CND: Currently Not-Disabled
PWD: Person With Disability
If you are a Currently Not-Disabled person interested in Disability Rights and fighting ableism, this is for you. It is in no way a comprehensive list, and things might be added, removed, changed in the future, but it is a start. I appreciate any help people are willing and able to give
And so, without further ado,
How To Be An Ally: A Guide For The Currently Not-Disabled
- Do Not Police Disability
- Watch Your Language
- Do Not Offer Treatment Advice
- Consider Accessibility When Planning Events
- Website Accessibility Matters
- Stand When You Can
- Speak Up
- Further Reading
Do Not Police Disability
This is the first point because it is the most important. I’ve seen it happen before: a well-meaning CND is somewhere like… a train. They see someone in the priority seat who, in their mind, does not fit the definition of disabled. Well-meaning CND decides to scold said person, for using up a seat which someone “more needy” could be sitting in.
DO NOT do this! I cannot tress this enough. Just because you can’t tell, doesn’t mean a person is not disabled. Check out the wiki article on Invisible Disabilities.
It is not up to you to determine whether a person fits the definition of disabled. Not all PWDs fit the traditional image of a cane or wheelchair. Not every PWD has a physical disability. Just because you haven’t heard about it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is not your job to decide. To sum up: A PWD does not have to justify themselves to a CND. A PWD does not need the approval of a CND to be disabled.
Watch Your Language
This one is hard, I know. Language is tricky. You might not know a word is hurtful. You might not agree with a PWD when they say a word is marginalising. But let me tell you: it’s true. It hurts when you are the reason people do bad things (are you INSANE?!?!). It hurts when you are used to refer to bad things (that’s so LAME). It hurts when you are the catch-all for things people don’t like (that’s RETARDED). Here’s a tip: If a PWD tells you that a word you’ve used hurts them, stop using it. You can be a good ally and expand your vocabulary at the same time! For more information on language and how it can hurt, check out the Ableist Word Profile at Feminists With Disabilities: For A Way FWD
Do Not Offer Treatment Advice
While you think your advice might be helpful, chances are they’ve heard it all before. Believe it or not, PWD know a lot about their own lives and their own bodies! So “helpful advice” just comes across as annoying at best, condescending at worst.
* Why don’t you just [Insert Advice]
* You should think positive!
* Have you tried [insert miracle cure]
* My friend/aunt/mother/person I know somehow was depressed, and they [insert miracle cure here]. Now they’re all better!
For more information, read Disability 101: Treatment Suggestions and Why They Are Not a Good Idea
Consider Accessibility When Planning Events
This can be any sort of event, from a feminist gathering to a gathering of friends. If it’s friends, this might be easier because you might already know what sort of accommodations are needed. When you’re hosting an event or gathering, consider the following things:
* Are there any stairs? A single stair makes the event inaccessible.
* How wide are the doors? Do they open automatically, or are they manual?
* What is the atmosphere like? How bright are the lights? What is the ambient noise level?
* If there is literature, what sort of paper is it written on? What colour? How large is the font? What colour?
* Is there captioning or sign available?
This is just a small selection of things which need to be considered. For some more information, have a browse at various disability rights websites. To get you started: Question Time: Accessibility.
Website Accessibility Matters
It matters, just as much as event accessibility. Unfortunately, I’m not very knowledgeable about how to make websites accessible, so I’m going to leave you with some links: Question Time: Thinking About Website Accessibility Tools to Download to help make your website accessible (From Vision Australia) Web Accessibility Initiative
Stand When You Can
It might seem small, it might seem silly, but it might help. Stand on a crowded bus or train, if you can. There could be someone with an invisible disability who needs to sit, but doesn’t want to go through the hassle of outing themselves to do so (especially since they might not be believed). So allowing that extra seat is good. But remember: do not police disability!
This is the hardest thing to do, because it not only challenges your own privileges, but those of the people around you. Speak up against Ableism. Call people out on ableist language, challenge stereotypes. Speak up, because a PWD might not always have the spoons to do so. Speak up, because it needs to be done. Speak up, because underlying assumptions hurt us even when we aren’t around to hear them voiced.
* Feminists With Disabilities: For A Way Forward (Please read the Comments Policy before leaving comments)
* Disability Etiquette: Wiki Page
* The Spoon Theory (PDF)
* Teen Mental Health Blog
* Disability at Dreamwidth
* The Deal With Disability
Thank you for reading. If you have any advice or links, please feel free to leave them in the comments.