In 2020, Disability Lead convened a virtual forum, four sessions on the intersections and interconnectedness of race, disability, racism and ableism. The Forum drove needed conversation, attracted a diverse and expansive audience, and really helped identify an interest in this area. We at Disability Lead came away with a strong commitment to continue this work and explore what’s next.
Over the last year, we’ve held conversations with a variety of stakeholders, including Members of Disability Lead and those who care deeply about the collective liberation of Chicago’s residents. What was identified is a needed, designed and protected space, a space we are calling the Collab. The Collab is a space to learn with and from one another and support a collective vision toward racial equity and disability justice.
Disability Lead Collab (The Collab) is a “Community of Practice.” One of the clearest definitions of a Community of Practice comes from Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, who helped articulate the concept in 1991:
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
Our goal is for members of this community to connect, collaborate, share resources and best practices, coordinate efforts and events, and benefit from the difficult-to-measure benefits of “casual collisions” in a trusted space, all in order to advance the movements of racial equity and disability justice.
Our deepest hope is that practitioners of racial equity and disability justice find ways to partner together and find fellowship as we fight for our collective liberation, all within an accessible space, where needs and accommodations are respected and anticipated.
Joining is free and we invite those who are committed to racial equity and those who are committed to disability justice to participate. We require all community members to fill out a brief questionnaire in advance of joining. Collab participants are based in the Chicago region.
At first—and likely for a while—this community will convene virtually. We have selected Microsoft Teams platform because it is widely available, free for community members, and accessible. We will launch Teams on October 27 and invite you to sign-up now. We will host larger events on Zoom. Disability Lead will provide accommodations like ASL, CART, and Spanish translation so all can participate actively and equitably.
The political and cultural climate we live in is dangerously ableist and racist. For example, last year, our nation celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation that was established to protect the rights of those with disabilities. And in that same year of celebration, we also witnessed: discrimination and rationing of healthcare for those who were disabled and contracted COVID-19; a needed nationwide reckoning of police brutality yet with little acknowledgment that half of those killed by police are also disabled and get little to no justice; and a vaccine rollout that unceremoniously deprioritized those who are at most at-risk due to pre-existing conditions yet live in neighborhoods most affected by the pandemic.
Today we launch the Collab, a space for people who work on and care about racial equity and for people who work on and care about disability justice to think and work together. Our goal is to provide a platform and community where members can build relationships, learn from each other, and collectively tackle problems and issues that face our communities.