hits.

For example, I wrote an article on Homeschooling. However, editors changed the title to a Click-Bait title that said: “Why my Child will never have an IEP.” This title drove views to their page. However, I received more than 1000 insults and derogatory messages sent to me.

The editors of the Mighty didn’t care about the comments. They told me to ignore them. Editors didn’t care about my attacks or my hurt feelings. I lost friendships in my personal life due to that article. They share this article on their social media to this day. I can say truthfully, the material they published was not the same as the one I submitted.

If you care about your craft, I would highly suggest steering clear from this organization and this website. Find an outlet that will pay for your content and will not edit your content for Click-Bait purposes. There are lovely media outlets that will pay for contributions. Take unpaid guest spots on independent blogs, and most importantly build your brand. Start a blog where you can control your content, your titles, and you can generate income.

Finally, writing for free for someone else makes no sense. Writers deserve payment for their work. Media companies like the Mighty take advantage of families and individuals in challenging situations. If you care about ethical media, support a smaller blog or an independent writer.

Don’t support The Mighty.

Check out these blogs for great content:

Wonder Baby

Singing Through the Rain

Beautiful In His Time

The Mum Feels

Not an Autism Mom

 

 

 

 

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • lisu

    Can we have a bit more love for the writings of disabled people themselves, please? Our parents are not our community, and we need to see ourselves represented.

    I recommend the Autism Self Advocacy Network as a source for information on autism.

  • I appreciate your reply. I am a mother of a child on the spectrum and he’s also medically fragile. My audience prior to coming to Patheos was parents of Children with disabilities. I do try to keep everything kind and respectful for adults. If you have a list of adults who write – please share – and I can include them in the piece!

  • I also want you to know I am neurodiverse as well! I am ADHD combined type with sensory sensitivities and OCD

  • lisu

    Let me get back to you on this. I have a long list, and will have to go through it to find the most appropriate sources.

  • Thank you, friend!

  • I have a daughter with cerebral palsy. I quickly developed a distaste for The Mighty. So many articles were framed as patient vs. doctor “nya-nya” stories. “The doctors said I/my child would never X, but we showed them!” As if doctors want to see their patients fail. If I had gone to medical school with the goal of helping disabled people improve in whatever way they can, I’d be hurt. Every doctor and therapist my daughter and I have worked with has been among our staunchest cheerleaders.

  • I love your point of view. I do agree the narrative they support is one of sadness. However, there is grief in this journey. I have written about it extensively. Over time though, I got tired of simply writing about my feelings and emotions. Sometimes I just want to write! Patheos gives me the freedom to pick any topic I want – as long as it’s non-religious and I can write about it. My kiddo for sure is a part of this blog – but he’s not all of it

  • Morgan Lefaye

    A lot of the articles say stuff like, “Because of Condition X, my child will never be able to live independently. My other child will not be able to go college because of medical expenses for Disabled Child. We never leave the house except for doctor’s appointments. We cannot celebrate holidays or birthdays due Condition X. However, we have everything we need right here in our little house and blessed by Jesus.” B-A-R-F!

    It’s the martyrbating that offends me, not the sadness or details about hardships.

  • Yes, I can definitely see that aspect of it. I do write quite a bit about my son and the sadness I feel caring for him. I try my best to always keep in mind that he is a human and deserves respect. I don’t write for sympathy or for anyone to think I’m this amazing human. Some of us parents, just want to share the journey. Over the years, I have curtailed a lot of what you mention. The Mighty does have a formula of liking things “tied up” pretty at the end. Sometimes there is no tying it up pretty. I do think there is value in sharing the grief and stress caregivers go through, but you have to also make sure you give dignity to the human you care for

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Still no response from the bigwigs at patheos. Not even a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. No roboresponse. Nuttin. Either A) There is so many people that their ‘slush pile’ is YUUUGE B) They actually just pick and choose based on the fumes coming out of a vent in the ground C) I’m SOFAKING offensive that even the strongest editor in the world just can’t stand me… I haz sadz ):

    Oh wells. Im still gonna keep commenting. Even though I’m making free money for somebody else. Maybe I should just get one of those ‘please tip me’ things you use over the internet and attach a link to any comment I make (;

  • Cozmo the Magician

    “Sometimes I just want to write!” My fave author of all time , Mr Robert Heinlein said that writers don’t write because they ‘want’ to. They NEED to.

  • Yes!!!! We have to!

  • We are happy you are here! I think my response time was unique. I have been writing professionally for 5 years. I have a large social media following and blog following. The topics I write on aren’t widely discussed here so I bring diversity

  • Lucy

    I have some sources (quite a few in fact) written by autistic adults (it’s a lot of sources, so brace yourself):

    Autistic Educator

    http://autisticeducator.tumblr.com

    A nonbinary autistic adult who works as a teacher in a kindergarten classroom, and also volunteers at a barn a lot. They are autistic and also have ADHD and they also have several other complex needs, including a rare disability known as chiari malformation in which some of the vertebrae in her spine had failed to form. I bolded their name because their complex needs might in some ways be as bad, or nearly as bad, as some of the needs your son may have. Maybe not in the same ways, but nevertheless they are an example of a multiply disabled autistic who has a full life, which might make her a good role model for your kid. And they talk about the ways in which their many disabilities complicate their life as well and how they deal with their multiple medical personnel – this in particular is why I think their words would be helpful, because your son may have to face similar problems someday and also figure out how to carve a niche. He probably won’t become a teacher, but I think it would do him good to see the possibility of an autistic person with complex needs having a full life anyway, and also the ways in which their medical shenanigans are dealt with – those would be a good template to start with when he has to face his own medical obstacles someday, or at any rate would give him an idea of the sorts professionals he may want to look for if he can find them.

    RealSocialSkills
    http://realsocialskills.tumblr.com
    https://www.realsocialskills.org

    A good overall guide on various social and social justice issues, as well as certain life skills not often talked about in training classes for disabled people and clarifications of certain experiences disabled people go through, written by Ruti Regan, who is an autistic adult who was recently ordained as a rabbi, who used to be a Republican but is now a Democrat, and who also talks about her own experiences on her Twitter feed (to which there is a link directly from her Tumblr page).

    Unstrange Mind
    http://unstrangemind.com

    This page is from prominent autistic adult activist Maxfield Sparrow. He is a transgender man who recently transitioned, and he talks about those experiences as well. And multiple other topics elating to autistic adult experiences. And he’s published several books that he sells on Amazon.

    Yes, That Too
    http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com

    This page is that of Alyssa Hillary, a nonbinary autistic activist who can speak but sometimes has periods of being temporarily nonverbal, and is going through graduate school, and who has studied abroad in China and talks about her experiences thereL

    Judy Endow
    http://www.judyendow.com/?s=%22sun+sparkles%22
    http://www.judyendow.com/?s=%22sun+sparkles%22+%22world+tails%22

    Autistic activist and self-advocate who goes into a particular brand of sensory sensitivity she has that, in times past, could have been taken as evidence of supernatural abilities (though of course there’s nothing supernatural about it). Namely, this sensitivity includes things like the ability to predict what a sunset will be like just by watching fluctuations in the air (at least that’s what I think they are) and determining from the patterns of those fluctuations what the sunset will be like, and she can do this accurately. And as a kid she didn’t realize other people couldn’t see those things. She also paints how she perceives them – I don’t think that those things look to her exactly like she paints them, but then again, neither do waves or other ordinary phenomena as predicted in lots of drawings. But they do show generally how she sees those things, w which is what paintings are meant to do. She also goes into other topics, but I pointed to these articles first because they detail this sensitivity and also talk generally about ways in which other sensory mechanisms might work and interact, and they also show how her own sensitivity is both blessing and curse in multiple ways, and why she can be tortured and bothered by that sensitivity but also wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Lysik’an

    https://lysikan.tumblr.com

    Nonverbal autistic, cannot speak with her mouthparts and has trouble understanding spoken language as heard and needs lots of daily help, but can write coherently with effort. She can write in a normal adult fashion with exhaustive effort on her part and will do so if she deems it important enough to do it, but mostly writes in a particular cutesy-babyish way because she talks that way with a younger, less disabled autistic girl she helps look after and she finds code switching difficult. She works as a programmer in a job that was found for her by an old man she knows. She calls that man Ancient Guardian, and he helps look after her. Her personality and style are, in a lot of ways, like that of Captain Cassidy from Roll to Disbelieve (even her avatar choice shares a theme with that of Cassidy), though her discussion topics of choice, of course, are different.

    Neurodivergent K
    http://timetolisten.blogspot.com

    Kassiane, aka Neurodivergent K, is an autistic activist who talks about her experiences as an autistic adult, her abusive upbringing, and certain other random issues, particularly how certain sports work (which include gymnastics and archery, two sports that in some was have held a fascination for me). As of this writing, her latest article is about gymnastics and how the major problems in the sport are caused not by the sport itself but rather the behavior of people at the top levels. I’m inclined to agree with her there – yes, gymnastics is risky and has its share of problems, but those problems are exacerbated by people at the top, and also those people introduce problems to female gymnastics that are not inherent to the sport, and also problems that make the sport more dangerous than it has to be (I’m looking at you, weight restriction).

    Morénike Onaiwu

    http://whoneedsnormalcy.blogspot.com
    http://respectfullyconnected.com/2018/03/the-lady-on-the-plane/
    https://awnnetwork.org/meet-morenike-giwa-project-coordinator-for-autism-race-anthology-networking-moderator-and-awn-board-of-directors/

    Autistic African-American woman, daughter of two African immigrants, who is also a parent to autistic kids. She’s an activist, and has also written for parenting blog Respectfully Connected and the Autism Women’s and Nonbinary Network (formerly known as the Autism Women’s Network). And she writes both about her personal experiences as an autistic and as a parent to an autistic kid. The Respectfully Connected article I linked that she wrote is about how the anti-vaxxer movement also hurts caretakers who mean well and are given bad information about vaccines from woo-pushers.

    Lydia Brown

    https://www.autistichoya.com/p/about.html

    Nonbinary Asian-American autistic activist. Is on the Board of Directors for the Autism Women’s and Nonbinary Network, and covers a lot of issues of ableism. Has written about some of the more prominent instances of ableism, like the Judge Rotenberg center, Boycott to Siri, and the ableist Autism Uncensored book written by Whitney Ellenby.
    And believe me, from what I see of Ellenby, she seems sort of like my evil twin, the way I might be if I were religious (that book was published by a Christian publisher apparently), my autism was undiagnosed, and if I had made a few more bad choices than I did. Ellenby isn’t diagnosed autistic, btw, but a lot of autistic people think she might be and I’m inclined to agree with them because as horribly abusive as she is, it’s scary the ways in which her thinking resembles some of mine, like if I had had a kid before I had learned that what the special ed teachers did to me was abuse, maybe I would have ended up parenting like her, because the things I had conceived of would not have worked if I had tried them, which would have led to me becoming more and more abusive, and seeing what Whitney Ellenby became makes me glad I didn’t have a kid before learning that I had been abused and in what ways and untangling the toxic programming I got. I don’t have a kid, mind you, and I don’t intend to have one, but seeing Ellenby makes me glad that I didn’t choose to have a kid while I was still severely brainwashed by special ed abuse (and I wouldn’t be shocked if being a cradle atheist helped me in that way and made me less likely to make decisions like that, which I’m glad of in my case).

    These sources have videos and video channels attached, along with blogs in the second two (definitely check out the first one):

    Cocoon Child:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzsTk2-Wojs

    Not written by an autistic adult, animated video. Accurately depicts the type of imaginative play scenario an autistic kid (or even adult) might get into while doing a form of play that looks like the person is just staring at something. Not an adult’s writing per se, but this autistic adult (me) can absolutely verify that the scenario portrayed in that video is exactly how that imaginative mechanism works, though my mind’s scenarios tend to be somewhat different (like staring through a broken fortune cookie and imagining it as the opening of a cave, or looking at broken wall paint patterns and imagining someone walking or climbing over it).

    A Butterfly in the Well
    http://butterflyinthewell.tumblr.com
    Also her video channel:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/streamofawareness/videos

    She’s an autistic adult who can speak and doesn’t need lots of daily help but can’t live independently and is articulate and a good writer but can’t understand certain forms of loaded political language very well. She writes a lot about her experiences as an autistic person when she has the energy, and also about the horrific bullying she survived, and a little about her Christian beliefs (most of which talks about her experiences with choir, rather than her beliefs themselves), though she doesn’t Jesus juke and is respectful of other religions, to the point where she tags religious stuff so others can block it. Also writes fan fiction, and sometimes writes about disability experiences from the point of view of the way she imagines the characters Rocket and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy (as well as a few other fictional characters), and she also has done some very good analyses of abusive dynamics experienced by some of her favorite fictional characters. And she also came up with a useful way to describe autistic people based on their specific abilities – I was using that method when I described her. And you’d probably like her – she’s quite the character.

    Amythest Schaber: Ask an Autistic

    https://www.youtube.com/user/neurowonderful/videos

    Neurowonderful Tumblr blog

    http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com

    Amythest is an intersex autistic adult who has done a long series of informative videos called “Ask an Autistic”. I think you might have seen these already, judging from what you’ve written, but if you haven’t, here they are. I also linked you to their blog because they (Amythest prefers “they/them” pronouns) talk about other stuff there.

  • Lucy

    I replied with a list. You might have some sources I didn’t list, but I hope mine are helpful.

  • Sunny Ammerman

    The Mighty just recently started to make sponsored posts. These are ads paid for by pharmaceutical companies who aim to target The Mighty’s audience. As a contributor myself, I am furious. I feel used and betrayed. Make no mistake, they intend to make a profit from our unpaid work. It’s an even larger insult that they are making that profit from the hands of morally bankrupt pharmaceutical companies that hike up prices on lifesaving medications so that they can make as big as profit as possible from the suffering of those of us who have chronic health conditions.

    I was okay with writing for free. This is taking it way too far.

    #BoycottTheMighty

    I wrote an article about this new development here. You can read their email response to me and learn about these new changes they are making.
    http://insomniadoodles.com/2019/04/16/boycottthemighty/