Member Story

Disability Lead Members Collaborate on Disability and Reproductive Justice Advocacy

Disability Lead
June 14, 2023

There may not be many people organizing at the intersection of disability and reproductive justice, but two Disability Lead members are working to highlight just how much these movements can—and must —learn from each other.

“Both disability and reproductive justice have similar frameworks that center bodily autonomy and self-determination,” said Keidra Chaney, the digital engagement and accessibility manager at National Network of Abortion Funds. “It’s now more important than ever that the reproductive justice movement fully incorporates a disability justice lens.”

When Claire McNorton joined Planned Parenthood Illinois Action as the program manager of advocacy and campaigns, she noticed disability wasn’t really addressed. A year later in early 2021, she approached her boss and pitched the idea of starting a disability advocacy and organizing program, to bring reproductive and disability advocacy together.

“We have seen the right to bodily autonomy and privacy eliminated in this country, so it is especially important to think about this now," said McNorton, referring to Dobbs v. Jackson—the 2022 Supreme Court decision that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. “It’s going to affect disabled people more than it’s going to affect non-disabled people.”

It was through this conversation with her employer that she also learned about Disability Lead. The Institute immediately appealed to her as someone who had not spent much time in disability spaces. “I went from having no sense of community and feeling alone in my work to having a massive network of people to support me,” said McNorton, who was a 2022 Fellow.

Not only did Disability Lead help give her the confidence to build out the disability advocacy program at her job, it also connected her with Chaney. The two quickly became kindred spirits and began collaborating on projects, including a panel discussion with Senator Tammy Duckworth and a webinar that explained the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision on people with disabilities.  

Chaney used to think that social justice spaces and organizations would be proactive about incorporating disability justice. “But most people just aren’t making the connections between disability justice and other social justice movements,” said Chaney, who was Fellow in 2020.

Over time, she’s learned that it’s going to take disabled leaders standing up and saying this is a priority —and it was her time at the Disability Lead Institute that helped her do it.

“My time as a Fellow really changed how I view myself. I didn’t think I could call myself an advocate, I didn’t really step into my leadership role in a formal way. Disability Lead gave me not just the tools but the community to articulate my own leadership within disability justice,” she said.

In addition to training and coaching for nonprofits and organizations around digital accessibility, Chaney has worked with Advocates for Youth, a sex education organization in Washington, DC, and she is putting together a collection of her writings to publish as a book.

McNorton and her team at Planned Parenthood Illinois Action are currently working to get funding for comprehensive, developmentally appropriate sex education for all students, including those with disabilities, in the upcoming legislative session. Outside of work—and thanks to the encouragement of Member Jae Jin Pak—she is also a trainee at the University of Illinois at Chicago Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities program.

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