Maybe you’re in a wheelchair. Maybe your friend, coworker, or partner is in a wheelchair. Whatever the case, you’re probably pretty aware that the world isn’t the friendliest place for people with accessibility and mobility problems. The only way to solve that issue is by being an advocate for accessibility. But how? What’s the best way to advocate for those in your life? How do you know what to advocate for? And how do you know when to push and when to retreat?
Listen to the people around you. Spend some time with those affected to hear their story and take the full measure of the problem they face. It’s easy to think that the solution for a problem is a simple fix when there might be multiple layers to a problem. It can be anything as small as wobbly ramps to giant problems, like the dangers those with disabilities face in crosswalks.
For the disability community, many are used to being their own advocate regularly. Just like the reality of their abilities and accessibility is unique to them, so it is unique for others. It’s important for all people, no matter their physical abilities, to listen thoroughly, ask pertinent questions, and work off the information they’ve gathered instead of solely relying on what they believe to be true.
The world operates very differently for those with mobility issues or who rely on mobility devices. It’s important to analyze the world around us for risks — not just for our abilities, but for all. Ask questions, such as:
- How can someone without full mobility struggle with bus stops? Construction zones? Schools? Restaurants?
- What can be done to alleviate those difficulties? Are they simple fixes? Is it a simple, do-it-yourself fix, or would DIY construction cause injury, exacerbate the issue, or just be underwhelming in the ability to address? Do you need a contractor?
- Is it something you can contact the city about?
- Could it be addressed by rallying the neighborhood, or local business owners?
- Question everything in your analysis, and somewhere in there you’ll find a sound plan to address the issue.
It’s important to be an effective voice when speaking out on behalf of others. You need to know what makes people pay attention and how to guide them towards action. Common motivators include humor, presenting the action in a way that will make people feel good about themselves for pitching in, uplifting them, and avoiding negativity. You want your audience to feel uplifted and inspired. Storytelling is often an effective tool. Be confident, passionate, and genuine. As long as you come from a place of caring and responsible change, you’ll be on the right track.
Put all three things together and you’re well on the path to advocacy. Armed with your knowledge from listening and your strategizing, you can share what you know with others and inspire the change necessary for you and peers with disabilities everywhere.
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