Originally Published by Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church. Republished with Permission.
As you embark on your mission trips, consider these dos and don’ts:
1. DO LISTEN DEEPLY:
- Hear the stories, concerns, and hurts.
- Believe what you hear.
- Acknowledge the pain and injustice.
- …interrupt, rationalize, or get defensive.
- …say anything – just listen!
- …quote scripture or theology.
2. DO ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN:
- Speak directly to a person with a disability.
- Inquire about
- …accommodations needed.
- …experiences, choice of language.
- Focus on relationship-building.
- Explore more deeply, but only if your conversation partner is comfortable doing so, if comfortable for your conversation partner.
- …direct your question to a caregiver, companion, or interpreter.
- …ask for a person’s diagnosis or medical information or share that information with a third party – don’t “out” anyone!
- …use ableist language.
- …focus only on the disability experience.
3. DO PRESUME COMPETENCE:
- Assume a person has a way to accomplish things and will ask if assistance is needed.
- Assume that a person can communicate and understand you.
- Create space for leadership, then step aside.
- Check in to gain guidance on issues to be addressed and involvement needed.
- …assume you know what someone else needs.
- …insist on providing help or help when not requested to do so.
- …alter your speech pattern and language.
- …ask for feedback and input, then ignore it.
- …stereotype based on media impressions or people with apparently similar disabilities.
4. DO ANTICIPATE AND NOTICE
- …barriers and lack of accessibility.
- …who is and is not present “at the table.”
- …who is and is not in the speaking center.
- …persons being “othered.”
- …assume that anything is truly ADA compliant, or that ADA compliance is sufficient.
- …assume people with disabilities are not present out of a lack of interest.
- …allow good intentions to serve as an excuse.
5. DO PLAN AHEAD AND COMMUNICATE:
- Involve people with disabilities from the outset before decisions have been made.
- Budget for and routinely provide needed accommodations.
- Provide accessibility information on-line.
- Provide material ahead of time in the requested accessible format.
- Consider transportation needs.
- Consider accessibility in all aspects of the event.
- …plan an event without ensuring full accessibility.
- …make extensive plans without checking them first with people needing accommodations.
- …make it hard to find needed information.
- …make a promise and fail to keep it.
- …operate from the assumption that any needs equates to “special needs.”
6. DO SPEAK OUT, ACCEPT CONSEQUENCES
- Say or do something
- …when you spot, read, or hear ableism.
- …when concerns of a person with a disability are dismissed or ignored.
- …when safety is compromised.
- …expect gratitude or do it for your ego.
- …be surprised by resistance or hostility.
- …back down when you ruffle feathers.
- …let the fear of doing the wrong thing keep you from doing something.
7. DO ADVOCATE
- Challenge unjust policies and laws.
- Ask for feedback and follow the lead of persons with disabilities.
- Pick your battles but keep the goal of an inclusive society in mind.
- …assume someone else will do it, or that someone with a disability will want to be the advocate for all disability issues.
- …jump in without knowing the facts and the history of the situation.
8. EXPLORE CREATIVE ALTERNATIVES
- Practice universal design – plan alternatives so all can participate in a way that works.
- Celebrate the way that diversity expands possibilities.
- Remember that many people with disabilities have a wealth of experience finding creative ways to make things work.
- …insist that the outcome and process should stay the same as it has always been.
- …assume your role is to be the fixer and problem-solver.
- …get in the way of the Spirit leading us all to a new day and new way of being.
9. CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE
- Reflect on ways the world is easy for you.
- Ask for and accept critical feedback.
- Apologize and move on when you get it wrong.
- …deny that ableism and privilege exist.
- …get defensive or argue if you are called out.
- …take critique personally.
- …be hard on yourself if you don’t get it right.
10. DO KEEP ON LEARNING
- Approach learning with humility.
- Follow blogs of disability activists.
- Explore intersectionality.
- Find other allies and hold each other accountable.
- Teach others what you have learned.
- …assume that you have reached the point where you no longer have ingrained ableism.
- …expect you can be a lone ranger ally.
- …take yourself too seriously.
- …underestimate the power of a few people to make a difference!
Learn more about ableism through our Able Privilege and Ableist Microaggressions handouts. Refer to the Ableism Resource List for references and more information, and to the Ableism and Disability Glossary for definitions of unfamiliar words.