During March, the City of Fishers and Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability will celebrate National Disability Awareness Month with a series of special events and initiatives to bring awareness to what life is like for those with physical and intellectual disabilities in our community. This year’s theme, Achieving More Together, has sparked conversations on what residents, businesses, and others in the community can do to support. Returning this year, community members are invited to be allies for disability inclusion and showcase their support for the initiative through an ally campaign.
The Anti-Oppression Network defines allyship as “an active, consistent and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group of people.” Allyship cannot be learned in a day, but we hope to provide some of the resources necessary to begin this journey. Allies play an extremely important role in many awareness movements. Not only should allies support and learn about the cause, but they should also amplify the movement overall.
“Being an ally means listening first and taking action second. It means seeing every individual in our community as a dynamic and whole person capable of unlocking their full potential when we remove arbitrary and real barriers to success,” said Mayor Scott Fadness.
The first step to being an ally is making the conscious decision to actively learn whenever you can. No one knows everything and every situation is different, this is why an ally should accept criticism when provided and re-evaluate their actions whenever necessary.
To start, take a look through our ally digital toolkit which includes information on how to be an ally, a list of frequently asked questions, a language guide, social media graphics, and other resources. You can also follow along on social media using #FishersDisabilityAwareness.
Being an ally is about more than doing research and participating in events, it’s about being an advocate for people with disabilities whenever possible. When speaking to a person with disabilities, remember to treat them with respect and avoid condescending language.
The language guide in the digital toolkit can walk you through basics such as people-first language and best practices for communication. It’s important to be an ally every day, and if you see someone using discriminatory behavior, don’t be afraid to intervene.
Overall, be open to changing your behavior and asking questions. You will make mistakes along the way and it’s a great opportunity to learn for the future.
We asked the community what being an ally means to them. Here’s what they told us:
“Being an ally for people with disabilities means supporting, advocating, and showcasing their amazing skills, talents, and abilities. I applaud the City of Fishers for helping raise awareness and valuing all members of the community.”
-Mark Bradford, Chief Business Development Officer and Co-Market President, Old National Bank
“To me, being an ally means I am helping others see the amazing skills, talents, and abilities of the young adults in our programs. It helps raise awareness that Fishers values all members of the community and wants everyone to be able to engage in work, leisure, and city events without any barriers.”
-Chrissy Pogue, Transition Specialist, Department of Exceptional Learners, HSE Schools
“To me, being an ally means seeking to understand the struggles and triumphs of groups to which I do not inherently belong and actively advocating to remove barriers that marginalize these groups.”
-Lori Holewinski, Deputy Director of Impact, Hamilton East Public Library
“Being an ally is important to me because I recognize the value of diversity and believe that everyone should have an opportunity to achieve success. I see the beautiful gifts that each member of our community can bring to the whole, regardless of someone having disabilities.”
-Hayley Lowe, Community Market Manager and Fishers Banking Center Manager
“Conner Prairie’s doors are always open to a diversity of voices and limitless experiences because there’s no better way for us to engage with our entire community. We have long been an advocate and ally for inclusive business in the Fishers community. Our organization has worked tirelessly and continues to educate and create awareness centering around the needs of our citizens with disabilities. We do this because we believe awareness ignites thinking about addressing the need, and thinking creates action to meet the demand. Action ultimately results in changing culture and business practices. Conner Prairie’s aspirational goal is to change the way the world views and uses museums. That is why we have participated in Disability Awareness Month festivities for over five years. It’s a true reflection of our mission and institutional statement!”
-Norman Burns, President & CEO, Conner Prairie
“Regardless of abilities or disabilities, we all possess special gifts and talents and we should have the opportunity to utilize those talents to better our lives in the community.”
-Brian Henning, Corporate Banking Executive, SVP, Old National Bank
Celebrate Fishers Disability Awareness Month with us by becoming an ally. Learn more at fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness
Cassidy Robertson is a former Community Engagement and PR Intern for the City of Fishers. She enjoys shopping and eating local in downtown Fishers, and in her spare time, she loves working on puzzles and reading a good book. She also enjoys playing with her three dogs and loves watching Fishers continue to develop both as an economic and social hub.