Looking for Meaningful (and Simple!) New Year Resolution? Start Here. 

 It’s that strange time of year again, the timeless and confusing void between the holiday season and the New Year when it’s unclear whether we should be working, eating, or sleeping. Regardless of how you’re spending these final days of the year, there’s no better time to reflect on the time behind us and start preparing for the year ahead. With that in mind, let’s consider some New Year’s resolutions we can all make to be better allies to the disability community in 2022. The following are some simple, everyday changes we can make to collectively build a more understanding, accessible, and equitable society for disabled people like me (and the millions of us around the world).

  •  Analyze and acknowledge your own ignorance and dedicate yourself to consciously questioning your own biases. This one is huge, but it’s arguably the easiest of them all! Ask yourself what kinds of connotations and assumptions you make about disability in your mind. Do you believe that living with a disability must be a terrible existence? Do you equate disability with tragedy? Do you feel uncomfortable or unsure how to treat disabled people? If you can say yes to any of these questions, that’s okay! Our media has perpetuated false narratives about disability for ages, so it’s natural for you to think about it in overwhelmingly negative ways. Once you’ve acknowledged your bias, consciously work to accept that disabled people are not living tragic lives. In fact, we are successful, social, vibrant, and diverse, and the obstacles we face are largely due to the failures of our society to understand us.
  • Listen to and learn from disabled people! The best way for you to develop a more accurate and authentic understanding of disability is to learn from those of us who live with it every day. Read books by disabled authors. Follow disabled creators and influencers on social media. Listen to podcasts by disabled people. Watch movies and TV shows that have authentically cast disabled roles. There are so many avenues to learn from disabled people!
  •  Join (or start!) a disability-focused employee resource group at your workplace. Employee resource groups (or ERGs) are on the rise at corporate offices around the world. They provide a safe, welcoming environment for employees to gather around shared interests or life factors. Your ERG might consider bringing in outside speakers to share their work in the disability community. Or perhaps you can use the ERG as a starting point for accessibility initiatives within your workplace. Your HR department will be a helpful starting point to learning about whether a disability ERG exists or can be created within your company.
  • Turn on captions! This one is super straightforward. With so much of our work and entertainment going virtual these days, turning on closed captioning features is a great way to make events, meetings, and entertainment more accessible. Also, when posting images to your own social media, consider using Image Descriptions or Alt-Text to make your posts available to people using screen-reader technology.
  • Speak up when you notice inaccessible places. Does your favorite restaurant have a ramp for wheelchair users? Do your university’s restrooms have grab bars for people with mobility disabilities? Does your office label important places and items with Braille signage? Very often, accessibility shortcomings are just a result of an oversight by the owners or managers. Gently but firmly bringing it to their attention can catalyze important accessibility improvements.
  •  Share your story! If you live with a disability, and you feel comfortable doing so, consider sharing more of your experiences in whatever way feels natural to you. It can be through conversations with friends, posting on social media, or creating art like videos, books, and more. There’s still a huge gap in disability representation in our public discourse, so we need you to make your voice heard! Another great way to get involved is by joining BraunAbility’s Driving Force, which aims to highlight the experiences of disabled people and caregivers.

The clock is telling me it’s nearing dinner time. I swear I just ate, but I’m also not sure what day of the week it is today, so who am I to argue? One thing is certain, a new year is fast approaching, and those of us in the disability community would be thrilled if you made this the year that you resolve to become one of our allies. Happy New Year!

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