Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #9: Alex Tabony

Good introductions should be considered part of universal design.

Color photo of Alex Tabony, a white man, looking relaxed and happy

Photo courtesy of Alex Tabony


Multi-colored hexagonsEmployers are often focused on obtaining the ‘best and the brightest’ and have defined that, in part, as having a profile that typically PWD (people with disabilities) do not have because of missed developmental opportunities and/or non-traditional backgrounds for the position.


Name or Anonymous:
Alex Tabony
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
Call me Alex.
Here’s a little more about me. Since 1999, I’ve dedicated my life to help break the cycle of poverty for people disabilities and the economically disadvantaged. Employment is the key to a life of independence. I develop and maintain programs that go right to the heart of the issues and produce remarkable successes. My hat is off to those who take the challenge and I am so proud to be part of the process of transforming.
As Computer Technologies Program‘s Executive Director, I’m responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of the organization. Other key duties include fundraising and community outreach.

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #8: Emily Ladau

The biggest gap in organizational commitments to disability inclusion continues to be a lack of inclusive hiring.

Color photo of Ladau, a youthful white woman, sitting and smiling

Photo courtesy of Emily Ladau


Multi-colored hexagonsCurrently, it seems a lot of organizations are beginning to recognize disability as an area for funding, but it’s time to move beyond a charity perspective.


Name or Anonymous:
Emily Ladau
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a disability rights activist, writer, speaker, and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10, when I appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about life with a physical disability.
My writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, SELF, Salon, Vice, and HuffPost and I have served as a source for outlets including NPR, Vox, and Washington Post. I have spoken before numerous audiences across the United States, ranging from lectures at universities to conference keynote presentations.
At the core of my work is a focus on disability identity, sharing our stories, and harnessing the powers of communication and social media as tools for people to become engaged in disability and social justice issues. More about my work can be found on my website, Words I Wheel By.

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #7: Judy Heumann

Philanthropy is not different than other fields. If there isn’t meaningful inclusion of disability across the organization, ableism is occurring.

Photo of Judy Heumann in her powerchair, laughing

Photo courtesy TEDX


Multi-colored hexagonsMy most positive experience was working at The Ford Foundation when they wanted to learn about barriers we face and what Ford needed to do to become more educated and inclusive.”


Name or Anonymous:  Judy Heumann
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
It depends on the situation.  Typically Judy Heumann, sometimes Judith Heumann, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, The Ford Foundation 2017-2018
I’m now building an online presence under The Heumann Perspective through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This new project is intended to broaden and spur discussions on the intersectionality of disability rights.

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #6: Cara Liebowitz

My fundraising career has been very affected by the income restrictions imposed by public benefits systems.

Color photo of Cara Liebowitz, a youthful white woman with shoulder-length brown hair and glasses, who is smiling.

Photo courtesy of the Disabled and Proud Conference


Multi-colored hexagons“It’s hard to work in this sector and to be asking mostly people with disabilities for money.  People with disabilities are disproportionately low income, and the system keeps us poor… And if foundations aren’t interested in funding disability rights and individual donors just can’t give enough, where does that leave us?”


Name:  Cara Liebowitz
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a multiply-disabled activist and writer.  I’m the Development Coordinator at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), where I handle all of our grant-writing, fundraising, and partnerships.  I like cats, country music, and books about plagues.

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #5: Tiffany Yu

To say that we can only be charity recipients is another way our community is dehumanized.”


Color photo of Tiffany Yu, an Asian-American woman in a bright blue shirt, looking off to the side and smiling.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Yu

Multi-colored hexagonsI look to other movements for best practices and learnings that we can bring back to the disability community. I also acknowledge that we are still working on making all of our movements more intersectional.”


Name:  Tiffany Yu
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I am building and funding things I wish existed when I was younger. Today, I’m on a mission to increase access and opportunity in the disability community.
I do that as the CEO & Founder of Diversability, an award-winning social enterprise focused on building community through the celebration of our diverse disability lived experiences and as the Founder of the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter, which has awarded $30,500 in grants to 31 disability projects in 6 countries. I also serve as a Mayoral-appointed member of the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council and am 2019 California Miss Amazing, serving as an ambassador for girls and women with disabilities. I have had the opportunity to share our work at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, TEDx, and media outlets like Forbes, Marie Claire, and the Guardian.

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #4: Marsha Saxton

I would like to see nonprofits and NGOs all around the world have more power in relation to philanthropy.


A white woman of middle-age who has short blonde hair and is wearing a pleasant expression.

Photo courtesy of Marsha Saxton

 

 

 

Multi-colored hexagonsI would like younger leaders, women and people with disabilities, to not have to go through the tokenization that I experienced as a younger person. I submitted to this because I didn’t really recognize what was happening to me at the time, and was afraid, and made to feel grateful to have a meeting or participate in conference with philanthropy.”


Name:  Marsha Saxton
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a researcher and scholar. I’ve been interviewed on 60 Minutes and Talk of the Nation and served on the boards of Our Bodies, Ourselves Collective; the Council for Responsible Genetics; and the Ethics Working Group of the Human Genome Initiative. I’ve published three books, several films, and over one hundred articles and book chapters about disability rights, personal assistance, women’s health, nutrition, employment, violence prevention, genetic screening, disaster preparedness and climate crisis impact on the disability community.
I like the slogans, “Nothing about us without us,” and “Power to the people with disabilities!” I tell my students, “The Disability Rights Movement is one of the most successful movements for human rights in the history of the world – although we still have a ways to go.”

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #3: Alice Wong

There needs to be targeted outreach to the disability community to recruit people into philanthropy. Philanthropy has to deal with its elitism, classism, and lack of diversity.


Photo courtesy of Alice Wong.








Multi-colored hexagonsThe philanthropic field has a lot of work to do to learn and reflect on systemic ableism, and take concrete steps (not just lip service) on how their actions and policies reflect their commitment to anti-ableism.


Name:  Alice Wong
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a disability activist, media maker, and consultant based in San Francisco. I’m the Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project® (DVP), an online community dedicated to creating, sharing and amplifying disability media and culture created in 2014. Currently, I’m the Editor of Disability Visibility, an anthology of essays by disabled people, coming out summer 2020 by Vintage Books. I also work as an independent research consultant as part of my side hustle. You can find me on Twitter: @SFdirewolf.
Or just think of me as:
“Night owl, picky eater, disabled activist living in San Francisco”

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #2: Heather Watkins

I was once asked to serve on an evaluation committee that didn’t mention an honorarium and when asked, they replied that they didn’t generally pay volunteers. My response to that absurdity was that this was a policy they should revisit because evaluating applications is a good deal of work…Long story short, they gave my feedback consideration and their parent funder freed up more funding so that they were able to pay the entire evaluation committee. I was asked again and agreed to take on the evaluation responsibility under paid conditions that valued my time as a disabled person.


ight complected black woman with dark brown hair pulled up into a bun on top of head, wearing light makeup and blue earrings, shown chest up, smiling and looking at camera, wearing blue and white patterned blouse and open button-up olive-colored jacket.

Photo Courtesy of Heather Watkins


Sometimes I feel like there is a lack of racial and cultural understanding/comprehension that does become a barrier.”


Name: Heather Watkins
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I am a Black disabled woman who is a disability advocate, author, blogger, mother, and graduate of Emerson College with a B.S. in Mass Communications. I was born with muscular dystrophy, serve on a handful of disability-related boards, and am a former Chair of the Boston Disability Commission Advisory Board.
I’m also a co-founder of “Divas with Disabilities Project,” a supportive sisterhood network representing women of color with disabilities. My publishing experience includes articles in MDA’s Quest magazine, Mass Rehab Commission’s Consumer Voice newsletter and I’ve blogged for Our Ability, Artoflivingguide.org, Disabled Parenting, Grubstreet, Rooted In Rights, Womens Media Center, and Thank God I.
My short story, “Thank God I have Muscular Dystrophy” was published in 2013 as part of compilation in the Thank God I…Am an Empowered Woman ® book series. My blog Slow Walkers See More includes reflections and insight from my life with disability.

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Disabled in Development Project Storyteller #1: Sandy Ho

“The idea of disabled people supporting disabled-led projects resonated with the community organizer side of me that does not often have access to being on the other side of the philanthropic world, as grantors.” -Sandy Ho


Sandy Ho, an Asian American woman with dark curly hair sits in a black power wheelchair. She is wearing a blue tshirt with a superman logo, she also has brightly colored plaid shorts on and black sneakers. Her facial expression is one of outraged protest and in both upraised fists she holds oversized wooden knitting needles.


Multi-colored hexagons“Either I risked losing money because I made “too much” income, or I risked losing it because I didn’t fill out the bottomless pit of forms every year as required by the government. In that sense I internalized money and the concept of philanthropy as something that wasn’t meant for me to access.”


Name: Sandy Ho
Please share how you prefer to introduce yourself:
I’m a disability community-organizer, activist, and disability policy researcher. I’m also the founder of the Disability & Intersectionality Summit, a biennial national conference organized by disabled activists that centers marginalized disabled people.
In 2015 I was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for my work in mentoring for transitional-age disabled women. I’m one third of the team behind Access Is Love, a campaign that is co-partnered by Alice Wong and Mia Mingus, and serve as a Trustee of the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter.
My areas of work include disability justice, racial justice, intersectionality, and disability studies. I’m a disabled queer Asian American woman whose writing has been published by Bitch Media online.
Your pronouns are:  she/her/hers 
Current Job Title(s) and Organization(s) (if applicable):
Founder and Co-Organizer of Disability & Intersectionality Summit.
Years in philanthropy on both the fund-seeking and fund-giving sides: 
Less than 5 years.

Multi-colored hexagons“More often than not, I am asked to provide some kind of advising around physical access.”  #OurDisabledLaborDay


Number of years in the workforce prior to 2007, when there was a surge into social media? Continue reading

Celebrate #OurDisabledLaborDay With the Disabled in Development Project

DiD’s first Storyteller goes live on Monday, 9/2/19 – and all I’m going to say about them is, “They’re AWESOME.”

We’re taking the whole thing easy ’cause it’s Labor Day! Our next Storyteller will follow the next Monday.


The Disabled in Development Project (DiD) is about advancing disability equity in philanthropy and fundraising. Because access to funding is an equity issue.

Our representation matters because access to funding is a critical component in dismantling structural ableism.
Telling our stories matters because we need to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities.
DiD is our storytelling place to both celebrate advances in disability inclusion and to testify to the ableist structural barriers we’ve encountered, and that may have halted our career advancement or forced us out. Tell your truth about our disabled labor to transform philanthropy!

1 in 4 people in the US has a disability. 3% of folks in philanthropy identify as disabled. 3% of funding goes to disability-related work. Which all adds up to the reality that disabled people don’t typically win in the funding arena.

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#MoreThanMoney: Turning Disability Into Social Capital in Philanthropy

“1 in 4 people in the US has a disability. 3% of folks in philanthropy identify as disabled. 3% of funding goes to disability-related work. Which all adds up to the reality that disabled people don’t typically win in the funding arena.”


I’m delighted to present The Final Director’s Cut of the presentation given at the 10th AweSummit on behalf of our Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter. 

I had posted an earlier version on Facebook but wanted it to be easier to share and have audio descriptions. Here are two, the first with text-only descriptions and fewer images, and the second with more images and complete descriptions. Scroll down further for a transcript of the second.
/drumroll/
As I’ve said elsewhere about access:

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Behind the DiD Project: One Story About Secrecy, Silence, and Stigma at Work in Fundraising and Philanthropy

Underwater photo view of iceberg with beautiful transparent sea on background

Those of us who can tell our stories openly about disability, chronic illness, and aging in philanthropy and fundraising are the tip of the iceberg. Our numbers are small compared to those who feel compelled to keep that aspect of who they are hidden under the water-line. Photo credit: Ales Utovko

I’m not sure when I started to notice the pattern.

I’d raise some disability access issue at work and, not long after, a colleague would tell me privately that they had a disability and/or a chronic illness. They didn’t feel safe disclosing it and, therefore, couldn’t ask for any accommodations for it.

These kind of workplace stories are a big part of what’s behind the Disabled in Development Project and how, when viewed collectively, they add up to system failures and structural ableism that is well beyond any individual’s ability to “overcome.” While DiD’s also about sharing stories of the significant progress toward inclusion being made in philanthropy and fundraising, giving space to testify openly about ableism in our own sector is essential for context. 


The situation would be making doing their job harder and they appreciated being able to vent to me. Would I please keep it a secret? Of course I would. And I did. Even when having more numbers on my side would have helped me argue that this-or-that barrier solution should be a priority, despite time and money limitations.
I remember this happening as far back as the late 90s and the confiding confessions continue to this day, socially and at meetings and conferences, though not in my current workplace, DREDF.

I’ll describe one particular situation but keep identifying details out as best I can. This whole episode still bothers me:


Multi-colored hexagonsI worked with a fundraising teammate who had a different but complementary skill-set from mine. They were very good at what they did, from the outset.
We had a superior, also newish, who was a toucher. As in, a touch on your arm for emphasis, that kind of thing. My teammate told them early on that they did not like to be touched and please don’t ever do it, it was very upsetting to them. (I witnessed this.)
Our superior kept right on touchin’.

Part of any system is access to the system. If access is blocked by stigma, that is itself a system problem.


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Disabled in Development Project Field Allies FAQs

“Stigma-busting tales of bringing our disabilities, chronic illnesses, and aging to our work in philanthropy and fundraising”

FAQs for Field Allies

What’s the purpose of the Disabled in Development Project?

Founded in 2019 by Ingrid Tischer, the purpose of the Disabled in Development (DiD) Project is to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities.

What do you want from Field Allies?

Field allies of the Disabled in Development Project (DiD) are friends and supporters who help share DiD with potential storytellers and other like-minded allies.
In choosing to let me list your name and a blurb about you as a Field Ally, you show solidarity with DiD’s efforts to dismantle structural ableism and advance representational leadership in philanthropy and fundraising.
You might be a connector —  someone who isn’t a DiD story-teller yourself – who knows people who might want to be storytellers.
Or you’re with an organization that wants to stand with DiD in saying,
“Disability inclusion, equity, and representation are essential to powerful philanthropy and fundraising, and centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities is the way to go.”
Or you’re both!
You help encourage your community to participate and share their stories. You also publicize this campaign among your professional and informal social networks.
Here are some general guidelines:
  • Please let me know if you’d like to help get the word out. If you would, please email me and let me know if I can list you or your organization as one of our Field Allies.

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Reclaim Labor Day When the First DiD Stories Go Live on 9/2/19

Coming Soon!

The first DiD stories will go live on Monday, September 2, 2019.

Why that day? Because Labor Day has many wonderful traditions and history associated with it. But one of them wasn’t so great for disabled people or fundraising:

For decades, the MDA Labor Day Telethon was where Jerry Lewis spread such damaging messages about disabled people as, “My kids cannot go into the workplace.”

Yes, that’s the past and name-checked just those of us with muscular dystrophy. But the charity model it came from is still all-too alive and well in fundraising and philanthropy.

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Welcome to the Disabled in Development (DiD) Project

Disability in Development (DiD) Project: Telling Our Truth to Transform Philanthropy

Connect. Belong. Succeed.

Access icon in blue and whiteThe Disabled in Development (DiD) Project is seeking out non-profit staff who hold fundraising responsibilities, and development and philanthropic professionals already in the field – some for decades – for their constructive advice on how to put inclusion principles into practice.
DiD is our place to document advances in inclusion and to testify to ableist structural barriers that we encounter and that all-too often halt our career advancement or force us out. Your stories are important.

Quick Links to More Information

Philanthropy has been changing for the better over the past 2 years or so, when it comes to disability and inclusion. The numbers alone indicate dramatic need for change: Just 3% of philanthropy identifies as disabled and funding for global disability civil and human rights advocacy fell by 23% between 2011-2015.

Getting more openly disabled people at philanthropic tables is the right thing to do. But being at the table isn’t the goal. Our representation matters because of our wealth — of expertise, skills, and relationships. DiD’s goal is to make philanthropy more powerful.

We’re all stronger when we connect, belong, succeed.

To achieve that, DiD will help improve philanthropy’s understanding of what ableism is, and how it — not disability — causes exclusion and inequity. This will strengthen philanthropy’s capacity to fight ableism. Philanthropy needs disabled, chronically ill, and aging people in order to become a better, more powerful force for social change.  
DiD provides an accessible outlet for making disability more visible and less stigmatized in the philanthropic sector, increasing the sector’s access to our profoundly marginalized expertise.

HERE’S WHAT’S UP, ADVOCACY FUNDERS: You, as part of the incredibly influential philanthropic sector, need diverse disabled fundraisers who are activists fluent in disability culture, politics, and movement history if you are going to achieve inclusion. That means race, class, gender, and LGBTQ discrimination are ALWAYS part of your cross-disability work. A disability organization that says it’s not “strategic” to publicly confront racism or transphobia that devastates disabled lives is not fighting for disability justice. Period. Your first step is realizing that transformation begins within your own organization: ✪ Does your foundation have any “out,” disability culturally competent program staff? ✪ Are your disability-related messages still communicating “charity” instead of justice? ✪ Are your metrics for disability-related projects appropriate? ✪ Do you require fundees to be led by disabled experts in their field? ✪ Are disabled people leading and informing the foundation with regard to work being done in disabled people’s name? If you’re funding other civil and human rights groups, disability justice advocates should be in your portfolio. www.talesfromthecrip.org

Our successes deserve to be known and built on. Our advice should be heard. The barriers that we deal with are often embarrassing, sometimes humiliating, and just as frequently, absurd and infuriating. They make great stories. This is our time to tell them.

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The DiD Project Includes Disability, Chronic Illness, and Aging

Disabled, Chronically Ill, and Aging People’s Representation Matters in Philanthropy and Fundraising

Our expertise and our stories can transform philanthropy and fundraising 
Disabled people, chronically ill people, and aging people can be a powerful coalition in philanthropy. But stigma is also a powerful force that keeps us silent, invisible, and isolated from each other – some of us, for decades. I’ve been an openly disabled fundraiser in the Bay Area for 25 years and I want things to be better for the people coming up.
I want the many people who have quietly persisted in philanthropy and fundraising for years and decades to be included in the equity work happening now.
Telling the truth about work and life by telling our stories is how we connect, belong, and succeed in philanthropy and fundraising.

Do you work/volunteer in philanthropy, work as a development non-profit professional, or hold fundraising responsibilities in your non-profit senior-level position on the staff or board?

Do you also live with one or more disabilities, chronic illnesses, and/or aging-related issues? (The term “disability” need not be used by you but here is used as a catch-all word that includes learning differences, neuro-divergencies, addiction/recovery, and mental health issues.)

If so, philanthropy needs you! Your knowledge is an inside track for how to put disability inclusion principles into practice in the philanthropic sector, as a workplace and social justice force for ending ableism.

Connect. Belong. Succeed.


Contact me to become a DiD Storyteller: Ingrid@talesfomthecrip.org

How You Can Participate in the DiD Project

Here’s how you can share your expertise and experience through Disabled in Development:

First Steps:

  1. See if it’s for you: Check out the process (below), preview the questions.
  2. Send questions or confirm with me at ingrid@talesfromthecrip.org: 1) that you’d like to participate; 2) how you’d like to be compensated (info below); 3) your decision about anonymity; 4) that you accept the Agreements.
  3. I email you a link to a Google doc that only you and I will have access to, where we’ll complete your interview/story.

Then:

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Compensation and Agreements Between You and the Disabled in Development Project

Agreements:

  • I’ll be grateful to you and, as a gesture of thanks for your time and expertise, I’m offering $40 to you through an Amazon gift card or a contribution in your honor to the organization of your choice.
  • None of your answers to the questions below will appear without your permission in anything I post publicly.  
  • You can participate anonymously and use general descriptions for Job Title and Organization, for example.
  • You’ll provide selected specifics at your discretion, rather than try to convey your entire history or the entire details of a situation.
  • You won’t share any information with me that’s connected to an administrative or legal case that you’re involved in and that’s open.

Preview Sample Questions

Want to see a sample of the DiD’s All About You and All About Your Experience sections? Of course you do!

REMINDER: You control what you share. We communicate privately and nothing goes public without your permission.


The ALL ABOUT YOU section gives context for your stories section. Most questions can be answered with Yes, No, N/a. Longer answers are welcome but not expected.
Name or Anonymous:

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