Episode 94: Skepticism While Disabled

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Emily:                          Hi. I’m Emily Ladau.

Kyle:                            And I’m Kyle Khachadurian.

Emily:                          And you’re listening to another episode of The Accessible Stall.

Kyle:                            What are we going to talk about today, Emily?

Emily:                          I feel compelled to talk about the skepticism that you and I both have surrounding the fact that sometimes nondisabled people actually want to be part of disability advocacy work.

Kyle:                            Wait, they do? That’s weird.

Emily:                          Yeah, it’s kind of a weird thing, and I feel like we need to unpack it because I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, actually.

Kyle:                            Have you?

Emily:                          I have, because – okay, so here’s why. I’m just going to be straight up. The founder of a company that I know of that does things related to disability is not disabled and apparently doesn’t really have much of a connection to disability that I know of, and just, like, thought it was a good idea to do something for the disability community, and instead of me being like, “Hey, cool,” I was like, “What?”

Kyle:                            Yeah. I feel that all the time.

Emily:                          So, yeah, let’s talk about that. Is there a place for nondisabled people in work related to disability, and do you somehow have to have a card? Like, do you need to be a card-carrying member of a community where you at least have a connection to disability, or are you allowed to do work for the disability community if you have no relation to it and don’t have one yourself?

Kyle:                            My instinct is to say yes, but somehow that makes me feel very strange, and I don’t know why. Like, I want to say, of course, in the same way that you can be an ally in any other social justice movement, if you kind of – forgive my turn of phrase, but, know your place, as an ally. If you respect the boundaries of that community. Most communities that I know of don’t really care, as long as you listen and only speak when you know that you’re in the right, and you do all the right things.

But somehow with disability I have found that the people in it who are not disabled, most of them have a personal connection, and, like you, when I see or hear about someone that doesn’t, I’m like – I have that exact same thing, where it’s like, “Good for you for doing the work. That’s really awesome. But why are you doing that?” Like, I doubt their sincerity, and I don’t with any other movement, and I don’t think that’s because I’m only part of this one. Like, I really – I mean, it could be, right? Because I have a personal investment in it. But I don’t think it is, because I don’t do that with anything else.

Emily:                          Yeah, but you raised, like, eight million good points, and I wanted to focus first on the fact that “ally” should be a verb and not a title. And I think that in order to meaningfully be an ally, if you’re actually going to do something that benefits the disability community, then you probably don’t deserve my skepticism.

But at the same time, I guess I find myself skeptical maybe just because I know so many people who do identify as a quote-unquote “ally,” and then that really just means that they, you know, share something on social media that made them feel good about disability and then they pat themselves on the back and they’re like, “Wow, I did an ally today.”

Kyle:                            Yeah. That – well, that happens in a lot of other movements too.

Emily:                          Of course.

Kyle:                            But, yeah. No, or shares, like, in the CP world – and I’m sure you’ve seen this. I mean, you know, even though you don’t have CP. But, like, those shirts with the green ribbon that says, like, “In this house, we have cerebral palsy, but cerebral palsy doesn’t have us.” Or something like that. You know. And it’s like –

Emily:                          I haven’t heard that particular turn of phrase, but that’s really funny.

Kyle:                            Oh. You’re really missing out. Or at least you would be, if you just had CP. No, but – I mean, but there’s tons of that. And I see those things and it makes me cringe, but I can even – like, I look at those things and I’m like, okay, you’re doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and you’re showing your support – which is valid – in the worst way. Are you a bad ally? Probably not, but, like, please learn when people tell you not to do that. Your heart’s in the right place, but …

Emily:                          Wait, did you say “the right thing in the wrong way,” because I almost feel like it’s the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Kyle:                            Oh, I’m sorry. I did say that. I meant what you said. I am so sorry. Thank you for saying that.

Emily:                          No, don’t be sorry, because I could actually see both sides of it. But yeah, I mean, I don’t know, best of intentions, I guess?

Kyle:                            But see, those things come from parents, right? But I’m not talking about that. Like, at least if you’re a parent, you have a connection, because your kid has a disability. So I get that. Like, I get why you care. Even if the way that you express it is not the way that we prefer, I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.

But where my skepticism comes in is when someone who doesn’t appear to have a personal connection to disability cares about the issues, and whether or not they execute it right. But it’s – honestly, it’s worse – my skepticism is worse when they do it right. And I do not feel that with any other social justice movement. Like, when I see a white guy care about Black Lives Matter and police brutality and the issues that that community faces, I’m not like, oh my God, you’re just doing it for clout, or social media or whatever. And I’m sure some of them are. But I don’t initially think that. But when I see an able-bodied person do it for disability, I’m like, I don’t believe you. It’s so rude. It is. And I hate it. But it’s true. I feel that.

Emily:                          I wonder if it’s because we’ve kind of been socialized to think that disability can be equated with being a charity case, and so –

Kyle:                            Yeah.

Emily:                          Like, I automatically assume that anybody who cares about disability and has no connection to disability is just doing it because they feel bad for me and not because they actually care that we exist in a completely ableist and inaccessible world. And so I suppose it’s on me to give the benefit of the doubt that there are truly well-meaning people who are doing right by the disability community and have no personal connection to it, but I think I’ve also just – I’ve existed in this world for so long as a disabled person that I just know that, in most cases, people without connections to disability don’t get it, or don’t want to get it, or don’t care, or just look at me like I’m some poor sad thing who needs their pity.

Kyle:                            Totally.

Emily:                          I don’t know what to make of all this.

Kyle:                            I don’t either. I guess – it’s more of an introspective thing about myself, and I guess, to an extent, you, but it’s like, I don’t know what makes me so skeptical. I don’t know why it’s disability. I mean, I guess it’s because you and I are disabled people. But still.

Emily:                          Are we?

Kyle:                            I mean, I think so. That is what we do, right?

Emily:                          I haven’t done a gut check lately to make sure I’m still disabled.

Kyle:                            Well, I have to renew my card. So technically right now I’m not disabled, but I have to get it renewed at the Department of Disability.

Emily:                          Yeah, mine hasn’t come in the mail yet. Weird.

Kyle:                            Well, it’s COVID. You’ve got to wait for the mail.

Emily:                          [laughs]

Kyle:                            My point is, like, you know, I work in an organization that’s full of able-bodied people doing really good work for disability, and most of them have a connection. In fact, I think everyone I directly work with does. And it’s so good that if it turns out that someone doesn’t, I would be floored. In a good way. But why? Like, I can’t get past that. I don’t know what makes me doubt the authenticity of somebody not disabled caring, if they don’t have some other connection – a family member, a sibling – which is a family member, but, like, you know, something. Anything. A best friend.

Emily:                          Yeah, you know what? I’m just thinking about it now, and there were two white, heterosexual, nondisabled guys that I used to work with on disability-related stuff, and they were honestly two of the best people at it.

Kyle:                            Yeah.

Emily:                          I always thought that they were so great to work with. I mean, you know, ideally, would they have had leadership roles in doing disability-related work? No. But at the same time, I also felt like they genuinely, in most ways, got it, and that was kind of cool and rare, and I appreciated it. But then I also had the internal battle of, like, well, then they’re taking this role away from someone who is disabled, but they’re doing good work and they’re capable – and I used to go back and forth with myself on this, honestly.

Kyle:                            I’ve had that experience. Not at this job yet, but I’m sure I will at some point, given the nature of what we do. But at my previous jobs and the ones – like, at other jobs, I’ve had that exact conversation with myself. And it’s not that I – I don’t know how to phrase it, right? Like, it’s not like I doubt the sincerity of what they say. I just don’t really know how they arrive there, because, as people with disabilities, we’re so often forgotten that when people list off marginalized groups, we’re not on them, those lists. I’m not saying that makes us any more or less oppressed than anyone else. I’m not saying that at all.

But I’m just saying, in the scope of social justice, we are often forgotten. And I’m sure there’s a bunch of communities that I don’t even know about that are also often forgotten. But I’m just saying, because I’m in this one, I know that we’re not on those lists all the time, and so when I see someone that cares, I’m like, “Oh, good. But also, why?”

Emily:                          There are definitely a couple people who I’ve talked to where they started out doing something that happened to be disability related literally because they were looking for a job and they found that one, and then they became really passionate about it that way. So, I mean –

Kyle:                            That’s valid, though. I think.

Emily:                          What’d you say?

Kyle:                            I’m sorry. I just said that I think that that’s valid. Like, if you stick to it and you do it the right way, that’s awesome.

Emily:                          Oh, sure. Sure. Like people who start out as a support professional, maybe, for someone with a disability, and then they find that they really enjoyed working with a disabled person, and so they’ve decided that they want to focus on a career supporting disabled people. And, again, that’s great, but then the question becomes, do you have this savior complex like “I’m a do-gooder,” or are you genuinely just a chill person trying to help out?

Kyle:                            If they’re doing good work, does it matter? I’m asking you hypothetically. I’m not trying to do a gotcha. Like, if they’re doing all the right things, does their motivation for doing it matter? Like, if someone started out with a savior complex and then realized along the way that that wasn’t the right thing to do or believe, and then still continued to do the work, I don’t think I would mind that too much. Truly. Even though I probably should. Like, I don’t – I think learning for the better, or, like, bettering yourself, is important. I don’t know. You know what I’m saying? Am I making sense? I don’t know.

Emily:                          Yeah, you absolutely are. And I think that maybe what we need to do is give people the benefit of the doubt that they actually can learn about how to do justice in their work with the disability community, and I don’t think that I give people that benefit of the doubt often enough.

I was thinking about this today, actually: I wish that more people, especially in social justice circles, would give opportunities for grace and for learning and for making mistakes and then for trying to do better. And that’s what I want the most of anyone, especially people who are trying to work in the disability space and think that they’re doing the right thing but are maybe just going about it in a way that’s not actually great for the disability community. I still want to give them that grace that they can learn.

Kyle:                            I think that for someone who makes an honest mistake but has shown proven work in other spaces, or someone who you can tell is trying to grasp it but is just phrasing it in the wrong way – like, stuff like that, that doesn’t bother me. People like that, usually if you correct them, they go, “Oh, okay. Thank you.” You know? But – yeah, I don’t know. Like, I feel kind of rude, almost, when I have the skepticism that I do, because I’ve been proven wrong. I’ve never been proven right, that I should have had that skepticism, and every time I’m proven wrong, I love it, but I’m also like, man, I should stop feeling that way. But then I don’t.

Emily:                          It’s kind of this unfair double standard that we have, because on the one hand, it’s like, “We expect you to do better. We expect you to be best.” Ha, ha. Ha, ha. See what I did there? And then on the other hand, it’s like, “Stay out of our business. Support us, but go away.”

Kyle:                            Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Emily:                          Actually, yeah, that’s the crux of this for me, is, like, I actually think that sometimes disabled people can be a little unfair, because we’re literally – we’re like, “We want you to be anti-ableist and make the world a better, more accessible place for us, but also, kindly go stand in a corner and absolutely do not get up in our business.”

Kyle:                            Nothing about us without us. Support us. Go away.

Emily:                          [laughs] I think – yeah, obviously I believe in “Nothing about us without us,” but really, sometimes I feel like we give off the vibe of “Support us, but go away.”

Kyle:                            Do you think that’s with valid reason? I do. Just so you know. This is not a trap either.

Emily:                          Yeah, absolutely. And by the way, I don’t think you would ever set up a trap for me unless it wasn’t without good cause.

Kyle:                            No, never. That’s true.

Emily:                          [laughs] Yeah, no, I think it’s with good reason. I think we say “Support us, but go away” because, for so long, people have not listened to us when we say “Nothing about us without us,” and so when someone is trying to do something about us, then we’re like, “No, no, we’ll take it from here.”

Kyle:                            But then when they start supporting you and then they don’t go away because they want to learn – like, I’m just trying to carry the phrasing – but, like, I cannot fault somebody for wanting to do the right thing. I just – that’s what we all should be doing. So I feel like I, then, should – like you said – give them the grace that they deserve, even if they’re starting from a rough place. And I genuinely have trouble doing that a lot of the time. But not – like, other times I don’t.

Like, in my workplace – and I’m not just saying that because I work there – in my workplace, most of my coworkers are not disabled and I’ve never thought that about them. But I also happen to know that most of them have a personal connection to disability or are part of another marginalized group if they don’t. But still, when abled folks, like – like, even just being multiply marginalized. Like, that – okay, it alleviates some of it, but it doesn’t make me go, “Oh, okay. Now I see where you’re coming from.” [laughs] Like, it’s – I don’t know. It’s, like …

Emily:                          [laughs] Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, because I try never to compare experiences of marginalization, but I know that a lot of times I’ve had people who are marginalized in ways different than me will say to me, like, “Oh, I get it because I’m marginalized too.” And then I’m like –

Kyle:                            Right.

Emily:                          – “I wouldn’t say that to you.”

Kyle:                            Yeah. Yeah. It’s like, no, you get it, but you don’t get me.

Emily:                          Yeah.

Kyle:                            You get what it’s like to be …

Emily:                          Right. I absolutely would never say to someone of a different race than me, “Oh, I get it because I’m disabled.” No.

Kyle:                            Right. Exactly. Like, that just sounds funny with you just saying it as a joke, but that is something that we collectively as disabled people, I think, do go through. Even something as innocuous as, “Oh, I broke my leg in college, so I had to use a wheelchair for, like, three weeks, and I totally get it.” Even if after you get your cast off and you do all this good work, if – I’m assuming that you had an epiphany and you dedicated the rest of your life to doing work with people with disabilities –

Emily:                          Right, and then you become an accessibility consultant or … [laughs]

Kyle:                            But even – like, that’s the version of what you just said, and we hear that all the time, in lots of scenarios, where it’s like, “Oh, I know what it’s like to be you because I, too, X, Y, Z.” It’s like, but you haven’t, though. And that cheapens – like, when you say that, it kind of devalues, to me, when you say you care. Even if you do. Even if you really do. And that’s my problem, and I need to get over it. But [laughs] I want to blame you too. “You” hypothetically.

Emily:                          The royal you. No, do we need to get over that, though? Because I think that’s what happens so often. I mean, I just – I don’t feel like in any other social justice movement that anyone would be even remotely okay if someone said, “Oh, yeah, I experienced this for three weeks, and so now I totally know what you’re going through” – you know, for example, a straight person saying that to someone who’s LGBTQIA+, right?

Kyle:                            Right. Like, they played a non-straight part in a movie and therefore they get it, or something.

Emily:                          Right.

Kyle:                            Something like that, you know. And it’s – yeah. And I – perhaps “get over” wasn’t the right thing to say, but it’s like, I guess what I meant was that I should give them the benefit of the doubt because even though they don’t know exactly – of course they don’t, no matter what they say. They don’t know. But they had their taste, you know? I can totally see someone use a wheelchair for three weeks because they broke their leg and they realize, “Oh my God, there are stairs everywhere. Someone should do something about that.” That makes sense. But there’s a difference between saying that and then saying, like, “I totally know what you’re going through.”

Emily:                          Okay, you totally just raised a point, I need to jump on it right now. So you said, like, the person realizing the stairs, and then they were like, “Oh, I should do something about that.” And that’s another reason that I always find myself having an issue, is because there are so many nondisabled people who are like, “I can fix that. No one else is doing it,” and then all of a sudden it’s like, um, hello, disabled people have been doing this. Like, you did not actually invent this.

This happens all the time. It’s happening right now, kind of, with the whole Nike FlyEase thing. I don’t know if you’ve been seeing that going around, but Nike created this shoe that you step into and it automatically closes, which is great. It’s a really cool accessibility thing, except that Nike is like, we just revolutionized everything for disabled people. And disabled people are like, we’ve been talking about this forever.

Kyle:                            A disabled guy did make the original FlyEase, though. Like, he collaborated with them.

Emily:                          Yeah, but they’re not really including disabled people in their marketing now, though.

Kyle:                            Well, because – I have a pair of the OG FlyEase, okay? So I’m qualified to say this.

Emily:                          [laughs]

Kyle:                            Those new shoes suck.

Emily:                          Oh, cool. Cool.

Kyle:                            Because I – look, I don’t own a new pair, okay? So they might be great. But I’ve seen how you put them on and take them off. I can tell you – like, I am someone with CP. I am the guy who has the disability that the person who they worked with also has, okay? So I get it. And I really do get it. I cannot use that shoe, because I cannot step into shoes. I have to put them on. I can put them on, but if you go on their website and watch the person do it, it’s so obviously an able-bodied person stepping into those shoes.

Emily:                          Yeah.

Kyle:                            It’s like, just have a guy with CP put on the friggin’ shoes.

Emily:                          So maybe that wasn’t the best example, but another one is clear –

Kyle:                            No, I know, but you’re right, though.

Emily:                          – clear masks, okay? So I have seen eight million articles being like, “This company just invented a clear mask for people who are deaf to read lips,” or whatever, and I’m like, no, you didn’t invent that. But yeah, it’s always, like, I want nondisabled people to be supportive of the disability community, but then as soon as they come in and they’re like, “I have a solution, and I can fix this, and I can do it better,” I’m like, no, I can do it better. I’m actually disabled.

Kyle:                            When you see headlines that are like, “How COVID-19 has revolutionized the way we work,” it’s like, has it, or has it just taught everyone that most office jobs don’t need to actually be in physical office spaces? You know. And I know we’ve said this on previous episodes, but the thing we’ve all been begging for – all the salespeople have been begging for since time immemorial – like, it’s just not – you didn’t do it.

Emily:                          I mean, I feel like going in to work is the equivalent of the world’s biggest “could have been an email.” I mean, really.

Kyle:                            Yeah. Well, we know that now. Now that’s –

Emily:                          Right. But okay, now it’s like, oh my God, nondisabled people have suddenly discovered it, and so now we’re going to revolutionize it, even though disabled people were here all along, suggesting the same thing. So you know what? This is where my skepticism comes from. It’s because most nondisabled people aren’t listening to disabled people. They’re just like, “I’m going to revolutionize things and not actually include disabled people.”

Kyle:                            I don’t know why I’m thinking about this. It’s sort of – it’s very tangentially related. Like, it’s not. But I can’t help but think of that company that tried to make bodegas into, like, a tech bro thing, where it was just, like, a vending machine –

Emily:                          Yeah.

Kyle:                            Yeah. Yeah. Okay, you know what I’m talking about. Thank goodness. Okay. And it’s like, okay –

Emily:                          I’m a self-respecting New Yorker. Of course I know bodega news.

Kyle:                            No, I know you know, but I’m just saying, like, that thing that they were like, “Oh, it’s a revolutionary thing,” it’s like, no, you’re two tech bros from Silicon Valley; you put a bunch of chips in a vending machine and you made the logo a cat. It’s not the same thing.

Emily:                          Yeah. And you’re taking business away from bodegas and you’re acting like you just revolutionized something. Congratulations, you invented a vending machine.

Kyle:                            Like you said, that applies to – Jesus, every aspect of being a person with a disability. Like, really. Having said that, though, I mean, some of it’s really cool, but, like – like, whenever a giant company puts accessibility settings into their product, I’m like: Yeah. Great. I’m glad you finally did that.

Emily:                          Yeah.

Kyle:                            But you’re not doing anything new. You’re just making your game or your product or your service more accessible than it already was. Like, when something becomes accessible to us, it’s not like we get an edge. It’s not like we get more, or, like, we’re not superior to everyone else now. We’re just there with you.

Emily:                          Right. It’s not an advantage. It’s an equalizer. And at the same time, I really do want to give credit to the nondisabled people who genuinely see a problem and then not only do they put their time and energy and resources into trying to fix it, but they do it with the disability community and not for the disability community. And that’s really rare, but it happens, and I appreciate it when it does. And I do feel like, to be fair, I need to point out that I’m not trying to demonize people here.

Kyle:                            I feel like if you’re an able-bodied person listening to this and you didn’t get offended, it’s because you understand what I’m saying. And if you’re listening to this and you did get offended, you’re probably the people we’re talking about.

Emily:                          That’s a really good point, actually.

Kyle:                            It’s kind of like men who say “not all men” are those men. Like, no other – like, you know what I mean?

Emily:                          Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

Kyle:                            When someone says – when a woman goes on a rant about how, like, all men are terrible, you know what I do? I scroll right past it, because I’m like, I know she ain’t talking about me, and I’m not going to – you know, it’s whatever. She has that right. Good. Yes. That’s great.

Emily:                          And you don’t need to poke your face in and be like, “Not all men.”

Kyle:                            Nor do I want to, because she knows that. It’s the same thing. It’s like, if this rubs you the wrong way, it’s because it’s you. Sorry. Not really.

Emily:                          No. No. That’s a “Sorry, not sorry.” Are you kidding me?

Kyle:                            Yeah, I said, “Sorry, not really.”

Emily:                          Yeah. I actually feel like talking about this helped my thinking on it a little bit, but the reality is that it probably –

Kyle:                            Ugh. [Hashtag, not all labels 00:26:16].

Emily:                          [laughs] I’m not going to stop my skepticism.

Kyle:                            It’s not – I don’t want anyone abled to hear this like, “Oh, well, they’re just going to be skeptical about us no matter what we do.” It’s like, yeah, probably a little bit. I’m not saying you have to prove yourself, because you don’t. You really don’t. But excuse us, because we have, like, years on you of promises by people just like you that fall flat at best.

Emily:                          Right. Right. But I’m going to make a solemn promise to stop being so much of the “Support us and go away.” And I don’t think that I do that anyway, to be quite honest with you. That’s not my vibe. But if ever I’ve given off that impression, I don’t want to. I really do want people to meaningfully try to be allies, and if that looks like making some mistakes, if that looks like asking questions and needing a little education, that’s okay.

And in fact, the more that I think about it, because of course it takes me a half an hour to get to any real thought [laughs] every time we podcast, I was just thinking, in some ways I’m actually more skeptical of nondisabled people who do have a connection to disability, because sometimes –

Kyle:                            Really.

Emily:                          Yeah, now that I’m thinking about it. Because sometimes they’re the ones who are like, “Well, I have a personal connection, so I totally get it.” It’s not even, like, an “I broke my leg for three weeks and so now I get it.” It’s literally, like, an “Well, I’m a parent of a child with a disability, and so that means that I definitely get it, and I belong here, and it is okay that I am taking up space.”

Kyle:                            You know what? I can say that if someone that works – some of my coworkers directly are parents of kids with disabilities, and I have not run into that in my workplace. I work with good people. But the reason I bring that up is only because I think you’re absolutely right, and in fact, I agree with you even more because I would say that the folks you’re talking about are kind of worse than the people that broke their leg and had to use a wheelchair for three weeks, because at least the people who broke their leg and had to use a wheelchair for three weeks do, in fact, have three weeks of actual real use and do understand three weeks of real experience.

Emily:                          No, the – I mean, I think there’s absolutely something to be said for the experience of being a parent –

Kyle:                            Yes. It’s just a different one.

Emily:                          I know. Being a parent, being a sibling, whatever the case may be – okay, perfect example. My dad, not physically disabled, but I would say that, in many ways, he definitely gets it just because he’s lived with me for so long, but he also doesn’t try to parade that around and be like, “Well, I’m the expert on all things disability because I’m married to a disabled person and my daughter is disabled, so thusly I know everything.” You know?

Kyle:                            I would say that he’s probably more of an expert than most people who claim to be, though. But your dad’s a smart dude. He knows that he’s not. My parents are the same way. They don’t pretend to know anything about anything about disability. They just have their feelings and they feel them.

Emily:                          Yeah. So I feel like my thoughts have been a little bit all over the place, and I know that that maybe is not helpful, but this is always what happens when we explore a big hairy topic. But yeah, I think that I have skepticism for different reasons dependent on whether you do or don’t have a connection to disability. And I have been actively, for years, working on that skepticism because I want to be welcoming and bring people in instead of alienating them from disability advocacy. I don’t want to push people away, you know? That’s just not my ethos at all. Like, I hate the idea of excluding people. My only ask is that you let disabled people lead. That’s it.

Can I just tell you you’ve been drinking water this whole time, and I’m wondering every time you tip the bottle back, like, how there is still more water in the bottle. And I know that people listening are like, what are you even talking about? But …

Kyle:                            It’s empty now.

Emily:                          Okay, I have been watching him drink and drink and drink, and wondering, like, okay, it’s gotta be done now. It’s gotta be empty.

Kyle:                            Nope. I mean, it is now.

Emily:                          [laughs]

Kyle:                            Why am I showing it to you? It’s opaque. You can’t see the water that’s not in it.

Emily:                          I believe you, Kyle.

Kyle:                            Thank you. I agree with you. Fully. I also think – I mean, I’ll be a little fair – you know, I gotta give the abled some credit, okay, because we have a few that listen, and they’re very good people – I don’t think that you don’t belong, and I don’t think that being a good ally is difficult. I just don’t. As long as you listen to what disabled people say, then you’re most of the way there. You don’t even have to listen to all of it. Just – and you don’t have to take it as gospel, you know? Take a whole bunch of opinions, and then form your own.

Emily:                          Oh my gosh, yeah. Don’t treat one disabled person as the be-all, end-all expert –

Kyle:                            Yeah, because we’re not.

Emily:                          – or you’re definitely going to be a terrible ally.

Kyle:                            Oh, and this is something that I’ve learned, not from the disabled community but from other marginalized communities that I am super not a part of but am also an ally for, and I’m not going to say which ones, because it doesn’t matter. It’s pretty much all of them. There will be anger toward people like you, whoever you are. It depends on the group. And some of it is warranted. In fact, I would say a lot of it is. And I urge you: Don’t take it personally. I mean, if it’s at you, then take it as personally as you want. But it’s probably not. It’s probably at your group of people.

And I know it’s so hard not to take that personally sometimes. Like, it really is sometimes. But the sooner you know that even though you’re in that group, it’s not about you specifically, as soon as you learn that, you just turn into a much better ally just by doing that. You don’t even have to do anything else. Just not getting offended when people express their frustration is a huge step forward. And if you’re there, good for you. And if you’re on your way, we’ll still be here when you get there. But you should hurry up, because it’s a nice big party over here, full of accessible bathrooms and gluten-free chips.

Emily:                          Our chips are gluten-free?

Kyle:                            I mean, my chips aren’t, but I know that folks have food sensitivities.

Emily:                          Right. Exactly. We’re very inclusive here in this bathroom stall. [laughs]

Kyle:                            I don’t know why I said that. I don’t have any chips here.

Emily:                          I’m a little hungry now, actually. Not the point. Totally ruining a very important thing that you just said, because I love snacks and snacks are very distracting.

But yeah, I actually think you nailed it. I mean, I worry that after listening to this episode, people could say exactly what I sometimes feel, which is, like, “Okay, well, if you don’t want my help, and you just told me to go away, and you told me I’m doing it wrong, and you don’t like how I’m doing it, then what’s the point?” But it’s like, no, let’s all work together. Work with us. I don’t want to push you away. I don’t want to alienate you. I actually want to give you the opportunity to learn and do better. And yes, like you said, my frustration might come through, and it’s possible that it could be very specifically directed at you. But it’s also possible that it’s just years and years of baggage that have kind of culminated.

So I really appreciate that you made that point, because I know that the anger and the fierceness from marginalized communities can make other people feel like they just don’t want anything to do with it. Recognize that society has played a role in shaping that anger and that it’s possible that, at some point, you’ve been part of the reason why we may feel a certain way, and don’t let that stop you. Let that be motivation to do better.

Kyle:                            I mean, if you were doing a bad thing, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Even if it hurt, which it probably would, because you were doing a bad thing and you didn’t know. Like, that would hurt my feelings. So like Emily said, don’t stop learning. There’s no wrong way to learn. There are wrong things to learn, though, so always make sure you’re checking your sources and checking your facts and you’re listening to more than one person, because Lord knows we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Emily:                          Do your homework. But yeah, that’s absolutely true. I mean, there have been times where I’ve really messed up, even when considering myself an ally to a particular community, and when I am reprimanded for it, I feel like a kicked puppy. But then afterwards, I realize that I’m actually quite grateful for the learning experience, and obviously very apologetic that it took my making a mistake and hurting someone else to have that learning experience, but knowing that I’m not going to perpetuate harm in the future is really important to me.

And does it mean that I’m going to be free of mistakes and that I’m not going to mess up and that it’s not a continual learning process? No. Of course it’s a continual learning process. But I think at the end of the day what we’re trying to say is bear with us if it seems like we’re skeptical of you. We probably have good reason to be. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want you to keep trying.

Kyle:                            Beautiful. I would ask you if you had any final takeaways, but honestly, what’s the point? That was amazing.

Emily:                          So is what you said. Like, I’m not even kidding. I almost wanted to stop talking, but then you mentioned chips and then I couldn’t help myself and then I started talking again.

Kyle:                            The things you do for chips, my friend.

Emily:                          Ugh, so hungry. Kyle what did you have for dinner tonight?

Kyle:                            Oh my God, tacos. Chicken tacos with mango sauce. Emily, can you stop the pandemic so that – can you get vaccinated so that you can come over and we can feed you tacos?

Emily:                          [laughs] I’m really, really, really trying.

Kyle:                            Come on, we have an accessible apartment, and we got it for you specifically.

Emily:                          I know.

Kyle:                            No, we didn’t, but …

Emily:                          I know. You definitely only bought the apartment because of me. No, it’s funny –

Kyle:                            Bought it?

Emily:                          Nobody buys apartments.

Kyle:                            If only.

Emily:                          Maybe you buy apartments. Rent. Way off track. Chips are delicious. Accessible apartments are great. I love tacos.

Kyle:                            That’s – yup.

Emily:                          That was my final takeaway.

Kyle:                            Same [unclear 00:37:46]. So this has been another episode of The Accessible Stall. If you’d like to support The Accessible Stall – and God, why would you, but we’d love it if you did – go to patreon.com/theaccessiblestall. Just one dollar a month ensures that current and future episodes of The Accessible Stall remain accessible, and by that we mean we make transcripts.

Emily:                          For every episode.

Kyle:                            For all of them. Every single one. It’s ridiculous. There’s so many.

Emily:                          We’re getting pretty close to a hundredth episode, actually.

Kyle:                            Oh my God, what should we do?

Emily:                          I don’t know, but we’re going to have this conversation offline so we don’t ruin the surprises.

Kyle:                            Good idea. Might we say, you look so good today. I mean, really. Have you seen yourself?

Emily:                          Love those quarantine looks.

Kyle:                            Thanks for listening.

Emily:                          Stay safe, wear a mask. Bye.

Kyle:                            Wash your hands if you’ve got ’em. See you later.