A friend asked me to write about success and how to move into disability advocacy and/or a career that makes you happy. I wrote this, and thought it would be useful to share here. I am a writer and speaker, trainer, arts worker and activist. I started by having a side hustle – writing a lot.
I found success in the field of writing, speaking and the arts. I did a side hustle for many years – blogging , which led to publication in news outlets, volunteering on community TV which led to mainstream media work, and speaking gigs. I went from working full time in the government with a side hustle to working part time in the arts, and writing and speaking the rest of the time. It’s been life changing.
Writing helped me learn about myself and disability more widely, and I’ve met some incredible people whom I’m lucky to call friends, colleagues and mentors. I’ve travelled around Australia and internationally for work. I’ve published two books and my work has appeared in various anthologies. I’ve spoken at writers festivals, and to big and small organisations. I’ve delivered access training to countless organisations and individuals. I’ve established myself as a leader in access and inclusion in the arts. I’ve given evidence at the Disability Royal Commission.
And I’ve been nominated for and received awards for my work. The biggest achievement for me though is knowing that my work has made a difference to one person – that it has helped them become more confident wfh being disabled and asking for access. If it’s telling someone they work with they have access needs, or just being honest with themselves that it’s ok to identify as disabled; or if it’s giving an ally the resources to advocate for accessibility or to eliminate ableist language from their vocabulary, then I’ve done my job.
What helped me was showing up on social media every day – developing a personal brand, writing skills and building online communities – in disability and chronic illness spaces, writing spaces and the mainstream. From writing blog posts and social media posts, to uploading a quick photo or recording a longer video – it all counts. Visibility is possibility, and I want to show disabled people and the rest of the world that we should be seen, that we are proud, and that we deserve to take up space.
Disabled women and gender diverse disabled people are allowed to have individual success and joy. We are allowed to earn money. We are allowed to charge money for our knowledge, lived experience, skills, time and worth. We are allowed to be happy and have financial security.
Find something you love doing and make it your business.
Read and consume media widely, do courses, and do the thing that you love often to become good at it.
Connect with other disabled people – not even with the same disability – we can all learn from each other.
Show up – big or small – as much as you can.
Commit to being a good ally within the disability community. Make your content, events and work accessible – there are loads of resources to help you do this.
Say no to working for free.
Say yes to things you might not yet have all the experience for.
Be proud of your achievements, and also remember to be intersectional in your advocacy, and make space for others who are less seen and heard.
Don’t be scared about making people uncomfortable with your advocacy. Speaking up is brave, speaking up creates change.
Don’t be jealous of other people’s success – there’s enough room for us all.
Employ self care strategies – you are allowed to switch off and set boundaries. You don’t have to be an advocate all the time.
Singlet kindly gifted to me from Bonds, pic by @pearly.sprinkles.
Image: Carly, a woman with red skin and short dark curly hair, wearing an apricot coloured singlet and hat, smiling near a cream wall.