SURJ seeks to build a movement that is informed by anti-ableism, access and Disability Justice. We offer the following as an introduction to Disability Justice politics, practice and access, seeking to deepen our political analysis and re-imagine our cultural values within white racial justice organizing. In short, to fundamentally expand our base by building the capacity to engage disability activists with relevancy and respect.
For additional information or support about the brass tacks of building more accessible, anti-ableist racial justice organising and disability specific outreach feel free to contact Aaron Ambrose and Sebastian Margaret. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of us will be in touch! You can also check out our Facebook page here.
We recognize this resource as a collective effort birthed by countless disability activists and community members fighting to insert access, disability, self determination and justice into able bodied spaces. Please share widely and reproduce freely!
Nuts and bolts of accessibility: Provides guidelines about specific ways to increase basic accessibility for your chapter and organising. One type of access does not fit all, yet what has proven true is that increased disability specific access benefits everyone and particularly increases the involvement and relevance for people from marginalized communities; there will be no complete liberation without it.
Disability home manners: Here’s an ever evolving list, of ways we can unlearn ableist behaviour, conduct ourselves with some simple home manners and be better allies to disabled and chronically ill folks.
Disability Justice, anti - ableism and access resources: An assortment of resources and further reading about anti- ableism, access, and Disability Justice
What’s Disability got to do with it?
Ableism works as a mechanism of white supremacy, capitalism and colonization by devaluing disabled* bodies and minds as unnatural, invalid and unworthy across the lines of race, gender, poverty and citizenship. It grants credibility and true humanity exclusively to able bodied people and as such plays a central role in determining which individuals or communities are deemed the useless eaters, the dangerous, the unfit, or the disposable.
image- Sins Invalid and Micah Bazant Description- watercolor portrait of a young black man wearing a black cap and shirt on yellow background. text reads: Justice for Mario Woods / over 50% of people killed by police are disabled *no comprehensive data is collected but available reports show at least half of those killed by police have psych disabilities, these statistics do not include people who have mobility, sensory or developmental impairments or people who are otherwise neurodivergent or sick/chronically ill. Disability Justice Now #Black Lives Matter
Capitalism leverages the ableism that manifests throughout all systems of oppression used to ensure control of the labour and resources needed to maintain dominance domestically and beyond. Those who can produce and contribute to the continued prosperity of a white ruling class are granted degrees of privilege; those who cannot are denied even the lesser of these. Disabled folks have bodies and minds that have never been productive by such power and profit driven standards of merit or worth, which intensifies the level and type of oppression we experience daily. Ableism also operates as a key mechanism in the justification for all manner of state control: forced sterilizations, the removal of children, institutionalization and imprisonment are deemed always as necessary and viable actions when the existence, or mere perception of disability is present.
Disability communities live and breathe at the hubs of environmental racism, poverty, Sovereignty struggles, exploitative working conditions, immigration, homelessness, militarized borders, police violence, incarceration and the state control of all poor communities. These are prime examples of locations where disability and illness are concentrated as a direct consequence of white supremacy, misogyny and ableism working true to their particular design and always in tandem within american capitalism.
As white disability activists we ground this document in the reality that disabled BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) remain largely erased and excluded by white mainstream disability rights organizing. A core tenet of Disability Justice centers the lives and leadership of disabled BIPOC. Disability Justice simultaneously requires white disabled activists to actively engage in racial justice work and further charges non-disabled activists to rigorously embed anti-ableism practice into the very heart of our work .
Disabled and chronically ill people are and always have been an integral part of white community, resistance and culture yet through the absence of anti-ableism practice and basic access, we remain passed over or excluded from politicized and community spaces, and all too often exist only at the margins of racial justice spaces. To deliberately seek out the involvement and leadership of disability activists and community members is vital to our base building work and pivotal to the success of organising for racial justice.
image- an old U.S. postal stamp that reads “hope for the crippled” with a multi colored repeating silhouette of a child slowly standing up from a wheelchair
SURJ’s mission centers the practice of ‘calling in’ as many white people as we can into this work. This is grounded in the belief that while we all have a responsibility to dismantle white supremacy, significant privilege dynamics exist within white communities that need to be acknowledged and boldly addressed in order to build an inclusive, sustainable and expansive movement. To anchor disability politics deep within racial justice work is to implicitly bring to the forefront the critical importance of perspectives and leadership from: the poverty and working classes, non traditional families, rural communities, elders, veterans, all people with dependants, Trans, gender non-conforming and queer folk, formerly incarcerated and homeless communities, people without higher education and all of us who lack the resources, or the privilege needed to access political spaces.
We want to create a movement for racial justice that not only pushes back against disability stereotypes of tragedy, inspiration or irresponsible burden but that also fiercely resists the powerful undercurrents about the ‘feebleminded’, the illiterate or accented people of our lives. These ideas, birthed in ableism, grease the cogs of white supremacy and perpetuate white privilege. The desire to embrace disability justice in action and direction nurtures our capacity to reach a strong and vibrant base, teeming with the brilliant imperfection disability community brings to the table, bringing us all fabulously closer to a racial justice movement emboldened to leave no one behind in our struggle for collective liberation
* when we speak of disability we are celebrating the brilliance and vitality of a vast community of peoples with imperfect bodies and minds whether a disability is visible or not. This includes though is not limited to folks who identify as disabled, chronically ill, Deaf, mad, sick and more.