Creating Online Spaces for Women With Disabilities
In this post, A11iance Advocate Ana Jacob discusses why women with disabilities form communities online — and the value these groups can deliver to everyone, if given the chance.
Throughout history, women have had an incredible capacity for gathering and leading. Instead of caving under the pressures of oppression and exclusion, we carve out our own spaces, welcoming in other women and inspiring each other to be trailblazers.
These same qualities are found among people with disabilities. Regardless of gender, disabled people are often left out — and yet, we’ve come together in various advocacy and support groups.
This seems to be doubly true when we are both female and disabled. I’ve seen so many spaces built by and for women with disabilities of every kind. We see a need for community, for wisdom and shared experiences. So we take initiative.
There are online groups made up entirely of women and non-binary people with disabilities. These groups help members navigate everything from everyday obstacles to monumental life events. I’ve seen questions ranging from how to know if your outfit is color coordinated before a first date, to sharing resources for disabled victims of domestic abuse.
We come from all ages and backgrounds, but the one thing we all have in common is being female and disabled.
We draw from each other’s wisdom gained by lived experience.
Because where else can a blind woman ask a peer group for tips on applying makeup? Where else can a wheelchair user ask for help finding business attire that’s adapted for people with mobility disabilities?
Most of the people in our day-to-day lives wouldn’t know the answers to these questions, or they aren’t things we’d feel comfortable asking them — like different methods for handling that time of the month when you’re disabled.
Bringing These Groups Into the Fold
But what if it wasn’t so hard to find this kind of support though? One reason groups like these flourish is because for the most part, we have no other reliable places to take these kinds of questions. The beauty of coming together online is that we can then go back out into the world, armed with what we have learned, teaching others as we go.
What if non disabled people showed more curiosity about how we navigate these different situations as disabled people? Not for the sake of inspiration, but genuine learning. What if, upon hearing a disabled coworker bemoan the lack of awareness, you could step up and say, “Hey, I don’t have the solution, but I know some people who might.” What if some of the answers to your own dilemmas could be solved by someone accustomed to juggling nuanced problems? What if we were so integrated that sharing resources back and forth was as commonplace as exchanging recommendations for good hair salons?
We don’t have to miss out like this. In this season of much needed emphasis on unity and inclusion, let’s be intentional about creating spaces for disabled women to shine. Not just in our own groups, beautiful as they are. Let’s make room at the table, in the office, and at that one great hair salon your cousin keeps raving about.
We have a lot to offer. Let us show you.
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