Disability Allyship Tips

Speak up when someone denigrates the disabled. Especially when we’re not there. 

Use diverse examples in your presentations, papers, workflows, conversations, etc. When the disabled are used as just another example people’s brains will stop defaulting to able-bodied as the norm. 

Learn when it’s ok to offer help and when to just help. This is a very personal choice made by us and needs to be respected. Things like when it’s ok to hold open a door, when it’s ok to touch someone, when to explain a disability, etc.

Not every interaction is an appropriate teachable moment; recognize what the right moments look like.

Make sure to not infantilize someone with a disability; doing something differently does not make someone incapable of completing the task. 

Stay informed about new accessibility/assistive technologies

Do not speak for us unless you know it’s ok; especially if we are already dealing with the issue.  

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and point someone to a resource.

— Anonymous Contributor

Disability Allyship Tips from Lindy Smith

I give people the option of the elevator when we’re walking somewhere together instead of assuming they can take the stairs and making them ask.

I am working on adjusting my vocabulary to no longer include ableist language.

I don’t question or require proof when people (especially direct reports or students) request an accommodation.

I try to be open about my own limitations in an attempt to destigmatize because I am in a position of relative privilege and likely won’t face any negative repercussions.

I seek out voices from people with disabilities and learn from them.

I recognize that no group is a monolith and respect differing views within marginalized communities.

I always use the microphone when there is one and advocate for one when there isn’t.

I don’t get any of these things right 100% of the time, but they’re all things I’m actively working toward

Spotlight on Collections

Highlighting collections related to disability and the archivists who work with them.

From the Library Collections of the Disability History Museum.
Blind youth play stringed instruments, Australia. American Foundation for the Blind, 1949.

Disability History Museum

The Disability History Museum was founded in 2000. Its mission is to foster a deeper understanding about how changing cultural values, notions of identity, laws and policies have shaped and influenced the experience of people with disabilities, their families and their communities over time. The Disability History Museum is a born-digital project, with 2,500 plus primary sources available to the public. For more than 8 years, we’ve regularly teamed up with our regional partners to conduct a wide variety of professional development efforts targeting grades 9-14 faculty. These efforts help them introduce and integrate topics in disability history within US History, Government, and Civics coursework. The site has on average, 12,500 unique visitors monthly. This work is sponsored by Straight Ahead Pictures, a non-profit media company with the mission of fostering dialogue about social issues using the archives and historical scholarship. Since its founding in 1987, Straight Ahead’s work has concentrated on questions of who is fit and who is not and how these categories have changed over time. We’ve produced a number of award winning projects in film, radio, and for the web. Our current effort is Becoming Helen Keller, a two-hour biography for the PBS series, American Masters. 

Source: The Disability History/Archives Consortium: A Portal to Disability History Collections White Paper