Alice Wong, Co-Partner in #CripTheVote and Founder and Project Coordinator of the Disability Visibility Project™, created a video presentation for the opening panel of the Disability Rights Bar Association West Coast Conference, “Intersectionality and Oppression: A Day of Cross-Movement Coalition Building and Skill Sharing.”
The title of the talk is “Disability Visibility in Election 2016: The #CripTheVote Campaign” for the opening panel, “Using Social Media to Forward Civil Rights Movements,” that will take place on October 20, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.
Thank you to Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan, #CripTheVote co-partners, for their support!
Below the clip you will find the full text transcript and image descriptions featured in the video.
Hi, my name is Alice Wong and I love social media. I use it in my personal life and in my work as an activist. I’d like to thank Michelle Uzeta for inviting me to talk with you today. I can’t be there in person, but I prepared a short video presentation instead. And by the way, images in this video are described in detail in my PowerPoint slides.
I’ll be talking about my involvement in Crip The Vote and our campaign’s usage of social media, how people are using our hashtag to advance political participation and voting rights, and some final lessons learned so far in our 10 months of existence.
[Graphic with a white background. In the center is a voting box with a marked ballot and the box has 4 quadrants with pictures of a wheelchair, 2 hands signing, a person using a cane and image of a person’s brain. The word “#CripTheVote” is below that image.]
I’m the founder of the Disability Visibility Project™, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. You can check out my website at Disability Visibility Project dot com.
I’m also a co-partner in Crip The Vote, a nonpartisan online campaign to engage people in a productive discussion about disability issues during this Presidential election.
[Rectangular graphic with a white background. In the center is a voting box with a marked ballot and the box has 4 quadrants with pictures of a wheelchair, 2 hands signing, a person using a cane and image of a person’s brain. The word “#CripTheVote” is to the left of that image.]
Here are images of my co-partners, Andrew Pulrang on the left and Gregg Beratan on the right. This is from a recent Google hangout when we gave a presentation at a voting summit for disabled youth in Sacramento.
[Two screengrabs from Google hangouts overlapping one another in the slide. The one on the left is of an older white man with short brown hair and eyeglasses. He is wearing a purple turtleneck and wearing earbuds in his ears. He has a graphic across the image that reads: Andrew Pulrang, #CripTheVote @AndrewPulrang
On the right is the image of a middle-aged white man with brown hair and a beard. He is wearing glasses and a dark colored shirt. He has a graphic that reads: Gregg Beratan, #CripTheVote @GreggBeratan. Below that image you can see smaller squares showing Andrew and another participant in the google chat, Alice Wong.]
The mission of the Crip The Vote is three-fold: to encourage disabled people to become politically active; to amplify the voices of people with disabilities and the issues they care about; and to share our views on disability policies to the public.
Crip The Vote’s activities take place primarily on Twitter. We also have a Facebook group with our events and updates. We chose this approach for the following reasons:
- It takes a lot of resources and energy to organize in-person events
- We can have conversations with a wide range of people with disabilities by using the hashtag itself and scheduled Twitter chats on specific issues
- It’s relatively easy to use social media and doesn’t require any special training or preparation and
- For three people who don’t do this for a living or with any professional connections to the political world, Twitter is one direct and public way to insert ourselves into the broader policy and election conversation
The strength of Crip The Vote is in creating spaces for our community. We believe online campaigns can go hand-in-hand with grassroots community organizing. We may not be involved in specific direct actions or protests, but we have motivated people to register to vote or engage with civil society for the first time. This can have a fantastic ripple effect when shared on social media. We also realize that social media is not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok! Using social media is a privilege and we recognize that.
There simply isn’t enough intersectional disability representation in media. I’ll describe some of our activities and how Crip The Vote advances political participation, disability rights and voting rights with an intersectional approach.
We’ve hosted 10 Twitter chats this year on topics such as storytelling, mass incarceration, long-term services and supports, violence, voting rights, and voter suppression. These chats ask questions that recognize the intersectional experiences of complex disabled lives—that we’re not from a monolithic white majority of wheelchair users and that multiply marginalized disabled people experience disability differently.
Here are a few tweets from our June 18th chat on mass incarceration, disability and the legal system with guest host T.L. Lewis, an attorney, professor, and activist:
Emmanuel AM Sam tweeted:
The criminalization of poor people happens at the hashtag intersectionality of race, class & gender. It breaks than building. Hashtag Crip The Vote.
Lydia X.Z. Brown tweeted:
Police assume atypical communication is noncompliance, can be deadly for disabled people of color. Hashtag Crip The Vote.
T.L. Lewis tweeted:
Women with an x, Indigenous, Black, QTPOC folx are disproportionately affected by poverty & disability. With that the hashtag Bail Trap is set. Hashtag Crip The Vote.
These are just a few examples that highlight the rich and powerful perspectives shared during our chats. Most discussions during this Presidential election about mass incarceration haven’t touched on any of these important aspects. To document our work, all of our Twitter chats are Storified and can be found here at: storify dot com slash SF direwolf
[Screengrab of Alice Wong’s Storify page, just the top section. There is a horizontal background of blue polka dots and the lower half of the image is all white. On the left-hand side is a small square profile picture of an Asian American woman drinking coffee with a straw. She’s wearing glasses and has a jacket on. The text in the image reads: alice wong SFdirewolf 73 stories 21 followers 1 following. Below that row of text is additional text that reads: San Francisco, CA http://t.co/kU0D23ZOl0 @sfdirewolf Alice Wong Unrepentant night owl. Obscene consumer of tv, food & news. Runs @DisVisibility Project, A Community Partnership w/ @StoryCorps http://t.co/psYtv6C6ND There is a green +Follow button on the right-side of the image.]
Earlier I mentioned storytelling as the topic of one of our chats. Crip The Vote recently partnered with Rooted in Rights, a non-profit that produces videos and social media campaigns exclusively on disability rights.
If you want to see some CripTheVote stories, check out Rooted in Rights dot org slash videos slash voting slash crip the vote stories.
[A screengrab from the Rooted in Rights website. At the top you see the navigation tabs for Rooted in Rights such as About, Videos, Podcast, Blog, Hire Us and Donate.
Below that are the words: #CripTheVoteStories. In the center there is a large graphic with a white background. In the center is a voting box with a marked ballot and the box has 4 quadrants with pictures of a wheelchair, 2 hands signing, a person using a cane and image of a person’s brain. The word “#CripTheVoteStories” is below that image with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow)]
We invited people to create videos about the importance of political engagement and voting in their lives with Crip The Vote Stories. We received several submissions and here are a screenshots of 3 videos produced by Rooted in Rights featuring active members of the Crip The Vote community: Hamza Jaka, Michele Kaplan, and Vilissa K. Thompson.
[Screenshot of a Tweet by @RootedInRights: “The 1st of #CripTheVoteStories comes from @HamzaAJaka urging us to #CripTheVote this fall. Full visual descr.: ow.ly/XiWt304CGEo
Below the text is a graphic: Logo of #CripTheVoteStories with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow) an image of a young man of color with dark Black hair and a short-sleeved white t-shirt. He’s sitting in an upholstered chair and speaking to the camera. Below is a video player that allows a person to press play.]
[Screenshot of a Tweet by @RootedInRights: “The 2nd #CripTheVoteStories video from @RebelWheelsNYC highlighting the power of the local vote. Full visual descr.: ow.ly/5uOa304CH8q
Below the text is a graphic: Logo of #CripTheVoteStories with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow) an image of a young White woman in a wheelchair wearing glasses and speaking to the camera. Below is a video player that allows a person to press play.]
[Screenshot of a Tweet by @RootedInRights: “Final #CripTheVoteStories vid. w/ @VilissaThompson reminder: Your vote matters, our vote matters. Full visual descr.: ow.ly/NyjZ304CHM7
Below the text is a graphic: Logo of #CripTheVoteStories with the text of the hashtag in rainbow colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple and yellow) an image of a young African American woman speaking to the camera. Below is a video player that allows a person to press play.]
Throughout the entire campaign, my co-partners and I consistently highlight the stories of disabled people of color since the disability rights movement is often whitewashed in the media.
Everyday it’s a delight to scroll through the hashtag—there are many folks who see Crip The Vote as a place online for them to express their culture and pride.
Lauren Tuchman tweeted: “I just cast my first independent ballot using a fully accessible voting machine. I am totally blind. It felt awesome. Hashtag CripTheVote”
On instagram, perfecthannah posted a selfie with her fingers crossed and an “I Voted” sticker on the lapel of her shirt. Her post said: “Obligatory sticker selfie & Here’s to November!
Hashtag I voted today
Hashtag Locals Only
Hashtag Crip The Vote
Hashtag No Justice for Natives
no melanin/no question:
Hashtag Black lives matter
Hashtag La gente unida
When we first started this January, we had no idea if people would embrace Crip The Vote or whether the hashtag would take off, but it did. One thing we know for sure is that our project will continue well after Election Day. Here are a few lessons learned during our first 10 months:
- Collaborate with others
Being open and partnering with others with specific expertise and skill sets is one major lesson learned from our campaign so far. Having guest hosts for our Twitter chats like TL Lewis re-shaped our thinking about mass incarceration. Collaborating with other disability rights organizations like Rooted in Rights helped our campaign extend its reach, diversity, and ability to engage on multiple platforms. Andrew, Gregg, and I run Crip the Vote without any funding or infrastructure and much of our support comes from the community.
- Don’t micromanage or feed the trolls
Another lesson learned is not to micromanage how people are using the Crip the Vote hashtag. It belongs to everyone—we have very little control over the conversations and that’s the way it should be. We’ve had a few times when people tried to derail the conversation into partisanship, but we resisted hammering on them. We just repeated our purpose and most of them got the message. Here is a meme of Yoda from Star Wars with the quote: “Do or Do Not. There is no try.” As for feeding the trolls, let’s all be a little more like Yoda and choose not to feed the trolls.
[A meme of Yoda, a character from Star Wars. Yoda has a green non-human creature with pointy ears and green skin and fuzzy white hair. He has a shroud over his small body. At the top of the image are the words, “DO OR DO NOT” and at the bottom of the image are the words “THERE IS NO TRY.” In small print on the right-lower corner is: memegenerator.net]
- Invest time and labor in engagement
It takes a lot of work to build an online community—you can’t convince people to use a particular hashtag—they have to see the value in it. Support for an online campaign has to happen organically in order for it to have longevity and credibility. With that said, there’s a lot of care, time, and labor that creates the conditions allowing a community to flourish. Andrew, Gregg and I are on Twitter and Facebook everyday engaging with folks, sharing information and links, and answering questions. Our main goal is to keep the conversation as nonpartisan and focused on disability issues as possible. By being available and responsive, I hope people regard our campaign as an authentic and thoughtful one.
Identity and storytelling are essential elements for movement building. Social media can facilitate both. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network tweeted: “When people with disabilities consider themselves part of a group, they take action, such as through Hashtag CripTheVote”
To conclude, civil rights movements and other disability rights and disability justice movements can use social media as a tool to organize and identify communities within communities. In the case of Crip the Vote, it does the following:
Gives people a name and space for their stories and voices
Gives people a way to initiate dialogue with candidates about disability issues from the perspective of disabled people
Gives people a sense of ownership and identity—that we belong to this significant body of voters that is tired of being taken for granted and ignored.
As a final example, here’s a photo of me that I tweeted holding a sign that says, “I vote because the Medicaid poverty trap needs to end.” I hope you’ll consider joining us, whether it’s just reading Crip The Vote Tweets or participating in our upcoming chats or live-tweets.
[Photo of an Asian American woman in a wheelchair holding a white piece of paper that says, “I Vote because…the Medicaid poverty trap needs to end.” A graphic that has a word bubble is right above the photo with the word: “Thanks” inside the bubble.]
For more about Crip the Vote, go to Andrew Pulrang’s website:
Disability thinking dot com slash election hyphen 2016 hyphen crip the vote
If you have any questions or feedback you can email me at:
Disability Visibility Project at gmail dot com
Or find me on Twitter at SF direwolf d-i-r-e-w-o-l-f