Throughout our local communities and across the globe, protests are taking place in response to racism and discrimination that exists in our society. What’s happening in our world right now gives us pause for thought and motivates us to take action. But with COVID-19 and as a person with a disability, do you feel safe participating in a protest? If you feel passionate about a movement what can you do to support it? Here is some information and resources on how to get involved and effect change while staying safe.
Educate yourself and those around you
Do this through reading, research or reaching out to organizations doing important work. Take accountability for your learning and don’t rely on others. You are in charge of your education.
Have conversations with friends and family about your cause.
Share your feedback on accessibility to event organizers and other organizations so they can improve the way they carry out their work. Here are some resources on how to host more accessible meetings.
Seek out information from trusted sources. This is a helpful guide from the Toronto Public Library on how to spot the difference between “fake news” and factual, reliable news.
If you are specifically interested in learning more about Disability Justice, watch this workshop hosted by Creating Accessible Neighbourhoods and Connectra. Or check out the virtual workshops hosted by Crip Camp that runs until August 30, 2020. There are a ton of guest speakers, topics and conversations to be a part of!
Vote. Your vote is your voice – don’t be afraid to use it.
Sign petitions – every name on a petition adds legitimacy to the campaign. It shows what matters to you most, and by sharing, it shows your friends and family what issues are important to you.
Call or email your local mayor, city or town council, and your MP or MLA. You can use this link to find your MLA by entering your postal code. Or visit this website to view all MPs in the province and find out who represents your region.
Attend a Town Hall (virtual Town Halls are more common these days) and voice your opinions to local politicians and your community.
Support those at the forefront
Do you have loved ones headed out to rallies and protests? If you want to help those who are working on-the-ground, you can collect supplies and items that are necessary for frontline work, like phone chargers, water, non-perishable snacks, etc.
Offer to assist with childcare, household chores or other means of support for those who are attending protests.
Make a donation
If you have extra funds, you can find a charity or non-profit that supports a cause you are passionate about and make a donation.
If possible, you can donate medical supplies to people working as medics at protests or rallies.
Donate your time by volunteering with a non-profit that aligns with your values. There are often a lot of opportunities that you don’t require you to leave your home. Maybe you have a knack for web design, editing photos, writing emails, crunching numbers or answering phone calls – all of these things (and more) are valuable contributions.
Support businesses that support your cause
Be aware of what companies and businesses you are supporting and choose to shop at the ones who you believe in.
Listen to and empathize with those who have lived experiences
Listening is a skill that takes time and practise to learn. Here are some tips to help those around you: Choose the right time and place by ensuring you’re both available and free from distraction. Maintain eye contact with them to show you’re being attentive. From time to time, rephrase what they’ve told you to make it clear you are trying to understand them. Make a point of asking if you’ve understood correctly, and listen to feedback. Avoid judgement and empathize with their experience.
Spread the word
Be active in your social circles and on social media. You can share resources and links to reliable information to those who want to learn more.
Write articles or blogs about your cause or your experience with it.
Create an online survey and share the results.
Follow active members of your cause on social media, sign up for organizational newsletters, monitor applicable news outlets, blogs or websites.
Create art that amplifies your message and supports your cause – photography and videos can be very effective ways of sending a message. Share with friends, family and on social channels.
Reach out to the press and bring your message to a larger group of people.
Reach out for support
Our InfoLine staff can help support you in your journey by providing further tools on advocacy and connecting you with local organizations or government resources. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-689-2477. You can also visit our SCI Info Database for more info and disability-related resources.
If you do ultimately decide to attend a protest, it’s important to be prepared. Follow the advice of health professionals and the guidelines laid out by your provincial and local health authorities to minimize your risk of transmitting or spreading COVID-19. Maintain social distancing and make sure to wear a mask if social distancing is not possible, or is hard to maintain. You should also follow proper handwashing hygiene and monitor your health closely before and after attending the event. If you aren’t feeling well, stay home and wait for another opportunity to protest when it’s safer to do so. To learn more about SCI and COVID-19 read our FAQ blog.
A few years ago, we compiled a list of helpful tips on how to navigate crowded events as a person with a disability. Read these tips before you head out the door so you have a game plan for the day!
Remember – it starts with you
Most importantly, remember to rest and take care of yourself. You can’t help make change happen if you don’t stay safe and also take care of yourself. Have a regular check-in with yourself. Recognize that advocacy is hard, emotional work and be accepting and responsive to your needs.