“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.“
“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.
“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
“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.
“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
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: This Moment in Disability, Dignity, and Human Rights
An earlier version of these remarks was shared at Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, California on March 3, 2018. I deeply appreciated their welcome when I was invited to address their community by Anne Cohen, an activist, disabled parent, and board member at the organization where I am Director of Development, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) or, as Anne has dubbed it, “the ACLU of disability rights.” CBJ’s cross-disability access allowed me to take the first step in organizing community support: communicate.
I grew up with a disability, one that is genetic. I have been a plaintiff in an ADA access case here in California. It involved a bathroom. That required a lot of talking publicly about my using the bathroom. For disabled people like me – physically disabled — being disabled means never knowing where your next accessible public bathroom is. Today. Nearly thirty years after the ADA was passed. And keep in mind those 30 years coincide with my fundraising career in social justice non-profits and their philanthropic allies. Those are whole decades of trying my best to use empathy and imagination to shift that stubborn disability narrative that says I receive but can’t give. That disability is a health thing. That I need a cure when a toilet would be preferable. That I am charity, personified, not justice, denied.
If the grand success of the 20th century was the rise of disability as an accepted political identity, we intend for the 21st century to be the time when disability is recognized as the constant but hidden variable in nearly all formulas for global human rights. Including disability as a given factor in most people’s lives is essential to successfully advancing the rights of people who are members of minority communities, survivors of violence and/conflict zones, and veterans; people who live with chronic ailments and have survived catastrophic illness, people who are young and old; male, female, and anywhere on the gender spectrum. While disability has been understood as “different and divided” I believe it can come to be seen as “unique and united.”
As you sit sweating under an increasingly sweltering sun this day, feeling the inevitable effects of a wasteful attitude toward natural resources, you may not be thinking of another type of catastrophic loss caused by another type of massive denial. I speak of almost no one’s favorite topic: Disability. How denying disability’s central role in just about every human life relegates significant chunks of our lives — and worse still, people-sized chunks — to the rubbish heap. It may be that “disabled” doesn’t feel like a word that fits who you are. Fine. Have you ever felt vulnerable? Think of “vulnerable” as a gateway word to a chronic case of disability-speak.