On Being an Ally to Disabled People
July is Disabled/Disability Pride Month. It doesn’t get a lot of coverage, but, for some of us, it’s a really important time.
It’s okay if not every disabled person has pride in themselves at this time. It’s hard to reach that point, and each individual person has hurdles in their own life which may make it more difficult to accept who they naturally are.
Disability Pride Month exists so that those of us who are proud can celebrate, and non-disabled/abled people can spend more time educating themselves.
If you are disabled, Disability Pride Month can be spent however you want. Not talking about disability or spewing all this information about it. If you are disabled, it isn’t your job to educate abled people, so you can do whatever you want for Disability Pride Month.
If you are not disabled, your priority this month should be to support disabled people.
It’s important that we all actively celebrate disability in our lives. Even if you aren’t disabled, it is estimated that about 20 – 25% of all people are. One in four people are disabled, and yet it never feels like we know that many disabled people in our lives.
Disability Pride Month is important because we need to reach a point where disabled people are proud of being themselves. We need to create an atmosphere where all disabled people feel safe enough to share who they are with others.
Even though disabled people take up the biggest minority on the earth, we are often invisible.
Let’s change that.
For Disability Pride Month, here is a list of things that you can do to actively support disabled people in your lives:
- Follow disabled people on social media
- An easy first step is to actively look for disabled media and be exposed to disabled voices every single time that you open your phone. Even if you see just five posts from a disabled person every day, that sort of nuance and experience by a disabled person can change your perspective on everything and help you support anyone who is disabled in your life.
- Please do not follow the dreaded “disability parents.” These are people who have disabled children and run entire pages based on disability. These people try to use their proximity to disability in order to act as if they have first-hand experience of what it feels like to live in a disabled body. Believe it or not, most disabled people who often have parents speaking over them are quite capable of using social media. They are just infantilized and barred from it. Support actual disabled people instead.
- Pay & hire disabled people
- Creating an accessible environment where disabled people are supported monetarily could greatly change the life of so many people.
- Promote, represent, platform & support us
- This can occur through following people on social media, continually reading books and blogs by disability advocates (like this one!), and amplifying our voices rather than speaking over us.
- Add ‘alt text’ to social media posts
- It’s important that blind people are able to consume all content that sighted people can. Alt text shouldn’t be an afterthought when for many people it is necessary in order to consume content.
- Include us
- A lot of people seem to underestimate the power of representation, and how being seen in something as small as a photoshoot can change your life.
- Remove ableist phrases from your vocabulary
- A lot of commonly accepted terms in our society actively stigmatize many disabled people. Phrases such as “crazy”, “insane”, and “stupid” are often used to put down those with disabilities and are rooted in the idea that intelligence is an important characteristic in worth and ability. Many disabled people aren’t as intelligent as abled people, and commonly these terms are used against them in a mocking and harmful fashion. I always recommend finding substitutes because words like “chaotic”, “annoying”, or “wild” essentially mean the same exact thing and don’t put people down in anyway. While not all disabled people get upset by these words, some do. I am of the opinion that, when someone in a marginalized group is upset about something and someone else isn’t, we should listen to the most inclusive opinion because no one is going to be upset if you don’t use these words.
- Additionally, stop using “narcissist” as an insult or using the term “narcissistic abuse” add stigma to personality disorders and should not be used. Instead, consider using terms like “selfish” or “emotional abuse”.
- Terms like “sociopath” and “psychopath” should not be used as insults since they are real mental disorders and should be treated seriously and with respect. Using these terms negatively only hurts the people in your life who have these disabilities and conditions.
- Personally caption all of your videos
- Auto-generated captions, i.e. ‘crap-tions’, are not enough for deaf people. Many YouTubers and other social media influencers get thousands upon thousands of dollars for their jobs and they still don’t provide any form of captions (besides the auto-generated ones which do NOT count). This sends the ultimate message that they don’t care for disabled people. Deaf people deserve to take part in the same video that hearing people can. They should be allowed to have the swears and all language unfiltered in the captions as well, especially if it is not censored in the video. Many deaf people say that it is infantilizing when they are not allowed to read the swears in the captions and have the same video experience as everyone else.
- Additionally, even though captions should be prioritized for deaf and hard of hearing people, captions also help neurodivergent people, as some people have auditory processing disorders and having captions helps many people process the information going along with the audio.
- Write letters to government officials about lowering medication costs
- Especially in the United States, the cost of medication means that many people go without life-saving treatment and diagnosis. Insulin for diabetics is so costly that anywhere from 1 in 4/1 in 3 Type One Diabetics can’t even afford their own medication that they need to live. This shouldn’t be a reality for so many people, and sending letters to government representatives is something that could change the landscape of disability in an extremely positive way, especially if change comes out of it.
- Don’t infantilize us
- Saying that you are “inspired” by a disabled person often comes off extremely infantilizing. We have real struggles and we would prefer not to inspire you. If you look at a disabled person and are inspired for your own life, that is something that makes many disabled people feel uncomfortable and unsafe with. If you care so much about us, please challenge our struggles instead of saying you’re inspired by how we deal with them.
- Disabled people are allowed to be inspired by fellow disabled people. Abled people are not.
- Infantilization can occur in many forms, but this is one of the biggest ones that many disabled people face and experience.
- Unlearn your ableism & educate yourself
- Ableism is more than just eugenics or saying disabled people shouldn’t be happy. Ableism is making fun of how people walk or stim or the foods that they need to eat. Ableism is saying someone is “too young/pretty” to be disabled as well as using grades and tests as qualifiers for intelligence and worth. Ableism can be a wide variety of things, and the only need for it to be ableism is that it puts down disabled people. And if you want to be an ally to disabled people, it’s important that you learn what hurts us, and then change your actions accordingly.
- Also, if you have a disabled person in your life, don’t ask them for all of the answers on how to unlearn your ableism. Google is free, and it is often better to find resources willing to discuss ableism, rather than forcing someone through a conversation that could potentially be re-traumatizing.
- Accept us
- At the end of day, if you do nothing else but be aware that disabled people exist and have problems, nothing is going to get better. Once we all actively accept disabled people in every form, this is when there will be real, good, powerful change.