World (GREED) – Being an ally can be tricky. We’re taught to be kind, considerate, and helpful; but there’s no text book on how to be a good ally to marginalized communities. The disabled community often gets overlooked when it comes to ally-ship, so here are five simple things you can do to join the fight.
1. Know not all illnesses and disabilities are visible
Not all disabled or chronically ill women are reliant on mobility assistants, such as wheelchairs, or other obvious medical devices. In fact, a good portion of ill and disabled women struggle with internal battles that are invisible. Just because the woman who parked in the handicapped spot exits her car looking healthy as can be doesn’t mean she is.
2. Learn the unique challenges they face
This involves a lot of listening and observing. Take the time to understand the day to day lives of disabled women. Not every person with the same illness or disorder will have the same life experiences or even the same limitations. It’s important to realize just like no two able-bodied people are exactly alike, no two disabled women are identical either.
3. Speak up but not over
It’s crucial to allow disabled women to use their own voices to convey the issues they’d like to raise, however, in order to be a good ally you should use your able-bodied privilege to help further the agenda set by disabled women. This applies to ally-ship of any kind, but is particularly pertinent to the disabled community because those who aren’t able-bodied are often seen as less intelligent and less capable than their able-bodied counterparts.
4. Ditch the backhanded compliment, “I don’t even think of you as disabled”
While it is probably spoken with good intentions, this statement comes off as the equivalent of saying, “I don’t even think of you as Black,” or “as a woman,” or “as gay.” Being disabled is nothing to be apologetic about. By stripping a disabled woman of a part of who she is invalidates her identity.
5. Call out people who shame the disabled community
This includes shutting down vicious “jokes” and refraining from using hate-filled words such as ‘retarded’ and ‘cripple.’ A clear message was sent to disabled woman during the previous presidential election: you can make fun of disabilities and be rewarded for it. Help stop that cycle by calling out family, friends, and even strangers when they cross the line. Use your privilege to educate others why it’s not okay to use hurtful words and how cruel it is to make jokes out of someone else’s existence.