Disability

You Ask, I Answer: How Do I Help the Disabled?

This post is from my ongoing question-and-answer series, “You Ask, I Answer” in which I take questions that you send me and attempt to answer them (this might be a good time to say if you have a question, go ahead and write me here! It’s all anonymous)

Reader asks, 

I want to help the disabled, Meriah! How can I do it? What should I start?”

Here’s a vlog I made in response:

How Do I Help the Disabled?
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Key Points from the Vlog:

⇒ Disability as a “normal” concept, a culture, pride; disability in terms of resources, needs, wants and what-needs-doing might be new to you (parent or friend of the disability community), but it’s not new to us with disabilities.

⇒ We don’t need you to come in and lead us ; we need you to listen to us. We are the experts here, and love and appreciate you and your energy and drive, but please: we’ve been walking this walk for a long time and are more familiar with bends in the road, with potholes to be aware of, shortcuts and scenic views. Let us lead you.

How to Really Help:

There are a lot of ways to help, and the ones that spring to mind first are:

  1. Money.

This is obviously huge. It’s organizational fuel and it burns fast!

I wrote a post which I keep updated on the best places to give your money to. There is an enormous range of organizations on the list, all of them worthy.

Go take your pick:

2. Time

In the vlog, I talked about how contributing your time and skills to an organization is priceless, and that there are many ways to go about doing this.

a. Straight Up Volunteering:

This is finding an organization that you connect with. It could be large and national, or small and local, very disability-specific or more broad. Details like those don’t matter as much as the fact that you connect with something that you really gel well with, and that your time and energy are really put to a good use.

To volunteer, you need to do the research to find your own fit. A good place to start is through the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. There are a lot of great organizations that belong to the Consortium – you can either volunteer at one, or connect with them to get a referral to a something that might be a better fit with you. Googling for local organizations, asking friends and community members are all great ways to find the place you want to connect with.

b) Specialized Skill Application

In the vlog, I gave the example of the yoga teacher and secretary, but it can be literally ANYTHING. We all have skills and they all can be integrated into helping the disabled and disabled community.

Brainstorming Ideas:

If you are a mechanic, look for ways to increase access, provide adaptive driving controls, educate your community on how to fix cars that have adaptive controls. Cross-train yourself to fix power wheelchairs! Train others, and train wheelchair users too, in how to build their own chairs!

If you are an accountant and mom to a child with Down syndrome, volunteer at your organization that works with Down syndrome, or with the Special Olympics in your area. Do some of their number-work for them. If you feel like getting stretched, help with grant writing or doing the number research for grants. Take what you know and plug it in.

NOTE: I am happy to help brainstorm ideas on how to think of your existing skill sets as they might apply to helping the disabled community. Write me anytime or hit me up on Facebook , Twitter or Instagram.

3. Be An Ally

Be our friend. Stand with us, look out for us, have our backs. Stick around when shit needs doin’ 🙂

I was saying in the video above how much it means to me when I see friends who I KNOW don’t have a disability asking for captions, or asking if something is accessible. It seriously moves me to tears, because it’s exhausting to always be on the watch and to always be the ONLY ONE who is asking these questions.

In these Trump times, it also means helping with all the million-and-then-some battles we are facing to keep just the bare minimum of what we need going.

In all of this, it’s so important to follow the lead of the disabled community,

4. Persevere

I had to add that in there because ending ableism isn’t done overnight. We are talking about major systemic, cultural change here, and that takes time.

Realizing that you need to pace yourself, take care of yourself, your family, is crucial. So too is looking for others to connect with and passing on batons as needed.

How Do I Help the Disabled?

This is such a huge question that would take a hell of a lot of fleshing out to really do it justice.

I hope this post provides some answers for those of you that looking. I hope to write more about this subject, particularly in ways to integrate your specific skills sets that benefit the disabled community.

And maybe that’s one of the biggest points I want anyone reading this to take home: that those of with disabilities are not some distant “other” – we are your daughters, sons, sisters, friends, mothers, aunties, uncles, person smiling at you on the street. We’re the people next door, your boss, your employee, your lover, your crush, your spouse, your ex, the twinkle in your eye.

So in recognizing who we are, “helping” us is about bringing things together, about integrating what you know and do already with a more focused approach to your world outlook. It’s about the application of a new lens with which you view existing content; not about going to Africa to build mud huts. Does that make sense?

Please hit me up with questions, comments, suggestions.

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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