Disability awareness and inclusion have been improving over the last few decades. But there is still work to do. Disabled people make up 20% of the UK population. Yet, 1 in 3 disabled people feel there is still a lot of prejudice towards them.

Disability facts and figures

We need more people to learn, listen and make changes. We need attitudes towards disability to change. We need accessibility to be embedded in businesses and workplaces. We need everyone to take on the responsibility for making change and being inclusive. One way you can do this is by being a disability ally.

What is a disability ally and why are they important?

1 in 5 people are disabled. But disabled people still experience barriers and negative attitudes. And these can have a massive impact on their lives. Allies can play an important role in changing attitudes and removing barriers.

While many people do their best to be considerate and inclusive, being an ally requires more. A disability ally supports disabled people and uses their privilege to make change. Allies listen to disabled people. They speak out against injustice. And they take action to make sure their organisation is accessible.

Disability allies should not speak on behalf of disabled people. Your goal should always be to amplify the voices of disabled people. And to learn and support wherever you can.

When non-disabled people and disabled people work together, we can make impactful change.

Accessibility and disability: UK research and statistics

5 ways to be a good ally

As a starting point, it’s important to educate yourself. Read about the advantages you might experience as a non-disabled person. Learn more about disability and accessibility. Find out how you can champion disabled people’s rights.

Scope asked disabled people how non-disabled people can be good allies. Here are 5 tips on what you can do:

1. Listen to disabled people

Disabled people often struggle to get their voices heard. We’ll be ignored, talked over, or have people speak for us. We know our own experiences. We know what we need.

If we’re telling you what adjustments we need, listen.

If we’re telling you how we were treated, listen.

If we tell you something is inaccessible, listen.

If you’re designing something for disabled people, listen.

We have a saying ‘nothing about us without us’. An essential part of being an ally is talking to disabled people and listening to what we have to say.

2. Consider your language

Language is powerful, and words can hurt. Language changes and develops over time. Many people grew up using words that are recognised as harmful today.

Start by using social model of disability where you can. Being consistent as an organisation can help. Using social model language can help you create an inclusive working culture.

When talking to individuals, follow the language the disabled person uses.

Talking about disability in the workplace

Ableist language (BBC)

3. Do not assume

Many impairments and conditions are invisible. This means that while they impact a person’s daily life, they cannot be seen just by looking at the person.

For example, dyslexia can make it hard to read or write for some people, but you cannot see it.

Do not assume that someone is or is not disabled. And never assume someone is exaggerating. Or faking disability just because you cannot see it.

Invisible impairments

ITV invisible disabilities campaign

4. Do not push

Disabled people often know their limitations. If they say they cannot do something, listen to them, even if they ‘look ok’. Do not pressure them to change their mind or to agree to something they’re not feeling up to doing. You cannot know how that person feels or what they can do on that day, even if you’ve seen them do it before.

5. Speak out

If you see prejudice, discrimination, or bullying, speak up. An ally who reports or challenges this behaviour is a good ally. When disabled people face these negative attitudes, it can be lonely and upsetting. Make sure you talk to the person who has been targeted. Ask them what you can do to help.

Asking questions

Remember that it is ok to ask questions. But think about how comfortable someone might feel talking about disability. It’s important not to ask invasive questions. Before asking, consider if it’s something you would be happy to answer yourself.

Finally, remember that becoming a good ally is a journey. It is alright if you make mistakes. Learn from them and grow.

Read more tips:

Scope ‘how to be a good ally’ ITV campaign

How to be a good disability ally (Life of a blind girl blog)

Related Scope Products

Workplace culture training

Introduction to disability

Content accessibility training