ThisAbility launches fund to support disabled creatives

Sulaiman Khan is calling on the creative industries to harness the creative imagination of disabled creatives.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director


ThisAbility has launched a new fund for Disabled creatives, which aims to deliver 10 grants of up to £1,500 to support  disabled creatives.

The fund, which is the brainchild of ThisAbility’s Founder and Chief Purpose Officer, Sulaiman Khan, is accessible by design and creatives can upload their answers in audio or video format. 

The majority of funding for the grants will be raised from a 10% deduction in This Ability’s client billings. ThisAbility is also seeking corporate and individual donors who can support and amplify the fund.

Explaining the thinking behind the initiative, Khan shares that for many years he has been looking for ways to amplify creative disabled talent and “our infinite imaginations.” At this unique period in time, in the wake of a pandemic which has isolated and amplified the challenges and prejudice’s still surrounding disability, Khan believes the industry is facing a unique reset moment.

Pointing to the sexist and homophobic reporting and trolling that Wunderman Thompson’s Global Creative Director Jo Wallace recently faced, Khan shares his belief that there is “so many things we can do so much better at.”

It is the drive to do better which sits at the heart of the Disability Radical Impact Fund. Khan shares that the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on disabled people has been devastating. Yet, even in the midst of the challenges of shielding; his creativity and positivity remains at his core. “Even in these times of great change if you don't include anti-ableism and disability justice in all justice movements, then there is no movement at all,” he adds.

Flexible futures

Khan believes that now is the time to really understand the role of accessibility in creativity and take action to place accessibility at the heart of the industry. “Disabled people have been advocating for flexible working for decades,” he says. Indeed, Khan himself has been at the forefront of advocating for a more empathetic and inclusive approach to flexible working for over a decade. 

As he told Campaign magazine in 2017: "Advertising is a business that still requires people to be in the office all hours of the day and night, five days a week. It is not healthy for anyone: parents, families or people who need flexible work,"

As a Disabled AF, South Asian man, Continual WIP, I understand and have experienced what it means to be excluded in the workplace and within society. Disabled people have infinite imagination within limitations and our wisdom is a potential goldmine for the world's biggest problems. Yet, Disabled creatives and our narrative is never heard nor a part of any conversation. I am delighted that I have started to build capacity to launch this fund that is long overdue and I hope we are able to continue this as my legacy long after I am gone. This fund is the beginning of work we are destined to do and the start of investment (financial and social) into our Disabled global family. Let’s go!

Sulaiman Khan, Founder and Chief Purpose Officer, ThisAbility

The radical act of self-care

Khan shares that in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis the joy we feel and create in ourselves is what sustains us. He is also increasingly protecting that space for joy and rest. For in these uniquely challenging times he has discovered the power of no. 

He explains: “Activism is important but we have to look after ourselves first because if we don’t who will?” Quoting Audre Lorde’s famous line: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. and that is an act of political warfare.”

It is an approach which means that as an activist he has to be aware of what he can physically and mentally take on. “When you are disabled this can be harder,” he shares, adding: “I don’t want to be part of any system that doesn’t respect rest and replenishment."

Or, for that matter, a system that doesn’t see your value. As he explains: “It is great when people see your value, but it is exhausting when you get people to listen, but they still want you to work for free.”

Khan shares that the press release for the launch of the fund was created collaboratively with his personal assistant Tia Denton, in ‘Crip Time’  (a term created by, for, and used by the Disabled community). He explains: "Crip Time is valuing the importance of restful activism, and the bending of time (and time travel that works with Disabled bodies and minds without adding to Ableism nor the system[s] of oppression we face daily). Crip Time is the wisdom of knowing that interdependence is more significant than independence.”

In the midst of the deluge of rain that is hitting London on the day of our conversation, Khan shares a typically uplifting sentiment: ‘Bring your own sunshine’. With the Disability Radical Impact Fund Khan aims to shine that light on a broad range of disabled creatives, talent that the industry is in danger of missing out on entirely.

As he explains:  “There are so many amazing disabled creatives, there are screenwriters, graphic designers and photographers and the fund is a long term fund to amplify them,” he adds. To this end he is calling on the industry to share details of the fund through their networks, to support the fund and to encourage disabled creatives to apply.