Disability-Inclusive Protest Etiquette: A Guide

Today, I’d like to share some slides from two Instagram accounts which engage the intersections of race and disability. The first comes from @diversability, and the second comes from @strengthcenteredspeech. For those who are using screen readers, I will share the text below the images.

Image may contain: text that says 'Slide by @diversibility More than half of Black people with disabilities in the United States will be arrested by the time they reach their late 20s. RESEARCH BY ERIN MCCAULEY, MED, MA (2017) #BLACKLIVESMATTER @diversability'

Slide by @diversibility, black background, white text:

Text: More than half of Black people with disabilities in the United States will be arrested by the time they reach their late 20s.

Research by Erin J. McCauley, Med. MA (2017)

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

Slide by @strengthcenteredspeech brown background, white, yellow, and pink text:

Disability-inclusive protest etiquette: a guide


Remember that many disabled people will not be able to attend protests due to their disability or associated risks, no matter how much they want to be there.

— Avoid saying things like:
“Just show up”
“the front lines are where the real work is done”
“Get off the couch and join us”
They are ableist, shaming, and unhelpful.

— There are many ways to be involved, such as organizing, donating time, money, sharing information, and doing daily and committed work. “Doing the work” is not unique to the front lines and does not start or end there.

— Some disabled people will be attending protests alongside you. Understand that you will not always know who they are, as many disabilities are invisible.

— Respect people’s space. Some may be distancing due to increased health risks. This is especially true during a pandemic. NEVER touch or crowd anyone who is walking off to the side or suggesting in any way they want space.

— Do not touch or help physically disabled people or their mobility aids (wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) unless they directly ask. And please don’t tell them you’re inspired by them — this is ableist and offensive.

— This is an absolute rule: never assume someone is “faking” if you see them in a wheelchair one minute and out the next. Many disabled people can walk, but due to the nature of their disability are required to use a wheelchair in certain contexts.

Contact organizers to help ensure protests are accessible before the event

Specific actions you can request include:

— encouraging each march to have a rally alternative for people to congregate

— checking in about access to ramps and restrooms, as well as interpreters

— If possible, providing mobility aids and a team devoted to disability access in case needs arrive last-minute

— ensuring that all organized protest language is anti-ableist

Accessibility should be built in, not tacked on.

Educate yourself: black disabled people should never be an afterthought, especially when it comes to police brutality.

— Disabled people make up between one third and one half of all people killed by police, according to multiple studies (including at 2016 study by the Ruderman Foundation). Black Americans with disabilities are even more at-risk. Few make headlines.

— This issue is CENTRAL to the black disabled community. Learn the names of black disabled victims of police violence. Advocate for measures that protect disabled people wherever you discuss police deescalation techniques or community alternatives to policing.

— Remember that ALL black lives matter. If you’re not concerned with the lives of all disabled people, you are not a part of the Black Lives Matter Movement.


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