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Ways To Be An Ally To The Disability Community

Time to break some barriers.

Dec. 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities as declared by the UN. This is a day that aims to promote awareness and understanding of disability issues around the world. There are 1.5 billion people on the planet with disabilities, and allyship is an important part of making the world more accessible and inclusive.

Whether you are already doing your part or have never thought about these issues before, here are 8 legit ways to show up as an ally:

Educate yourself.

A colourful illustration of a boy with glasses reading a book

Respect individual experiences.

A colourful illustration of two people kissing and a person looking at their phone.

A colourful illustration of two people kissing and a person looking at their phone.

Recognize that every person is different and there are a variety of ways disability is experienced. Listen to each story and understand that not everyone has the same views and preferences. For example, how people choose to identify themselves (identity-first vs. person-first).

Make your content accessible.

A colourful illustration of a computer screen, speaker symbol, text symbol, and closed captioning symbol.

A colourful illustration of a computer screen, speaker symbol, text symbol, and closed captioning symbol.

Whether it’s a website, blog, article, podcast, video or social media post, make sure what you’re sharing online is accessible. You don’t have to be a brand or “content creator” to do this. If you find content inaccessible, take the initiative to make it accessible. Accessibility is by everyone for everyone.

Consider accessibility in everything you do.

A colourful illustraion of two people at a restaurant telling the server, "We'd like to use your braille menus."

A colourful illustraion of two people at a restaurant telling the server, "We'd like to use your braille menus."

From dining out to hosting events, make accessibility and inclusion a part of your life. Ask stores why they don’t have a ramp or an elevator. Ask podcast creators why they don’t provide transcripts. Ask your employer to create plans that include people with disabilities from design to delivery.

Hire and promote people with disabilities.

A colourful illustration of people with disabilities.

A colourful illustration of people with disabilities.

Diversify your feed and amplify voices of people with disabilities.

A colourful illustration of a person posing with their hands up in a peace symbol wearing a shirt that says #ActuallyAutistic

A colourful illustration of a person posing with their hands up in a peace symbol wearing a shirt that says #ActuallyAutistic

Advocate proactively.

A colourful illustration of people shouting and smiling.

A colourful illustration of people shouting and smiling.

Be a part of the movement even if you don’t have a disability. Speak up when you come across ableist actions, language, or behaviours. For example, if you encounter microaggressions or if something is inaccessible, speak up — amplify, correct, or confront the issue.

Show up imperfectly.

A colourful illustration of three people, one person has hearts on their eyes

A colourful illustration of three people, one person has hearts on their eyes

Becoming a good ally is a process and a journey. Understand that you will make mistakes but know that it is better to be an imperfect ally, than nothing at all. Start by following these steps and come ready to learn and be corrected if you misstep.

Visit Access Now to learn more about accessibility around the world and get involved. It’s 2020, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that feeling cut off from the world really sucks. This is what a lack of accessibility feels like. As an ally, there are a million ways to get involved in the disability movement — time to break some barriers.

Maayan Ziv is the founder and CEO of Access Now, an activist, advocate and accomplished photographer. Based in Toronto, Ziv was recently awarded the Governor General Innovation Award.

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