The movement for disabled equality has been an ongoing battle for several decades, constantly evolving to meet the needs and conditions of the ever-changing times. The disability community, myself included, is very familiar with adapting; a skill, born out of necessity, that gives us a unique advantage. Much like every major social justice campaign, innovation is essential in order to remain relevant and effective over time. At this point, I believe a major shift in strategy is needed to continue improving the lives of disabled individuals. This is by no means a criticism of specific activists or organizations but simply my suggestions based on personal observation and discussion with others in the field of activism.
In my opinion, the first major step is to create a consistent message across the entire disability activism community. It is important that we work to create a sort of concise elevator pitch/mission statement that establishes core values, desired outcomes and places disabled voices at the forefront of the movement. Many other types of activism benefit from this method, for example those who believe in things like feminism, reproductive access or racial justice can explain what they are about much more easily than disabled activists. Having an actionable and succinct message is crucial for raising the public discourse and attracting allies to the cause.
Outreach is the next key aspect of social justice that disability activists could expand upon. From personal experience, I have learned just how few abled, non-chronically ill or neurotypical allies the movement truly has. Despite how difficult it can be to explain even the most simple disability philosophy ideas, I think activists should still strive to educate those beyond the disabled community. Fostering outside support is especially important considering the fact that disabled individuals do not have the same amount of resources that other marginalized groups have, due to the inherent inaccessibly of the world.
To me, the biggest source of potential allies should be other forms of social justice activism that overlap with disability i.e. women’s equality, economic disparity, LGBTQA+ rights and racial justice. Tapping into existing movements can provide highly motivated individuals that are already interested in activism. It is paramount that we encourage other groups to become more inclusive of disabled people. Allies are extremely important but those who are actually disabled should remain in leadership roles and be the majority of voices being shared.
Overall, I feel there should be a shift in public narrative that reflects the current state of disability affairs. The ADA may have laid the groundwork for some of the basic rights but the fight for access continues every day, this fact must be more widely known. In the short time I been more involved with disabled activism I have met an incredible network of devoted leaders and citizens with a very personal yet far-reaching set of goals. Every day I learn something new that challenges my views about disability and what it means to be disabled person, I hope that others can learn the same from me.