Being An Ally

Non-disabled individuals must become allies. They must become personally committed to supporting disable people, to helping us have a place at the table, to have our ideas respected, to make things accessible for everyone, and to call people on their shit. It is the role of the ally to educate oneself and others, to take leadership from disabled people and work in their own communities towards creating change. While allies should always be in support roles, that should never keep them from asking questions or deserting to know why things are being done in a particular way.

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However, I also have difficulty believing that it is possible. As a disabled person I have found myself often believing that allies do not exist. I have been let down, angered, heart broken, profited off of, undermined, sabotaged, aggravated and used by people who call themselves allies. I have come to understand that no matter how great and ally one seems, that their failure as an ally is inevitable. As a white person, however, I have to believe that allies can exist. I am committed to being an anti-racist ally and I cannot accept that I and others like me cannot fight alongside people of colour towards an anti-racist and just society. The compromise between these two positions is to accept that we will all fail as allies and that is, indeed an essential part of being one.

Indeed, my perpetual disappointment in so-called allies is a result of a number of disturbing to devastating experiences. I didn’t believe allies existed until I met people who specifically identified as non-disabled allies and who did work that revolved around disability issues. These people, I believed, were truly allies and they gave me hope that we could create a movement of t.a.b.s and gimps united.

While disabled people deserve allies, it is important for disabled people to recognize that most of us have some sort of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or other form of privilege. We also have to be allies to each other. Because the disabled community is so broad, there have been many instances where certain disabled people work to obtain privilege by defining themselves as something other than disabled. We have to work to be allies to each other as well, recognize where we are granted privilege when other disabled people are not and work to change that.

In many ways, it is much easier to identify what not to do as an ally then what you should do as an ally because there are so many negative experiences of allies. however it is important to make a concerted and continuous effort and constantly reflect on your own role as an ally.