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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Know Your Rights and Readings

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!