Issue No. 3: The Ally Issue
or You Can Lead a Nondisabled Ally to The Google But You Can’t Make Them Use a 100% Familiar Search Engine to Find Available Access Tools Themselves
In which Mx. Crip-Manners points out how good manners make good allies
“We’re super-excited you’ll connect us with disabled women for our project! We don’t know how to clean out a conference room though so can you take that on?”
Yes, it really is that basic: Do you invite abled guests to muck out your space for your shared meeting or event? I’m guessing you don’t. You consider your space to be your responsibility. Just as I, a wheelchair user, don’t expect my walking guests to bring their own chairs. But you expect your disabled invitees to either resolve your access barriers or teach you granular how-tos. I know this from decades in grassroots women’s organizations and philanthropy.
That’s not okay.
My considered position is the result of 20-plus years of waxy bummer build-up that comes from, first, being invited to be a partner or guest — and then being tasked with “the early shift of ableism” to clean up inaccessible messes.
Expecting this is just plain bad manners from you, otherwise decently-funded organizations, including foundations. Isolated requests for help, particularly under clearly difficult circumstances, are not the issue.
Did You Know?
Disabled people are not magical access specialists. We learned stuff. By learning. We are always learning new stuff. By learning. As Crip-Yoda says, “Learn you must.” #CripTips
“We just don’t know where to start, we thought allies helped each other.”
Look, I believe you and I’m not questioning your principles. The way I can best help you is by taking the time to tell you the truth: Your underlying problem is learned helplessness when it comes to cross-disability access. Like everything else you do, it requires time and money. Seriously – if a bunch of people defined as not-able-to-do-stuff does this stuff, why can’t you?
I’d like to see more cross-disability community allies following what I call The RIC Rule (Remember, Include, Compensate) so that they put their cross-disability inclusion principles into practice.
The first step is to remember us. “If you remember to build us into your planning and budgeting, we will come.” Consistently remember to think ahead about what you will need – resources, tools, and time.
Did You Know?
Susan Henderson recommends that allies routinely allocate 1% of a budget’s total to disability-related expenses. #CripTips
Allies will have an easier time if they start viewing inclusion as routine. Make cross-disability access and language standard operating procedure, not a special operating procedure. Hokey as it sounds, inclusion is a dynamic commitment, not a fixed goal. It’s a process.
Did You Know?
Inclusion seems much more daunting when it’s been forgotten until the last minute or when there’s a complaint. #CripTips
“Oh. We just don’t have the budget to pay [access service provider/consultant].”
Sometimes reality is the only sandwich on the menu. Thus I must inform you that disability-related services, vendors, time, and expertise are no more typically free of charge than for any other area of work. If you’ve budgeted for it, this is much less of a problem than it may seem.
Also: Time is something you have to budget for.
As an ally, I have told many people about the myriad tools, such as event access checklists, that disabled experts have already initiated and developed. But too often the response back is pressure for me to find the information because you don’t have time.
Here’s some more reality: If you don’t learn how to do this, you’ll be back to someone like me, again and again, because you haven’t given yourself time to do the work of learning.
And when you haven’t budgeted enough time to properly implement an access plan, you’ll probably end up needing more money to execute it. Then you’ll tell the next disabled potential ally you ask for help that all that access stuff is just way beyond your budget.
Did You Know?
Potential disabled allies have expertise that is frequently expected to be given gratis. This is a particular issue for multiply-marginalized women, such as women of color with disabilities. Don’t be That Organization that doesn’t credit or compensate hard-working disabled experts. #CripTips
Good allies do their own learning and work to offer respectful partnerships with disabled allies. Good allies prepare to work with disabled allies by owning these responsibilities:
Spaces where disabled allies can navigate safely and with dignity
Invitations and other communications to disabled allies are materials we can read and share in good conscience
Meetings and conferences that you invite disabled allies to have our issues on agendas and our leaders are visible — and you’ve called planners out on it, if we’re excluded
You advocate for disabled allies to do more than sit in the audience at those meetings and conferences to listen to nondisabled experts and leaders not mention our contributions and leadership.
You can do this. If you: