Today, December 3, is International Day for People with Disability (IDPwD). It’s a day to celebrate disability, support the disability community, recognise the continuing challenges they face and identify how we can work together to create a world that is more accepting, accessible, compassionate and supportive of everyone.
One of the things we can do right now, as parents, is to learn to be good disability allies. And that means being an ally to all in the disability community, not only to our kids and to others we know.
Learning to be a good disability ally can be challenging, as it requires us to put our own expectations, prejudices and assumptions to the side. It means we need to listen and learn from lived experience. It means we need to set aside our own experiences and accept the validity of others’.
While it can be challenging, learning to be a good disability ally will go a long way to delivering on the focus of IDPwD 2018 – empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
Being a good disability ally involves learning from the disability community. It’s about sharing their thoughts directly, raising awareness, understanding the power of language and acknowledging the painful experiences that, more often than not, characterise life in the disability community.
If you want to support your kids in the best possible way, it’s important to strive to be a disability ally. Here’s some thoughts on how we, as parents, can become better disability allies.
5 Ways Parents Can Become Better Disability Allies
The first thing we can (and should) do, is listen to people with disability. And, I mean listen, without responding. Follow disability advocates on social media (you can find a list below) and read/listen to what they have to say. Listen without judgement. Listen without jumping to conclusions. Listen with intention.
Disability advocates don’t need us jumping all over their words. They don’t want us to come back at them, arguing our point. They don’t need us getting all defensive and invalidating their experiences. Being a good disability ally involves listening to what others have to say, without judgement.
This is possibly the most challenging aspect of being a good ally, but it’s possibly the most important. We need to accept the point of view of disabled individuals, however uncomfortable or painful that may make us feel. We need to acknowledge their experience and fight the urge to defend ourselves.
When we’re made uncomfortable, it usually points to some truth in what’s being said. If a person with disability takes the time to highlight ableism or finds the courage to question your language or tone, acknowledge their input. Don’t ignore, belittle or argue against them. Accept they have a point and ask for more information. See it as a learning experience.
A good disability ally will always defer to the lived experience of people with disability. While, as parents, we do have personal experience of disability in relation to our children, we are not the experts in what it’s like to live with disability. Which means, we shouldn’t be jumping in and offering our point of view in the place of disabled individuals.
It’s important we defer to the knowledge and experience of the disability community, wherever possible. In some groups, there are rules that give people with disability 24 hours to respond before non-disabled people can provide input. As parents, our voices should never drown out the voices of disabled individuals.
Related to the point above, another role of good disability allies is to amplify and spread the voices of the disability community. It’s a sad fact disabled writers and advocates don’t cut through or reach as many people as parents and the non-disabled. As allies, we need to change this reality and amplify the voices of the disability community.
We can do this by sharing links, memes and resources directly from disability writers and advocates. We can choose to share resources and posts from disabled individuals, rather than from non-disabled people. We can promote social media accounts, support individuals financially (through Patreon, PayPal, etc.) and share their work.
Last but not least, it’s important that we take the time to try to understand the experiences of the disability community. We need to understand the medical v social model of disability and how this impacts on disability in society. It’s crucial we acknowledge the intersection of these pressure points and how they affect individuals, day after day after day.
For instance – instead of being offended when a person with disability doesn’t respond as you expect to a question, think about how many times they’ve been asked that question already. Consider how much effort they’ve already expended that day. Ask yourself whether you’ve made assumptions in asking your question. Think about the language you used.
Taking a breath and trying to understand the other person’s experience before responding is what good allies do.
The resources below have been written by people with disability – I used these as research for this post. You’ll also find links to the Facebook pages of 10 disability advocates. Start following them, listen to what they have to say, accept their viewpoint, share and amplify their words, defer to their experience and understand where they are coming from.
Today, for IDPwD 2018, make the commitment to be a good disability ally so we can empower people with disability and ensure inclusiveness and equality.
How To Be Good Disability Allies
10 Disability Advocates to Follow