Disability Pride Month: How To Be A Good Ally

July is Disability Pride Month, chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Every week this month, I’ll have a different post on something disability-related.

One of the most frequent questions I get is how people can be a better ally for the disabled community. It’s honestly a bit of a tricky question, because while I absolutely want to encourage and empower people to be allies for the disabled community, it’s also important that non-disabled people don’t drown out the voices of disabled people! So while you read my advice and put it into action in your lives, remember that part most of all – that the biggest thing you can do as an ally is to amplify the voices of disabled people who are already speaking out.

Follow Disabled Creatives and Activists

This one is simple, but can have a big impact! Follow disabled creative activists and creators on social media. I can’t tell you the number of times that someone has told me they never thought about some accessibility thing that I mentioned on my account, but now they’re aware of it and notice it all the time. Learning about disabled people and the inaccessibility we face directly from us is a small but meaningful thing. And it helps normalize disability, too!

Educate Yourself

You can, and should, learn about disability issues from disabled people themselves, like I just mentioned. But it’s important that you don’t solely rely on disabled people to teach you about disability rights and justice. While I am happy to educate when I’m able to, I can’t be expected to always be available, and I shouldn’t have to be! I already have lots of extra things I have to deal with on a daily basis, and I can’t be responsible for being an expert available on a moment’s notice, too. There are so many resources available online now, and becoming a little more knowledgeable about disability issues can help you better advocate for them as an ally.

Believe Disabled People

When you follow disabled activists and you educate yourself on disability rights – believe what you learn! It seems like there’s always this impulse to educate back, this intrinsic defense mechanism people get, where they try to explain to us why we’re actually wrong about some disability issue we bring up. Maybe it’s that we just haven’t tried this other option, or that the issue we’re talking about isn’t really an issue because of whatever reason, but it’s exhausting to have to defend yourself and your lived experience! So when disabled people tell you something is inaccessible, just believe them. And remember that invisible disabilities exist, too. No one should ever gave to “prove” that they’re disabled!

Speak Out Against Inaccessibility

While yes, you shouldn’t speak over the voices of disabled people, you should still speak out about inaccessibility! You can be an ally by speaking out about inaccessibility that you notice in your own life. Sometimes, it’s speaking, and sometimes, it’s taking action – like moving a scooter out of the way on a sidewalk so that a wheelchair or a blind person won’t have issues getting past. Maybe it’s noticing that a ramp is blocked, and reporting it to the building’s management. I always appreciate when someone else speaks out, because it’s one less time that I’m forced to be the one to do so.

Champion Equity and Inclusion

Finally – I think there’s a difference between speaking out against accessibility and actually pushing for equity and inclusion. Speaking out is reactive, but I’d like to move towards a culture where people are proactive about disabled inclusion. There are certainly large-scale ways to do this through policy change, but there are small things you can do in your day-to-day life, too. Shop at stores that use disabled models in their advertising. Go to restaurants that have an accessible front entrance, not one around a back alley. Think about disability justice when you’re voting. Think about ways you can make your own home more accessible, and think proactively about how you could make things at your work more accessible. Remember that not all disabilities are visible! Really – just THINK about disability inclusion actively, and do what you can, in your own little way, to further it.

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