Often those with disabilities are excluded from this conversation of change because of the lack of accessibility around activism. There are always opportunities to fight for what you care for, but for the disabled community it can be hard to find a way in or understand how to fit into this seemingly exclusive narrative. We've talked on the blog about being disabled activists, but feel it's extremely important right now to emphasize the ways that able-bodied people can be more inclusive of activists with disabilities and make space for them while also making change. So, here are 5 ways to be a more inclusive activist.
1. Acknowledge Disabilities
It's not a secret that one billion people in this world experience some sort of disability, and there are probably many in the group of people that want to fight for whatever cause it is, so you don't have to treat it like one. Acknowledge that there are disabilities in this group, and it will help others be more aware of it as well. This will also make disabled activists feel heard and appreciated, because they're constantly silenced in so many other situations. Overall, it's important to acknowledge disabled activists rather than ignoring them in fear of making someone uncomfortable.
2. Be Aware of Invisible Disabilities
There are so many different types and forms of disabilities, and you cannot see from looking at someone if they have one. Millions of people have disabilities that cannot be seen, but rather are invisible and very real. It can be hard for those with invisible disabilities to voice they're disabilities or make others understand why they don't have the same abilities as others. Just because someone looks able-bodied, doesn't mean that they're capable of being activists in the same way as others, like going to marches or stopping door to door. Always make space for those with invisible disabilities and make sure they can be a part of the conversation.
3. Ask for Input
The most valuable thing you can do in trying to accommodate for disabled activists is to ask for their input. It's easy to brainstorm options for participation when you're just thinking about what people may want, but it's useless if it doesn't actually cater to the disabled community. You have to take their opinions into account when taking action, so don't plan alternative events without substantial thought and consideration.
4. Give each attendee a chance to identify their disability
Before an event, make sure you give each attendee an opportunity to identify their own disability rather than making assumptions. Also, don't wait until the day of the event, send something out well before so no one has to come to the even with anxiety that their needs will not be met. Preparing and doing everything in advance is key to making everyone feel heard and accepted.