Disability Allyship #12
Happy New Year and let's get the 2022 allyship started.
Hey folks! This newsletter is about all things disability and allyship, to give you a fresh perspective and advice that you can implement immediately to make your world more inclusive of disabled people. As a disabled woman myself, I am on my own allyship journey and I am excited to have you come along with me.
Also, if you can and feel inclined to, you can support me here - Buy Me a Coffee.
#ForYou - What are your intentions in 2022 for your disability allyship journey?
[Image: A book sits open on a table top which is white with green dots on it. The book is open to pages that have written in block colourful writing, “Wish for it, hope for it, dream of it, but by all means do it.”]
Intention is powerful stuff, but without clear actions and courage to make mistakes over and over again, any intention you have will fall at the first hurdle. And seeing as New Years resolutions seem to be about intention over action, there will be no inclusion resolutions here… but embodied inclusion instead!
What is embodied inclusion? It is intention with heart, a goal with a plan, and desire to learn and grow with flexibility and grace. It is authentically showing up for disabled people and not being afraid to get it wrong, knowing that each mistake is a step forward to getting inclusion right. You have to live inclusion every day. Inclusion is how you engage with people, listen to them, welcome them into your life, ensuring that all feel like they belong.
Let me ask you three questions:
Do you feel your heart is open enough to confront all of your biases towards disability, be that unconscious, confirmation, in-group, optimist or pessimistic, availability, attribution, cultural biases (and let’s not forget the Dunning-Kruger Effect!)? Where might you be stuck and need a little support on?
Has imposter syndrome slipped into your allyship journey and does it make you doubt your ability to be a good ally and make a positive impact? Imposter syndrome is doubting your skills and feeling a bit like a fraud, it might leave you thinking what is the point of allyship if you can’t get it right. Think about the skills you have developed… for example, are you great at time management, or a wonderful listener? How could those skills be used in your allyship?
When have you gotten disability allyship wonderfully right and how did it make you feel? Hold onto that feeling, it is what will help you pick yourself back up again when the going get’s tough.
Think about these questions, journal about them, or write in the comments your thoughts, if you are open to sharing your own journey…
I promised an offer for my wonderful subscribers for 2022. As a speaker with 10 years experience, a TEDx talk under my belt, and in the last year having worked with my biggest clients ever (Twitter, Johnson & Johnson, EA Games, Menzies, Algonquin College, amongst others), I can safely say that I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving a lasting impact on companies, organisations and individuals when talking about disability, allyship and inclusion.
My offer: 15% off a virtual keynote or virtual workshop on disability allyship for your organisation, school, or business booked for January, February or March 2022. Pop me an email before the end of January 2022 if you would like to take up the 15% discount for a virtual keynote or virtual workshop- firstname.lastname@example.org
You do have to be subscriber to take advantage of this discount (I will double check), but it’s free to sign up to this newsletter, so if you haven’t already, now is the time to subscribe.
Here is one of my latest testimonials:
Liz spent a short time with our Mastermind group of International School Leaders and we were all changed by her. Liz has presence, vulnerability, warmth and wisdom and from here, offers a courageous invitation to all of us to step up and out in order to become better leaders and allies in service of the disabled community. - Naomi Ward from Making Stuff Better
*And do take note I have availability for International Women’s Day on the 8th of March (and surrounding days). The theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias - book me to come into your organisation to talk about breaking the bias for disabled women.
#Thought - Representation is allyship!
[Image: A young Asian girl is in a classroom, she is holding a book and looking at it intently. Behind her is a window and table.]
Many years ago I spoke at a little school in Yorkshire where they had a number of disabled children and their parents that needed… something. What that something was they couldn’t quite articulate. All they told me was that some of the parents of the disabled children were struggling with their child’s possible future and would I come in and talk about my experience of disability in the hopes that it might help.
I agreed and so, one evening, I went into the school hall packed full of parents and told my disability and Paralympics story. At the end of my talk I got mobbed by parents (and some children that were attending) wanting to ask me questions, such as, what was my experience at school like, how did the teachers and my parents prepare me for going out into the world, how can they support their children better. In the midst of chatting with the parents one of the teachers pushed her way through the group and tapped my shoulder. She asked me if I would come and speak to little Emily as she was feeling a bit upset.
As I walked towards Emily I could see her clinging to her mum, tears pouring down her face. I felt awful, and worried, had I said something in my talk to really upset this little girl. I knelt down and asked Emily what was wrong. She was crying so hard that she couldn’t speak. Her mum spoke for her instead.
“Emily isn’t sad, she is just really happy and overwhelmed. Emily has upper limb difference, her left forearm is shortened and she is missing fingers. Her whole life she hasn’t believed that she would be able to achieve anything, and what your talk has shown her is that she can achieve. She has never seen anyone that looks like her before and you coming tonight has given her a picture, an idea, it has given her hope.”
This wasn’t the only time I got to work with Emily, the year after this talk to parents I went back into the school to do some workshops with the children about positive psychology, resilience and character strengths. The final task I set them was the ‘Best Possible Self’ Positive Psychology activity. I asked them to draw or write a story of them achieving their goals. Just before class ended Emily ran up to me to show me her drawing - she was a Paralympic Swimmer racing in the pool, the stands behind the pool was packed and in the middle of the stands were her parents and her brother and me, all cheering her on…
I’m not crying, you are!
Representation in all its different forms matter. We learnt this recently from the Strictly Come Dancing final, where we had representation for the Deaf and disabled, Black and LGBTQAI+ communities. The impact of the final was and still is epic. In recent Disney movies there has been a concerted effort to include positive representation of disability, as well as other marginalised groups - have you seen Encanto yet? Disabled writers have grown to prominence in the publishing world, with Haben Girma, Carly Findlay, and Rebekah Tausig having massive hits on their hands.
Representation matters because it shows that we, from marginalised communities, exist. It reveals an authenticity to these different lived experiences, that are often defined by stereotypes that do much more harm than good. Having more disability on our screens, on the radio, in our books and newspapers normalises difference and starts to tackle the inherent biases in society that often hold disabled people back. Representation shows what it possible, not just to the disabled community itself, but also to the non-disabled community, just as my talk at the school did for the parents and for little Emily. This is why I ask you - how can you increase representation of disability in your organisation, in your recruitment processes, in your marketing, etc?
*Emily was the main focus of my TEDx talk that I did a number of years ago, she had just as much impact on me as I had on her. I actually got to meet her again, just before the pandemic started. Emily is now in her mid-teens and isn’t pursuing a Paralympic career, but a career in fashion design. Emily found her purpose and believes she can achieve it. I am so so proud of her. You can watch my TEDx talk here - Emily SENDs her Love.
#Action - Monsoon and Autonomous Choice
[Image: me, a white woman with long brown hair, is wearing a deep blue velvet dress with a low neckline and there quarter length sleeves. I am standing in front of a Christmas tree with presents around it at the bottom of a stair case in a hotel.]
A few years ago I was in York, in the UK, shopping for a dress for the Inspiring Women Changemakers Awards evening that my friend was running. I wanted something really special, so I was prepared to spend a little extra money. I ended up in Monsoon, a shop that isn’t designer, but is certainly leaning more towards the expensive end of the High Street shops. My eye was immediately caught by this beautiful deep blue velvet dress. It had all my favourite aspects of dresses for me- a low neckline, three-quarter length sleeves, and flow around my hips and legs (looks better with my prosthetic leg). As I was admiring it an attendant approached me and asked my if I would like to try it on. I said yes, and without so much as a quibble, the attendant asked me, “the change rooms are downstairs, would you prefer to take the lift or go down the stairs?”
The lift was one specifically for disabled people, where you need a key to operate it, so I knew that this wasn’t a general question that would be asked of all customers. And in that moment I felt seen, and I also felt free- free to make a choice based on what my needs were, without anyone dictating to me how I would engage with the shop space I was in. In one question this attendant from Monsoon saw my disability, acknowledged it, gave me accessibility options, and followed through on my preferences.
This is allyship in action!
I chose the lift, which then proceeded to not open when I got to the bottom floor (LOL, even when allyship is going well, there can still be accessibility issues). However, the Monsoon team were quick to sort the issue. I tried on the dress, decided it was a yes, and promptly bought it. And on the way out I made it a point to thank the attendant for her subtle and kind approach to making me feel welcome in-store.
Allyship doesn’t always have to be a big, grand gesture. Allyship is also evident in the small, quiet parts of life, whether it’s giving a simple accessibility choice to someone, or checking and requesting that there is disability representation in books and films at school, or that you smile and follow through when there is a request for help instead of huffing at the inconvenience.
Take note of where you can take simple actions of allyship in your life, in your work, in your community and become that embodied inclusion that we discussed at the start of the newsletter.
#AllAboutYou - What would you like to see more of in the newsletter this year?
This newsletter is for you and I want to make sure that I am hitting the right allyship notes for you. So get involved, get engaged, and tell me in the comments:
What are your favourite parts of the newsletter, i.e., what is proving most helpful, inspiring, thought-provoking?
What would you like to see more of?
Does Monday work for you to receive the newsletter, or would you prefer the end of the week or the weekend?