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”

Your pronouns are:
she/hers
Current Job Title(s) and Organization(s) (if applicable):
I’m the Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project®, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. 
Years in philanthropy on both the fund-seeking and fund-giving sides:
1-5
Number of years in the workforce prior to 2007, when there was a surge into social media?
10
Number of years in the workforce prior to 1990, when the ADA was passed?
0
Number of years in the workforce prior to 1977, when the federal Section 504 regulations were signed?
0

Multi-colored hexagons“Many foundations and grant-makers are talking about social inequality and racism more explicitly and that’s long overdue. However, I don’t believe many in philanthropy ever used the word ‘ableism’ in their materials or website related to any work on social justice, discrimination, and inequality.”


Have you held any positions that make funding decisions and/or sets funding priorities?
I’m a Board member for a family foundation focused on healthcare and a member of a small giving group composed of all disabled people, the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter.
Are you currently opening identifying as disabled, managing a chronic illness, and/or dealing with aging issues in your workplace or with contracting companies, or in volunteer roles? 
Yes
Do you have any colleagues on your team or in your organization who identify as disabled/chronically ill/aging?
Not currently.
Do any of the funding decision-makers who are your peers, or who you report to, identify as disabled/chronically ill/aging?
Yes
Have you had any ongoing connections with other disabled/chronically ill/aging philanthropy professionals where you can support each other?
Yes
Have you felt it was difficult to build strong relationships with peer colleagues, superiors, donors because of communication barriers?
No

Multi-colored hexagons“Giving can be small and large scale–they all make a huge impact, in particular to marginalized communities. I find that multiply marginalized people give so much to their communities already–their time, labor, material support, money, and wisdom. Being involved in philanthropy is another extension of that.”


Have you ever been provided with professional development, mentorship, and/or leadership training programs where you didn’t have to provide informal programmatic and/or physical access advising? 
No
Have you ever experienced what you consider significant secondary stress, anxiety, and/or fear about meeting professional expectations because of disability/chronic illness/aging-related barriers and/or stigma?
 No
Have you ever left a position because of disability/chronic illness/aging-related barriers and/or policies made continuing in the position untenable?
No
Have you ever been told in a work performance-related conversation with a superior that your presence is an inspiration to others, and/or that your presence in the workplace is itself remarkable?
No
Have you ever been physically touched, grabbed, patted on the head, had your assistive equipment handled without your consent by a peer, superior, or donor in a work environment?
No
Have you ever struggled to participate in team-building exercises, workplace wellness programs, or other initiatives that were optional but not understood as presenting access barriers?
Yes

Multi-colored hexagons“I’d like to see opportunities such as paid internships, mentoring, and other forms of professional development that are specifically for us.”


Have you belonged to any other employee resource groups (ERGs), affinity groups for disabled/chronically ill/aging people? Any for other groups (parents, LGBT, etc.) where you found support?
No
What has your most positive experience of being disabled/chronically ill/aging in your philanthropic work life been?
I like the feeling of being a disabled person and having the ability to make decisions that will give other disabled people money that they need in order to pursue their interests. This gives me great satisfaction.
Giving can be small and large scale–they all make a huge impact, in particular to marginalized communities. I find that multiply marginalized people give so much to their communities already–their time, labor, material support, money, and wisdom. Being involved in philanthropy is another extension of that.
What type of system changes or workplace policy in philanthropic spaces have/would you recommend, based on your experience of disability/chronic illness/aging?
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. Things are improving but not for people with disabilities.
I’d like to see opportunities such as paid internships, mentoring, and other forms of professional development that are specifically for us. 
How has philanthropy’s understanding of ableism affected your work? (Specific examples don’t have to be lengthy but they will convey a lot to a reader.)
Many foundations and grant-makers are talking about social inequality and racism more explicitly and that’s long overdue. However, I don’t believe many in philanthropy ever used the word “ableism” in their materials or website related to any work on social justice, discrimination, and inequality.
The 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.

THANK YOU, ALICE!


Multi-colored hexagonsEach Monday, the Disabled in Development Project (DiD) will feature one disabled, chronically ill and/or aging Storyteller who will share their experience in advancing disability equity in philanthropy and fundraising.

DiD’s community development goal is to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities. DiD Storytellers educate funders about ableism, celebrate advances in disability inclusion, and testify to the ableist structural barriers they’ve encountered, and that may have halted their career advancement or forced them out.

All Storytellers self-select questions to answer from an extensive list. All Storytellers are modestly compensated for providing their expertise on how to move disability inclusion from principle to practice in philanthropy and fundraising.

If you’d like to become a Storyteller or Field Ally, contact DiD Founder and Director Ingrid Tischer at itischer@talesfromthecrip.org. Tell your truth about our disabled labor to transform philanthropy!

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