I Want to Get Involved in Disability Rights! Where Do I Start?

Hello Friends, and Happy Valentines Day! đŸ„° I hope you are having a great day celebrating the many forms of LOVE!  One form of love is making sure everyone in society is welcome, included, and treated with respect and dignity. Today I want to thank disability activists Sandy Ho, Mia Mingus and Alice Wong for creating the hashtag #AccessIsLove, which aims to help build a world where accessibility is understood as an act of love.Â đŸ’˜â™żïžđŸ’ Learn more about #AccessIsLove Here!
Along those same lines, today I had a friend email and ask what 3 action steps I’d recommend to anyone interested in supporting Disability Rights. Clearly there are tons of ways to get involved, but these are just the first three things that came to mind… What would YOU recommend?  Leave a comment below!
1 – Learn about Disability Issues, especially in electoral politics: Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have addressed disability issues specifically in their campaigns.
Here are some good websites to learn about Disability Rights:
Ramp Your Voice (Vilissa Thompson)
Disability Thinking (Andrew Pulrang)
This Mess (David Perry)
Smart Ass Cripple (Mike Irvin)
And here’s a whole archive of disability blogs: Meriah Nichols – List of Disability Blogs
2 – Get involved in Disability Rights work through your local Center for Independent Living (CIL)… They are all over the country! Find your local CIL via this National Directory.  
The term “center for independent living” means a consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent living services. Learn more about Centers for Independent Living Here: https://ncil.org/
3 – Stop spending money at inaccessible businesses! Wheelchair accessibility isn’t the only access barrier people face in society, but it’s relatively easy for the newcomer to spot and it’s especially easy to vote with your dollars! So take a stand by only spending money at wheelchair accessible places. Even better, when you make the decision to stop spending money there, make a phone call or send an email that says something like this:
“I will no longer be frequenting your business because it is not wheelchair accessible. This makes it impossible for many people with disabilities (and often older customers with mobility issues) to enjoy access to your establishment, which does not recognize the equal rights guaranteed to them in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It is my hope that you will take significant and meaningful action to remedy this issue in a timely manner, and then I will be happy to return as a loyal customer! Becoming accessible will not only make your space more welcoming to all, but it will generate additional income from those who have not been able to spend money at your establishment previously:
‘Americans with disabilities are often overlooked for their purchasing power. According to a 2010 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans have a disability. That number equates to nearly 51.2 million Americans in 2015 with a disability. What’s more is that businesses can tap into this market providing accessible storefronts, products and services for people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor also found that Americans with disabilities have $175 billion in discretionary spending.’ – National Center for Business Journalism
I hope you will consider making positive changes to your building in the future. I understand that architectural changes take money, but there is nothing stopping you from fundraising on a site like GoFundMe for this project if it’s truly not in your budget.
I am hopeful you will prioritize accessibility in 2020 and beyond. Unfortunately, one of the only other avenues that the average citizen has for encouraging access besides dialogue like this is filing an ADA complaint with the Department of Justice. This step is something that could often be avoided if businesses like yours prioritized accessibility in the first place. Thank you for reading, and I hope you will commit to making your business more accessible to all in the future.”
Haha, of course you can find your own wording, but I like to get straight to the point!
Anyway, these are the three suggestions I had for my friend, but I’d love to hear from other disabled activists what there three recommendations would be… It’d be great to compile an “Action List” for folks who are interested in getting involved in the fight for Disability Justice or who simply want to learn more about Disability Rights! Feel free to add your two cents below, and have a great day! 🙂
Gaelynn Lea

Author: violinscratches

Gaelynn Lea is a musician and public speaker from Duluth, MN. She is passionate about disability advocacy, personal growth, and authentic living. She was the winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest in March 2016.