How to Be a Better Ally, With Disability Advocate Alice Wong

How to Be a Better Ally, With Disability Advocate Alice Wong
Photo: Micaela Heck/Elena Scotti

This week we’re learning about disability rights and how to be a better ally with help from disability activist Alice Wong. Listen to hear Alice talk about the unique perspectives that disabled people bring to the conversation, what non-disabled people can do to promote and protect equality, and why Crip Camp is essential viewing.

Alice is a disabled activist, consultant and founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to amplifying disability, media, and culture in 2020. She also has a podcast called Disability Visibility and recently published the book Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the 21st Century.

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Highlights from this week’s episode

From the Alice Wong interview:

On the importance of recognising able-bodied privilege:

I think you know a lot of people just don’t realise, “Oh, like, I can move to another city if I, you know, have the means.” While a lot of people with disabilities can’t just pick up and leave or just decide to go to a bar like tonight. You know, just, it’s not that easy. It’s a little complicated. But I think you know, non-disabled people can do so much to make the world a little bit more welcoming and a little more accessible by just understanding their own privilege, acknowledging it and also understanding that we all have a collective responsibility. You know we can create access for each other. And that’s one of the things that I think is so awesome about disabled people that I love about my community, is this recognition that we’re interdependent.

On how the pandemic has shifted the perspective for non-disabled people:

You know, in just big and small ways and I feel like it took a pandemic for a lot of non-disabled people to realise, “whoa, like this is like, you know, this kind of living is really different.” And that it’s frustrating when they don’t get what they want immediately. And I feel like a lot of chronically-ill people or just people who are completely you know, their entire life is centered either in their bed or on their couch. They’re like, “welcome to our world.” [Y]ou now have a slight inkling of the struggles or challenges because, you know, one thing that gets me really salty is that disabled people have been fighting for remote working options for offices… And suddenly when non-disabled people have something taken away from them. All these things are suddenly not so difficult. They’re not an issue any more. I think that to me is pretty enraging because so much of the work that we’ve done has really been erased. It hasn’t been acknowledged. And I really hope, you know, as we come out of this together that we don’t go back to normal. I want workplaces and organisations and institutions to keep doing what they’re doing as they adjust to the pandemic. But just keep it. Keep it. Because it’ll only enhance their outreach, their inclusion.

On the small ways in which you can start becoming a better ally:

[B]elieve disabled people when they tell you something is problematic. You know when they say like, “Hey, this is not very cool what your friend said, or, “Oh I love this video that you put up, but did you notice that you don’t have captions?” Or like, you know, “I see you posting a lot of great photos, have you thought about adding alt text?” You know these are little things people can do every day to incorporate just a little bit of access that really says a lot. Because if you let’s say post content, for example, especially [with a] major publication…if you don’t caption it. If you don’t supply image description, you’re saying you don’t care about a huge segment of the population. And disabled people have said this for a long time that access not only helps disabled people, but it benefits everyone.

To hear more of Alice’s conversation about disability rights, we recommend listening to the full episode.

Have any feedback or ideas for future episodes? Want to be featured on the show? Leave us a voicemail at 347-687-8109 or send a voice memo to [email protected]

Episode Transcript

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