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:
I 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.
In no particular order!
Ford Foundation’s Disability & Philanthropy Forum
DiD on disability advocacy funding gap #FundDisAdvocacy
Legal Aid at Work’s Disability Rights program
Equal Rights Advocates’ Know Your Rights program
Transgender Law Center Know Your Rights program
National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities (CNLD)
Disability and Intersectionality Justice Summit (DIJS)
Disability Organizers Network (DOnetwork)
DREDF’s ADA protection fact sheet
Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter
ASAN’s Autism Speaks fact sheet
Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign
Jerry Lewis, Jerry’s Orphans, and the Telethon
Myth of the Ideal Worker
Asset Based Community Development organizing model
Unconscious Bias in the workplace
Rooted in Rights’ video story-telling
Disability Visibility Project story-telling
TRans yoUTH storytelling
More on the way!
“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.
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.
Just the FAQs Version (and DiD Storyteller FAQs):
“Stigma-busting tales of bringing our disabilities, chronic illnesses, and/or aging to our work in philanthropy and fundraising”
The Disabled in Development Project (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. The rallying call: Tell your truth to transform philanthropy!
We’ll be speaking as the experts we are in disability inclusion work, regardless of job title or perceived status. We’ll share what we’ve gone through in bringing our knowledge of disability, chronic illness, and aging to work every day in philanthropy and fundraising.
Because we want to make philanthropy more effective and thus more powerful by centering more disabled people from multiply-marginalized communities.
Though just around 3% of people self-identity as disabled in philanthropy, there are many more of us than that, in addition to disabled, chronically ill, and/or aging non-profit fundraisers. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of it is untapped in current equity and inclusion work.
- You’ve worked/volunteered in philanthropy as foundation staff, consultant, evaluator, trustee, proposal reviewer, board member, or other.
- You’ve worked as a non-profit’s development staff-person, including in support/admin positions.
- You’ve held fundraising responsibilities in a non-profit senior-level position, on the board or staff.