You would like to support your chronically ill/ disabled friends but are unsure how? Here are 4 ways you can show support.
What is an Ally? An Ally, in this case, is someone who is able-bodied, but ready to listen to what we have to say, ready to dismantle ableism together with us and generally someone who is on our side.
Someone who is there to support us.
But how can you be supportive of people with chronic illness and/or disability? And why do we need this in the first place?
There are different ways in which you can show support, but the most important thing is: be open minded and ready to learn from us. By reading this article, you’re already doing the first step, and that’s awesome!
I came up with different ways to show support, but I am sure, there are many more. If you have any other ideas, please let me know in the comments or contact me on social media!
Why do we need Allies?
Ableism is deeply rooted in our society and people with disabilities or chronic illness often face discrimination. This is why it is important to have people on our side, who understand, what we are going through, and who are there to support us.
Many people who are able-bodied don’t understand, what the experience with chronic illness or disability is like, and what things we are fighting against.
Healthy people likely don’t know what it’s like to be dismissed by one doctor after the other. To be told time and time again, that it’s all “just in our heads”. How hard it is to get even the bare minimum. To be dismissed as “drug seekers” or “attention seekers”.
That you don’t just get the tests, the treatments, the accessibility tools that you need. How every little thing that you need, you need to fight for. Oh, the amounts of paperwork!
Many people don’t know, how hard it is to get employed and maintain employment with a disability. How hard it is, when your own family members don’t believe you or are unwilling or unable to support you. How incredibly exhausting it is to get people to believe you, to then be dismissed because your disability is not visible at first sight.
We often need to become advocates and activists in order to survive and get what we need, but it is exhausting. And the thing is- we are already dealing with our symptoms on a daily basis, many people simply don’t have the energy to fight for their rights every single day. It’s simply not sustainable without support from able-bodied people.
Things need to chance on a systemic level, but they won’t change, if able-bodied people don’t have our backs.
What can you do to become an ally?
1. Listen to us
People often have no idea what it’s really like to be disabled. There are so many misconceptions around the topic of disability, that we need to dismantle. But we can only do that, if we are being heard!
You won’t learn anything about it, if you are not willing to listen to those, who are affected by ableism on a daily basis.
When we say: “disabled is not a bad word. It is not an insult”, then listen to us.
Be aware of your language and how it maybe reproduces stereotypes that are hurtful.
Instead of saying “She’s so pretty, despite her disability!”, just say: “She’s so pretty!”
Instead of saying: “He’s a hero, because he overcame his illness”, you can say “Everyone who experiences chronic illness is valuable, even if they don’t overcome it”.
Instead of giving unsolicited advice, really listen to us and what it is, that we need.
Maybe you haven’t been aware of many of these things, and maybe you’re still learning, and that’s ok! It’s great that you are willing to learn, the more people are willing to do that, the better!
2. Believe us
Don’t question the experience of a person with a disability, only because it doesn’t fit the stereotype. Newsflash: We are all individual people, with individual stories and needs. We can’t all fit into the same stereotype.
You can look normal at first glance, and still be disabled.
You can have a good day one day and have fun, and still be sick.
Being outspoken doesn’t make us “attention seekers”.
We are being doubted enough, even within medicine, and it’s horrible. If we have to fight against medical gaslighting, it’s important to have our friends and family on our side.
We all have internalized ableism, it’s time to dismantle it! So believe those, who are affected, when they say, what affects them and how it could be better.
3. Spread the word
Many people with disabilities or chronic illness are very outspoken about their conditions and their experiences, because we have to be. We have to educate those around us, to make them understand what we are going through. Especially when it comes to rare illnesses or conditions that are very misunderstood- education is incredibly important!
Those are often serious topics, and that can be hard. Due to the seriousness of the topic, many able-bodied people seem to shy away from it. They don’t seem to know what to say, so they say nothing. But this doesn’t help anybody! Don’t be shy! As us questions, just ask them politely and respect our boundaries.
But this is important: Share our stories! Help us raising awareness because we can’t do it alone. So, help us grow our social media pages! Share our posts, blog articles, videos and other resources.
Educational posts around disability and chronic illnesses are often shared within the community, but we also need able-bodied people, and those who are not affected, to hear what we have to say, because it’s often their ableism that is affecting us.
So please share our posts, even if it doesn’t directly affect you. It really means a lot to us.
People with disabilities and chronic illnesses are often affected by poverty. Due to our symptoms, we might not be able to work. Due to a lack of accessibility, we might not be able to even get a job. Jobs need to become more accessible, and there needs to be a better understanding of disability from employees, so discrimination can be avoided.
Also, living with a disability or a chronic illness is very expensive. All those medical bills, medication, supplements, certain foods that are appropriate for our diets, higher transportation costs, all those accessibility tools… it all costs a lot of money.
There are different ways you can show financial support:
Donate or buy directly:
Do you know a content creator who is affected by disability or chronic illness? Buy their art, support their businesses, subscribe to their patreons, etc. Maybe someone is in need and has a gofundme page. If you like what they do, please consider supporting them financially if you can.
Donate to charities:
There are so many charities who fight for different causes. Some make research possible, some fight for the rights of those affected. You can support those affected by supporting their cause. If you know any charities: please share them!
As you may know, I am affected by ME/CFS, so here are some charities that support this cause:
Are there any charities you recommend? Feel free to let me know in the comments!
So how can you become a great Ally?
Be open minded and be ready to learn! Don’t shy away from those topics (or from the people who are affected!) because you are scared to say the wrong thing.
If you are unsure of what to say- It is ok to ask questions! Just remember to be polite. But the fact that you are interested and care about not hurting anybody’s feelings is already a great thing!
I am very glad to have lots of people in my life who are amazing allies. They are open to listen, they believe me, and they help me spread the message. I am incredibly thankful for that and you have no idea, how much it means.
If you liked this article- please share it with your friends and families and let them know, how they can be an Ally to you!
If you have anything to add- please let me know in a comment or contact me on social media!
With love, Rea