NAUWU Awards 2016 (Worldwide)

Announcing the inaugural worldwide NAUWU Awards in fiction.

The NAUWU Awards are named for the disability advocacy slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

In 2000, James Charlton produced a ringing indictment of disability oppression, which, he says, is rooted in degradation, dependency, and powerlessness and is experienced in some form by five hundred million persons throughout the world who have physical, sensory, cognitive, or developmental disabilities. (Adapted from the Amazon blurb on Charlton’s book titled Nothing About Us Without Us.)

Nothing About Us Without Us expresses the conviction of people with disabilities that we know what is best for us.

Dark Matter Zine is announcing the inaugural NAUWU Awards for representations of disability in fiction that will be judged by people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are forgotten — overlooked — in society, in books and movies, and when judges are considering awards.

It’s time for a change.

At this stage, the details are unclear: how many stories will be submitted? Will there need to be categories for each genre and length of story? If so, will we need a panel of judges?

I don’t know.

All I know is that IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE.

It’s time for works featuring good representations of people with disabilities to be acknowledged, celebrated and given recognition.

Terms & conditions

  • At this stage, all media will be considered, eg books, short stories, movies, podcasts etc. Whether media will be split into categories depends on the number of submissions. TBA.
  • All eligible works are fiction, including all fiction sub-genres (eg YA and speculative fiction are sub-genres of fiction)
  • All eligible works must be produced, published and/or in some form presented to the public during 2016
  • All works must be provided in accessible format. Acceptable formats include paper or epub for books including iBooks, digital download including iTunes or discs for MP4s. Links to YouTube and/or podcasts are acceptable. No PDFs, no Adobe Digital Editions and No Edelweiss review copies. Copies must be accessible by the judge/s
  • At this stage, one copy is sufficient. However, if a committee forms to judge the award, we will require enough copies for each judge (committees will be kept small). Please ensure that you provide contact details in case it is necessary to request subsequent copies
  • People who may submit works: an author may submit their own work or a publisher, publicist, agent or distributor may submit work on the author’s behalf
  • every submission must include a cover letter. This cover letter must include
    • a blurb for the story not exceeding 250 words
    • a statement explaining why this work should be considered for the NAUWU award (that is, in what way does this story feature disability); this statement should not exceed 100 words
    • a précis of the primary character with a disability. That is, define the disability, how it features and whether there any mitigating factors. Include relevant details how the plot affects the disability and how the disability affects the plot (for example, consider the two main characters’ disabilities in How to Train A Dragon I and II). This précis may extend to 1000 words but please be concise, don’t use the full word-count unless necessary. In the event that there is more than one primary character with a disability, we will consider more than one précis
  • The due date for all submissions is 31 December 2016
  • At this stage I anticipate announcing the awards by mid-2017, however, without knowing how many submissions will arrive, I will not set an exact date.
  • The awards will take the form of parchments (professionally-printed paper awards) unless volunteers come forward to assist with trophies and/or crowdfunding enables purchase and postage of formal trophies. The final form will be announced at a later date
  • The name of the winner/s will be published and given maximum coverage that Dark Matter Zine and affiliates can provide
  • Dark Matter Zine is running this competition in good faith and judge/s are participating in good faith; no responsibility taken
  • All decisions are final, no correspondence will be entered into.
  • All conditions relating to the Privacy Policy and the Disclaimer also apply to all competitions.
  • These terms and conditions will be updated as more issues arise; this is the first time I have attempted anything on this scale. I’ve put it off for years because of concern over the complexity and cost of running awards and the unpaid workload. Please be patient and celebrate a new disability award. 🙂


What is your definition of disability?

For the purposes of this award, both for submissions and applications from judges, Dark Matter Zine accepts the definition of disability laid out in Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act (1992), which reads:

disability, in relation to a person, means:

(a)  total or partial loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions; or
(b)  total or partial loss of a part of the body; or
(c)  the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or
(d)  the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness; or
(e)  the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person’s body; or
(f)  a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction; or
(g)  a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person’s thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgment or that results in disturbed behaviour;

and includes a disability that:

(h)  presently exists; or
(i)  previously existed but no longer exists; or
(k)  is imputed to a person.
To avoid doubt, a disability that is otherwise covered by this definition includes behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of the disability.

For the purposes of this competition, Dark Matter Zine does not accept point j, which reads “may exist in the future (including because of a genetic predisposition to that disability)” because, for the purposes of this award, it’s important that the work includes actual experience of disability and the judges have lived experience of disability.

What form will the awards take?

At this stage I envisage parchments. However, if there is interest in assisting in developing a trophy and/or crowdfunding for professional trophies and postage, I’d be delighted. If you’d like to help, please email me at

Will there be panels of judges?

I don’t know. If you identify as having a disability and would like to volunteer to judge the award/s, please email me at Experience reviewing and commenting on works featuring disabilities is preferred as are disability theory and disability advocacy backgrounds.

To volunteer, please send a 1-page resume detailing your qualifications and experience. Please include a statement disclosing your disability and declaring that your disability confirms with the ComLaw definition of disability (Disability Discrimination Act section 1.4, section copied below). This information will be confidential unless you choose to disclose however, under the auspices of “Nothing About Us Without Us”, it’s important that all judges have a medically-confirmed disability. (Please note that wearing corrective spectacles that raise your eyesight to a minimum of 6/12 metric or 20/40 US, which is the legal driving limit, is not considered a disability for the purposes of this application.)

All volunteer judges will be recognized: Dark Matter Zine has a page for contributors that will acknowledge judges with a photo, a bio submitted by the judges and links to their other work.

Will submissions be separated into media and/or genre and/or length?

This depends on how many submissions are received. I would like to acknowledge excellence in all media but I don’t want one submission and one winner in each category. TBA.

How must judges conduct themselves?

Professional conduct will be a requirement of participation as a judge.

I support judges publishing thoughtful reviews of works submitted for consideration. (One of the reasons I haven’t volunteered for any other judging panel is the thought of not being permitted to review books as I go; this would be a great loss to Dark Matter.)

Volunteer judges must disclose dual relationships: if an author is a friend, you must declare this prior to voting. If a committee forms (instead of me judging solo), I envisage everyone having the opportunity to argue the case for and against a friend’s personal work but not to vote for the work. This dynamic is a compromise based on the small size of communities for writers & judges while seeking to retain the integrity of these awards.


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