The video above is part of a series of videos produced by The Human Rights & Equity Office at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. If you’re interested in checking out other videos in the series, which touch on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and mental health, I strongly recommend that you check out Mount Sinai Hospital’s Youtube Channel. Trust me, it’s definitely worth a look!
Now that I’ve introduced you all to Mount Sinai Hospital’s “Are you an ALLY?” campaign, let’s get down to business.
So… are you an ally?
I think – or, I hope – that all of you would answer ‘yes’ to that question. I would like to believe that everyone wants to do what they can to help create a more accessible and inclusive society. I would like to believe that everyone wants to do, and to be better than we are now – both individually, and collectively.
The problem, though, is that sometimes we don’t know how to be good allies. Sometimes, we don’t know what it is that we should (or shouldn’t) be doing to help. When this happens, though, it’s important to remember one thing: If you don’t know what to do, or how to be a good ally, there’s a really easy solution!
In fact, let’s make that the beginning of this cripple’s how-to, shall we? It’s simple, really. So here it is:
The East Coast Cripple’s How-To Guide to Life as an Ally.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you want to be a good ally, you have to be willing to admit that you don’t know everything. You have to be willing to ask what it is that we need from you.
- Learn how to listen. If you’re going to ask what we need, you have to listen to what we say. Trust that we know ourselves and our needs. Trust that we understand the barriers and obstacles we’re facing, and how we think they could be eliminated or lessened.
- Acknowledge your privilege. I know, I know… privilege is a big scary word that everyone hates. But we all have it – just on different levels. Being privileged doesn’t make you a bad person, the key is to acknowledge your privilege, and use it to create change.
- Don’t speak over us. If you want to use your privilege to spark social change, that’s wonderful. Just make sure that when you’re doing it, you’re not speaking over the people you’re to help. Use your voice to aid the voices of those who are marginalized – not to overpower them. It’s always better to revert back to #1 before you shout your message from the mountaintops, okay?
- Repeat steps 1 through 4. Being an ally is a process. It’s a lifestyle, actually. It means engaging in critical self-reflection, remaining self-aware, and actively working to better yourself and your community. Being an ally should not be conditional – if you’re going to support us, we need you to do it consistently. We need you to ask the difficult questions, to listen, and to use your privilege to promote our voices instead of just your own. It’s not always easy – we know that. But it’s necessary, and when we make those changes? It’s worth it.
See? That’s all there is to it. If you follow those five rules, not only will you be a better ally (not just to disabled folks, either!) but you’ll be a better person. Five rules, each of which brings you one step closer to helping create a world that, instead of catering to the needs of only a few, is accessible to all of us.
So, now that I’ve laid it out for you, I’ll ask again: Are you an ally?
Think about it, y’all.
– Stephanie, ECC