How ableist is your institution?

By Josefien Cornette

This tool was based on Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh and We Will Not Cancel Us by adrienne maree brown.

Are we as institutions doing enough to make space for people with disabilities? This checklist is unfinished and is merely a beginning for unpacking the invisible barriers of how deeply rooted an ableist bias can be. Yet, the change towards a non-ableist discourse is yours to provide. This is a reflective tool, to start a conversation, or when hung up in a space, an act of activism.

  • I should be able to enter and participate within institutions, with only limited help from others.
  • I can enter, eat, buy, watch, attend… everything that is provided by the institution.
  • There are financial resources available if I’m in need of accessibility.
  • I can take days off, not answer mail, skip meetings, cancel appointments due to my disability without consequences.
  • I am not just tolerated if I fit the required norms of the institution, I am not considered ‘difficult’ or ‘counterproductive’ for my accessibility needs.
  • There is a guarantee that if I approach a ‘person in charge’, I will face a listening, compassionate answer and proactive change. I do not jeopardise my career or chances when I point out a situation or flaw.
  • I am not at random made aware of my body-shape, abilities and physical appearance when participating with the institution. Nor do people stare at me.
  • The institution is taking accountability and responsibility of their inaccessibility and/or ableist bias, by them and their public, towards me without it feeling performative.
  • I am provided adequate support and resources in cases of physical, verbal, psychological and emotional ableist violence.
  • I can enter the institution and see myself widely represented throughout the whole structure.
  • I can see myself in the programme and content of the institution and see my narrative represented, with a physical presence, disability culture and aesthetics.
  • I do not have to talk or create ‘only’ about my disability.
  • When I provide a proposal to the institution, I can work together with them regardless of my disability.
  • People listen to my expertise and knowledge about my craft without regard for my disability.
  • I do not have to educate visitors or employees about structural ableism.
  • I can avoid spending time with people I’ve learned to mistrust or who were learned to mistrust me.
  • I can be sure my environment will react neutrally or pleasant to me.
  • If I raise my voice in a group in which I am the only member with a disability, I will be listened to.
  • I do not have to speak ‘on behalf of my group’.
  • I do not go home feeling isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard or held at a distance.