- Slow down. Slow down the pace of your work. Recognize that some people’s minds and bodies move slower. That others are putting energy into overcoming oppression or living in poverty. A fast pace, and quick deadline, can be ableist.
- Catch yourself when you feel inspired. Are you inspired by what people with disabilities can do? Unpack your wonder. Is it bias in disguise?
- Yes, you will likely acquire a disability for a season of your life. We all have fragile bodies after all. Until then, remember that your imagination will be distorted by ableism. So, work at liberating yourself and others from the limits of your own fears. And learn to see your own fragilities as part of the puzzle.
- Learn about how Canada has treated people with disabilities throughout history. Learn about eugenics, institutionalization, forced sterilization, exclusion from schools and workplaces for a start.
- Learn about the social realities of today. Learn about violence against women with disabilities, about poverty rates, waitlist, support gaps, seclusion rooms, triage protocols, kids with disabilities in foster care, and adults in long term care. Sit in your discomfort.
- Get to know the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Principles of Disability Justice. Dream about the possible. Stand with people with disabilities seeking change. You’ll see that people have the right to be included in society, just like everybody else, to be supported and equally valued. We all have a part to play.
- Listen. Listen to people with disabilities in all of their diversity. And then act. I have seen, far too often, people with disabilities be consulted and ignored. This is ableism.
- Communicate accessible information and hold accessible events. I get it, it takes work, and it’s an investment. I’m talking about accessible spaces, plain language resources, large font, screen reader friendly, ASL, CART captioning, braille, whatever it takes.
- Respect privacy. Expect boundaries (we all have them!). Even when you’re curious. Even with your friends. Take your cues from each person and their own comfort level with personal disclosures. And remember that people should not be obligated to disclose their disability to get access to support.
- Give yourself grace to fail and grow. You may have missed out on relationships with people with disabilities throughout your life because of segregation, because of ableism. You’re playing catch up.
This isn’t all there is to know – far from it. Consider sharing your thoughts for people wanting to be better allied with people with disabilities. What is missing from this list? What can be built upon? What should I explore next? Please consider sending me an email.
Natalia Hicks is Director of Community Justice and Health Equity at Inclusion Canada.