I spend a lot of my time discussing disability related issues on Twitter and my blog and again and again it’s only other disabled people replying and sharing such posts. It’s only other disabled people nodding along with me, having the same conversations about how much we want change. It’s getting frustrating now and I wish that abled people were better allies to all minorities so, here’s a list of things you can do to become a good ally to disabled people.
1. Listen to us.
Listening to what we have to say is one of the most basic but important things you can do to support us and the disabled community, it should be the foundation of everything. Listen when we speak about ableism, accessibility, disability rights, access to health and social care, disability benefits. Listen to it all. If people just stopped for 5 minutes to learn about our lives then so much would change, people’s eyes would be opened.
2. Share our content, lift our voices but don’t speak over us.
Share our tweets, blog posts, articles, podcasts, share as much of what we put out as you can. Retweeting a post or a tweet takes seconds but is a method of support that is so appreciated by every disabled person I know. Remember to never speak over us though. Always prioritise a disabled voice over an abled voice when it comes to disability issues and you can even be more specific than that. When an issue mainly affects those with a facial disfigurement for example, prioritise their voice over someone who uses a wheelchair, for example, because the person with the experience is more often than not the most knowledgeable one on that topic.
3. Take time to educate yourself, I don’t have the energy to repeat everything over and over again.
I tweet everyday about disability issues. I often put out at least one, maybe two, blog posts a week about it as well. I don’t have the time to educate every single person individually so you need to educate yourself. Read our blogs, source our voices and learn about what we have to say. If you get stuck on something then ask us a question but most of us do not have the precious energy to spend on educating one person at a time, take some responsibility and do what you can yourself.
4. Advocate for disability rights.
Okay, so you’ve done the research, you’ve talked to actual disabled people and you’re more clued up than ever when it comes to disability rights. Now you have to start speaking up, telling people that we must do better. This is when you can share the content you read, sending people in the direction of disabled voices so they can be educated as well. When a building isn’t accessible, speak up. When someone uses an ableist word, speak up. Don’t stay quiet when something doesn’t seem right, it’s not down to disabled people alone to tackle these problems. Take your lead from disabled people though because no one knows how to advocate for disability rights better than an actual disabled person.
5. Encourage and work for inclusion in your own community.
I can guarantee you that there are disabled people within your community. Black disabled people. Plus size disabled people. Trans disabled people. They exist and you should be doing all you can to make your community more welcoming and accessible to them. Disabled people who fit into several different minority groups are often the most ignored, so change that. It’s not just about physical barriers either, it’s attitudes that need changing as well.
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6. Be conscious of the language you use.
Be aware of the language you use and learn what the majority of disabled people prefer, and if someone wants you to use a different word or phrase then do that. Be aware of ableist words like ‘retarded’ and ‘crippled’, there are plenty of alternatives that are easy to think of and use. Don’t use disability as a metaphor and most importantly please don’t be scared of the word disabled, it’s not a bad word and it’s mostly abled people who have decided that it’s bad. Simply, educate yourself on disability related language and stop calling me ‘a wheelchair’.
7. Hire us and pay us for our work.
Hire us for your websites. Pay us for our work, our writing, our passions. We have have so much to say that is of a lot of worth so don’t expect us to work for free constantly. I’ve not once been paid for any articles I’ve written about disability for other websites yet, change this.
8. If you’re unsure of something, ask us about it, we always welcome sensible questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask us questions, sensible ones though. If you’re unsure about something then it’s totally okay to ask us for clarity, most of us welcome the opportunity to educate someone. Always be respectful though, if a disabled person tells you something that you don’t agree with then remember that it affects the disabled person not you so you don’t get to decide that you’re right.
9. Stop with the inspiration porn and sensationalising our lives.
Please stop with the inspiration porn, it’s exhausting. Stop sensationalising our day to day lives, are you really inspired by me getting out of bed? I doubt it. Stop sharing the ‘girl asks disabled guy to prom, isn’t she an angel’ articles and memes, they are damaging. I’m not an inspiration for leaving my house, so stop it.
10. Remember that a wide range of disabilities exist, they aren’t all physical or obvious.
Stop associating disability with just a wheelchair. There are such a wide range of disabilities out there, some are invisible, some aren’t even physical. Stop assuming that you know what a disabled person looks like, because there isn’t a look.
Most importantly, being an ally does not mean that you are taking charge or taking over. It’s all about learning and listening. You have to base everything you do off of disabled people and what they say.