Invite graphic containing the Borealis Philanthropy and DIF logos, a picture of Risa Jaz Rifkind from Disability Lead smiling while holding a mic and wearing a red top, and the event details shared below.

On October 25, 2022, Borealis Philanthropy’s Disability Inclusion Fund (DIF) hosted its first-ever Twitter chat with grantee partners, the broader disability justice ecosystem, and funders. During the #DIFJoy chat, folks shared their thoughts and experiences with the DIF’s new Joy Grants and the role of joy in the movement for disability justice and inclusion. 

We rounded up some of the highlights from the #DIFJoy chat below:

Why is disabled-led joy important to you and/or your organization?

Disability & Philanthropy Forum: Disabled-led joy is radical in a world where disabled people have to fight for survival. The disability community should be able to experience moments of joy and celebration to thrive. 

Lisette E. Torres of Disabled Latinx: DIF Joy is important because we are multiply marginalized and go through so much (i.e., pandemic, death, grief, violence, microaggressions, etc.) that we NEED to celebrate our resilience and ingenuity. It’s survival. It’s hope.

NAMD Advocates: It’s our time! To destigmatize the existing outward narrative that surrounds the disabled community, we need to take up the space to celebrate our full selves with unabashed confidence.

What are some joyous practices that you and/or your org have done?

Sandy Ho of Borealis Philanthropy: DIF team has weekly check-ins, and every effort is made to start off with a zany, random, and joy-filled relationship-building question before we dive into the work! The work will always be there, but time to get to know each other makes our work and processes stronger. Some grantee-partners have shared #DIFJoy practices with us, like boba happy hours, bonding over zoom games, sharing gardening tips and photos of pets, and shifting towards 4-day work weeks over the summer. The seeding of joy has turned into the harvesting of more opportunities! 

Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network: AWN will be hosting our 2nd annual retreat in Dec, which supports joy by offering space and time for our board, staff, volunteers, and contractors to come together and celebrate the year with music and games. AWN supports joy and self-care by taking the last two weeks of December off, and we shut down operations. We even close our social media platforms and ask that our staff and volunteers take this time away from work. They do not lose pay and are compensated during the shutdown. AWN provides quarterly self-care stipends to our staff. This funding is supported by the Borealis Joy Grant! 

How has your organization or workplace culture supported joy? Are there things that you think should be changed to strengthen or center joy in your org? 

Health Justice Commons: HJC provides health, wellness, and access support to our team, such as providing food for meetings when we’re in several different locations. Putting #DisabilityJustice into practice this way is powerful and brings us joy!  

Jen Bokoff of Disability Rights Fund: When team members get together, nothing is more fun than catching up beyond the work over good meals! As a remote team, we also started periodically buying dinner for staff + their families to cultivate joy at home. #FoodAsJoy

NAMD Advocates: With a remote team, we make sure we’re always checking in with each other and taking time to rest when needed. There’s always room to strengthen joy! We also love a good in-person work session to brainstorm and learn more about each other outside of the work we do. 

The Kelsey: The Kelsey advances #disabilityforward #housing solutions that open doors to more homes & opportunities for all! We are co-led by disabled & nondisabled people, & cultivating joy is so important to our team and work! Every Friday we spend time learning & sharing together. 

1 of the 10 Disability Justice principles is sustainability. “We pace ourselves, individually and collectively, to be sustained long term.” In what ways does joy provide sustainability for your org? For you? For your team?

Sandy Ho of Borealis Philanthropy: We recently did our work planning! Working together to plan for the year ahead to support our own sustainability, preservation of our collective access, and recognizing wholeness of our bodies was a practice in asserting DIF Joy. Joy isn’t the destination, it’s the process!

Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network: AWN works within a horizontal organizing framework which helps us to sustain ourselves long-term as we intentionally work collectively.

Generation Patient: The sustainability of our work is directly tied to the overall well-being and happiness of our team. Joy is a key factor of resilience. That, along with our lived experience, fuels our passion to create meaningful change. 

How does joy show up in your work now, and how has that changed over the past few years throughout this pandemic? 

Sandy Ho of Borealis Philanthropy: Ya know what? Somedays, it is really freakin’ challenging to find #DIFJoy. It is not always present as the robust and refreshing change. But what has changed my perceptions is reminding myself, our team, and our movement leaders that we are not doing this alone. The pandemic has contributed to the palpable sense of loss, grief, and ongoing precarity that many in disability community have known. As a movement-aligned funder, we cannot shy away from these realities, and it is possible to give ourselves space to do more towards.

Health Justice Commons: Surviving the ongoing pandemic has shown us how crucial disability justice is for our collective human survival. We can celebrate the wisdom and power that brought us this far and uplift how precious we are even amid the increasing tides of ableism and risk we face. 

Immunospicy: Joy shows up in our work primarily through the individual connections we form with those we work with. It shows up in purposefully sharing moments of levity with each other and through cultivating the closeness within our community. That much hasn’t changed!

What are some of the barriers that people w/ disabilities—particularly folx who are BIPOC, queer, trans, femmes, unhoused, and/or poor—face when trying to access joy? 

Sandy Ho of Borealis Philanthropy: Our systems, including public policy, democratic participation, and funding, are designed to surveil multiply marginalized disabled folx in ways that diminish and suppress joy in our communities. People whose bodies and minds that do not conform to meet ableist standards are intentionally left behind, and our society doesn’t consider their contributions to a more joy-filled world. But at a certain point, we must wonder who is left when this is the path forward? 

Health Justice Commons: Disabled people face deep and unrelenting ableism, which is always racist, sexist, and homophobic. This limits every aspect of our lives. Joy is less accessible when we are busy fighting for our survival, access to basic healthcare, and dignity. 

Rebecca Cokley of The Ford Foundation: Fear of retaliation for accessing joy. I know grantees hesitant to go to the beach or to an amusement park for fear of being surveilled online if they post a pic and having benefits cut. 

Generation Patient: We see inequities at every level of society, particularly within the medical system. These are amplified for patients whose intersecting identities are discriminated against within the very spaces they are meant to trust. 

Recently, the DIF provided grantees Joy Grants. We did this because Disability Justice is also about self-determined joy. And we know disabled-led joy is critical to movement momentum. How are Joy Grants building upon community wisdom and trust? 

Disability & Philanthropy Forum: We absolutely love the concept of Joy Grants! They’re a reminder that a community is valued and cared for, not just tokenized for their labor. 

Immunospicy: We love the idea of a grant that creates space for joy, which is too often looked upon as a luxury. By focusing on lifting up those working to help support other chronically ill and disabled people, we can cultivate more spoons to work with and share! 

Lisette E. Torres of Disabled Latinx: I think Joy Grants show the community that you trust them with the funding, not judging them or reprimanding them for using the funding to make others happy. It also recognizes that joy fosters hope, which is needed for social transformation. 

Who or what are some resources/frameworks that you look to cultivate joy for yourself? For your organization? 

Health Justice Commons: Sins Invalid’s Disability Justice Primer and the 10 Disability Justice Principles. We also love the new book Viral Justice by Ruha Benjamin! 

Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network: Collective capacity and horizontal organizing.

Immunospicy: Tea is a pivotal part of what brings us joy and calm throughout the day. We look to music to motivate us and encourage us to share gratitude. 

The DIF would also like to shoutout: 

In what ways is disabled-led joy important to future iterations of disability movement strategies and wins?

Sandy Ho of Borealis Philanthropy: The DIF gives grants to disabled-led organizations knowing that their leadership is already the ones we trust, have the knowledge, strategies, skills, and will toward movement wins. This must be part of philanthropy’s broader shift in disability grantmaking.

Health Justice Commons: Joy is essential to sustain our work. We take joy in our survival even when conditions of intersectional ableism undermine this, and we celebrate every success! 

Immunospicy: Joy that is cultivated by us for us creates a unique space for us to openly share joy in the ways that we experience it without the risk of feeling self-conscious. By cultivating joy for ourselves, we are able to be more productive, open, and creative.

We extend deep gratitude to those who participated in the #DIFJoy Twitter chat—especially the organizers and organizations leading the movement for disability justice and unearthing opportunities for joy along the way. For more information about the Disability Inclusion Fund, email