Adult Allies

Youth with disabilities are able to maximize our self-determination when we work with our support systems. Often times people have no idea how to support us. This page covers: ways to be accessible to us, support our self-determination, and be an ally to us. It can be helpful for disabled youth leaders to read through some of these resources, too.


Being an ally to youth with disabilities is about making sure youth are able to be fully involved. Involving youth with disabilities is more that just inviting them to a meeting. To be a real ally to youth with disabilities, you need to do work to make sure that youth aren’t just present but able to speak up and fully participate. These resources include information on how to fully support youth voice and involvement. a cartoon woman with long hair stands at the mic reading a piece of paper

1. Accessibility Checklist: Information for All (.doc) is a document written by NYLN and Kids As Self Advocates. Using words people understand is important for creating youth-friendly and disability-friendly space. Often times youth are not able to participate in spaces because people are using language we don’t use. This guide gives concrete tips on how to write at an 8th grade level and check your writing. There is also a Spanish version (.pdf).

2. Creating Space for GLBTQ Youth is a resource by Advocates for Youth. They are an organization that helps youth make informed decisions about sexual health. Although the toolkit is GLBTQ-specific, it shows the ways allies can work to teach themselves, create space where people do not feel harassed, and understand the impact adults can have in a youth space. This is helpful for all allies to youth.

3. The FreeChild Project works to make sure youth voice is heard in organizations, school and places of power. They have a toolkit online that covers history of youth speaking out, ways to honor voice, and ways to create safe environments for youth to practice self-determination. It is very thorough.

4. Adult Allies to Young People is a link on the FreeChild Project website that lists guidelines on how adults can be allies to youth. It also has includes a list of resources for adult allies.

5. Understanding Adultism: A Key to Positive Youth-Adult Relationships is an article that can be found on the FreeChild Project website. It explains what adultism is [a system of beleifs that says adults are better that youth], It explains how adults can combat adultism and be allies to youth.

6. Get the Word Out (pdf) is 13 page resource by Youth On Board. It discusses ways young people are silenced by adults and offers ways to change this.


Some of the strongest allies that youth with disabilities have are our parents and guardians. These are resources created by parent allies or specifically written with parents and family members of youth with disabilities in mind;two open hands lifting three people up. one person is a wheelchair user

1. Parent Training and Information Centers are resources for parents of children with disabilities. There are six regional PTIs in the US and one national one. The Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers has an online directory.

2. From Puddles to Pride is a poem and video about a parent’s experience with her (now adult) son with a developmental disability. It is by Janice Fialka, a feminist and a strong ally to NYLN and the disability community. It is about disability pride from the perspective of a parent. Many parents identify with it because it describes the journey from mourning not having a “normal” child to learning how to support him in being himself.

3. Self Determination for Middle School and High School Students is a resource on the National Center for Secondary Education and Transition website. It talks about why it is important for middle school and high school age youth with disabilities to have opportunities to make our own choices and have control over some things in our lives. It gives tips for ways parents and other allies can start supporting opportunities for self-determination.

4. Being  a Passenger Instead of the Driver (.pdf) is a 25 page document filled with advice and readings on how parents can transition their role as their young person grows older. It was compiled by NYLN adult ally Jayne Chase.

5. Who is an Adult Ally is a one-page document written by Kids as Self Advocates. It explains what an adult ally is.


These are resources that are specifically about how to be a disability ally. Disability allies are typically non-disabled people who do work to actively support the advancement of disabled people.

Being a disability ally means doing things like:
-helping disabled people have a voice and are fully included
-using non-Ableist language and calling people out when they say things that are Ableist
-educating yourself and others about disability issues
-taking leadership from people with disabilities to create change.

1. Accessibility and Accommodations: Making Opportunity Accessible to All (.doc) is a document written by NYLN and Kids As Self Advocates. It covers ways that people can make spaces accessible to people with disabilities. It lists accommodations you can provide so that everyone can be included. two cartoon people lifting up a blossoming tree

2. Be An Ally to Disabled People (pdf) is a one page docuement for allies written by Eli Clare. Eli Clare is a long-time disability activist. The document covers respect, language, access, and activism.

3. If I Can’t Dance It’s Still My Revolution is a website on ableism and the disability experience. It includes a lot of information that would be useful for allies (see: “Being an Ally” and “What You Said…” sections.)

4. Respectful Disability Language: Here’s What’s Up! (pdf) is a guide co-written by NYLN and Kids As Self Advocates. A lot of people feel confused about what words to use to talk about disability. This guide is designed to help.


These are resources for ways that allies can support youth with disabilities to reach our full potential.

1. Keep It Real: Youth Leadership Development in Centers for Independent Living was a 3 day presentation led by Amber Smock, Stacey Milbern, and Julia Thomas in 2010. It was about how to work with disabled youth to develop their leadership skills. Captioned video of the training, powerpoints, and other resources can be found at the wiki site created for the training. cartoon people piling up together to lift a person up to reach a star in the sky

2. The Young Women’s Empowerment Project is a youth-led project that focuses on harm reduction for young women working in the street economy. They’ve done a lot of writing and research on harm reduction — methods for respecting people’s choices and working with people instead of coming from an unhelpful place of judgement. A lot of information can be found at their website.

3. 10 Things Employers Can Do To Support Youth with Disabilities (pdf) is a tip sheet created by the Waisman Center in Wisconsin. It includes tips that are helpful for other allies as well.