Reject Economic Ableist Limits

The employment rate of people with disabilities and their intersectional identities is under-researched, under-addressed, and falls well below government targets. Systemic structural barriers marginalize people with disabilities seeking employment, as do employers’ perceptions of people with disabilities.  While there have been efforts to counter stigmatization with trainings on diversity, for example, more action is needed from people with disabilities and allies, to challenge barriers and perceptions.

The Disability Art and Culture Project, in collaboration with a group of activists in the disability community, developed REAL: Reject Economic Ableist Limits as a response to this need.  The REAL initiative will advocate for economic justice and enact policy change at the city, county, and statewide level.  We are excited to announce that the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation has funded REAL through 2019!

REAL will create economic opportunities for the disability community by addressing systemic barriers to employment, and by fostering current and new cross-disability leadership to advance our civil rights.  We prioritize Disabled voices in leadership, as those most impacted by these issues of economic justice.  Experiences and perspectives of people with disabilities will determine the ways in which we approach systems change, and establish ways of working that include self-care.

REAL also prioritizes partnerships and leadership that honor intersections of identities, how those intersections influence our lived experiences, and thus how we address issues of economic injustice.  Cross-movement solidarity is essential to social justice work as we tackle mutual barriers, draw on each others’ strengths, and build momentum toward our collective liberation.  Employment and economic justice are one important issue, within a larger effort to collectively address inequity, barriers in social structures, and to organize and build capacity in our communities.

Saara Hirsi of the African Community Youth Organization (AYCO) is one partner of the REAL initiative.  She is a refugee, and “as most refugees [she] have hope and dream to have education and jobs when arriving to the United States. It is challenging and difficult these dream when you have any disabilities…For example, in the United States, we have laws and education give opportunity for people with disabilities. If you do not speak English, it is difficult to get those opportunity and resource. The system is not created for disable refugee.”

We will take action in the following ways:

  • REAL partners monitor policies that impact people with disabilities.  Policies include government inequities in tracking data that leads to the employment of people with disabilities, and the availability of healthcare essential to the pursuit of employment.
  • The 2017 Disability Culture and Justice Leadership Institute will build disability leadership to increase our power in changing ableist systems.
  • The formation of a statewide Disability Coalition.  A lasting organization will build our capacity to sustainably address economic injustice in Oregon, in addition to the full spectrum of health disparities our community faces.

It’s time to “Get REAL” for our community!  Contact us to join REAL as a partner, or learn how to apply for the 2017 Disability Culture and Justice Leadership Institute.

Seven people sit and stand, smiling and posing for a group photo. Most hold one fist in the air.

Photo by Kim Cooksey

REAL partners include:

Autism Empowerment, Living Stages Theater, Oregon Association of the Deaf, Oregon Health Authority Office of Equity and Inclusion, Sankofa Collective Northwest, African Community Youth Organization (AYCO), Kiel Moses, Michelle Sobel, and Terry Blosser.

About our funders:

The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation knows that health begins in our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces – long before we ever see a doctor. That is why we invest in the skills and talents people offer to their communities, amplifying their efforts to create a vibrant, healthy and fulfilling future for everyone. The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund was established in 2004 by Kaiser Permanente and Northwest Health Foundation. Kaiser Permanente initially invested $28 million in the Fund, and the first round of grants was made in 2005. Since then, 217 total projects have been funded.