In support of our current collective uprising, we offer these suggestions for making sure that your actions/ marches/ mobilizations include as many of us as possible.
This work is ideally done from a deeper political commitment to disability justice, or at minimum a critique of ableism and an understanding of consent; otherwise paternalism and abuse can masquerade as “access support.”
- Always have a Disability Point Person. Announce them from the mic; have them wear an armband for visibility. Their skills should include a disability justice framework, problem solving, and good listening.
- Announce that the event will be fragrance free; ask people who are heavily scented to self-segregate.
- Generally speaking, written text offers an additional mode of communication.
- To support accessibility for folks that are DHoH / for those who can’t hear the mic
- have an ASL interpreter at the mic
- use slips of paper to communicate the nuts and bolts of logistics (possibly with chants, to communicate destinations, the National Lawyers Guild’s #, etc.)
- have ASL interpreters in the crowd
- Organize push wheelchairs in advance for people who may need them; announce their availability from the mic
- Organize low stimulation spaces near the main gathering space (e.g. a room, or tent); announce from the mic
- Organize childcare and changing stations; announce from the mic
- Organize multilingual translation services; announce from the mic
- Have the tactical team spread throughout mobilizations (e.g. the four quadrants)
- Rent walkie-talkies. More information = better access. Be mindful that police escalation needs to be communicated with participants in a calm manner, and will impact some more than others.
- Provide chairs (folding chairs, mobile bleachers, etc.) for rallies / gatherings where people can expect to be standing for 20 min or more. Announce their location from the mic and explain that they are for people with disabilities, elders, and others who cannot stand for a length of time.
- Do a march route run-through with mobility in mind – possibly seated in a wheelchair or in an abandoned shopping cart (e.g. looking for grids, grassy areas, hills, holes, etc.)
- Invite people with disabilities if they would like to set the pace of the march by being at the front
- Give an auditory description of the march route beforehand
- Make an announcement before the march regarding the destination and distance of the route, so that folks can choose to meet the march there.
- DO NOT “direct” folks with mobility impairments to where you think they should be; you can offer respectful suggestions; no one should be hurried along – ideally the slowest pace should set the pace of the march; no one should touch people or their mobility devices without their consent.
- Organize a car or van to drive elders and people with disabilities from the beginning to the end of the march. Provide seating at the destination.
- Have distinct tactical and safety teams
- Police liaisons should be communicating with police that there are participants with disabilities (and elders, pregnant folks, etc) and that the march intends to respect that pace.
- Be aware that cops will often target folks with disabilities as perceived “weak links”; cops target folks at the end of actions as energy dissipates.
[Image description: Watercolor painting of a young Black man’s face and shoulders, on a yellow background. He wears a black beanie and a black sweatshirt and has a goatee. He is gazing intensely at the viewer. Large handwritten text above him says “Justice for Mario Woods”. Handwritten text to his left says “Over 50% of people killed by police are disabled”. Handwritten text to his right says “No comprehensive federal data is collected, but available reports show at least half of those killed by police have psych disabilities. These statistics do not include people with mobility, sensory, or developmental impairments or people who are otherwise neurodivergent or sick/chronically ill “. Handwritten text on his sweatshirt says “Disability Justice Now” and “# #BlackDisabledLivesMatter“. Art by Sins Invalid and Micah Bazant]
What makes an event accessible, and who is it accessible to? Free time, money, childcare, transportation, availability of interpreters, wheelchair access, use of fragrances, food options, and so many other things determine who shows up to an event, and who isn’t able to.
This guide is intended to help you think through some ways to engage a spectrum of people with and without disabilities in doing a public event. But please note, these suggestions are not comprehensive! Each item will hopefully prompt you to think through the cascade of access barriers in the world and how we can best disrupt them to create “liberated zones” from disability oppression. Many of the suggestions may also be useful within organizational processes as well. We’d love to hear your additions/feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GENERAL GUIDANCE REGARDING ACCESS
• Access for all community members takes time as well as commitment. In general, the more lead time the better for making a gathering or event more accessible to more people, so the longer in advance you consider these issues, the more likely you can address them. Improving access is always a process in development and we’ve got to start where we are! So wherever you are is a great place to start – and please incorporate what you can from these suggestions and next time incorporate a little more 🙂 This is how we grow together…
• We live in a capitalist ableist world. That means that unfortunately there is often a price tag that goes along with access. Individuals with disabilities should not be responsible for this cost. If you’re an organization with a budget, pay attention to what gets prioritized. Know that some access needs may be expensive and have Plan B’s to ask for help in securing that service/agency/etc if your budget can’t reflect what you want.
• As with other forms of oppression, we are steeped in ableism and likely are going to reinforce and/or replicate it despite our thinking ahead. And, as with other forms of oppression, we need to be non-defensive when receiving feedback. Defensiveness creates unnecessary barriers to cross movement building. Regrettably, people leave movement building / community building or stop attending events when met with defensiveness, so please be receptive to feedback and give thanks for the gift that it is.
• Remember, everyone has needs to make an environment accessible to them, and people will definitely know best what their specific needs are! So in general, your promotional material should state what access needs have been addressed (i.e. ASL interpretation, wheelchair access, etc) and state that people can write or call to request specific access needs. If you can, ask people what they need to participate – that’s a great place to start!
• Access needs can be shared and talked about without shame 🙂 We can’t assume that our friends or colleagues or even our families will know our access needs (that we need to be warm or we’re in pain, that we need information given to us in this way or that, that we’re feeling tired on a given day so we can’t walk far, etc). At Sins Invalid, we try to practice speaking up about what our access needs are, in the hopes that perhaps others can help meet those needs.
• Access support can be shared. Encourage people to think about what access needs they have, and also what access needs they can help meet for others. Some access needs may be specific, and may need a person skilled in a particular field (i.e. an ASL interpreter or certain types of personal care), but other types of access support can be shared (i.e. note-taking or making plates of food).
• Try to hold compassion in the process. Sometimes, even with the best planning, some access needs go unmet. A little humility goes a long way in holding the frustration ableism creates.
• Have an access committee for planning purposes and a person or two from that committee in the role of “access coordinator(s)” on the day of the event if you anticipate the gathering to be more than 15 people. They can handle access planning beforehand and address access related issues on the day, help trouble shoot, and in general be thinking about it and available to respond.
SPECIFIC ACCESS ITEMS TO CONSIDER INCLUDE
• Different forms of outreach: Some people respond best to talking, some people to reading, some to face to face interactions. How are you communicating about the gathering? People often use email and Facebook, but perhaps incorporate phone trees, texting and face to face invites if you can!
For written material, try to use Arial or other plain, sans serif fonts, at least 14 point font, black ink on white non-glossy paper, and check out these links for additional suggestions please visit http://webaim.org/techniques/alttext/ or http://www.un.org/webaccessibility/1_visual/13_colourcontrast.shtml
• Non-Visual Options: Audio describers describe action for folks who are visually impaired. Will this be helpful for participants in your event? Is a trained Audio Describer available for your event? If not, is someone who can see and describe (without commentary) available to do informal audio description? Also, if you are giving directions to the gathering site, can you think through how best to explain it to a person with a visual impairment?
• Bathrooms: Folks may well need to use the restroom during your event. There are long histories of trans and genderqueer people being harassed and in danger when they go into bathrooms, and equally long histories of folks with mobility impairments not being able to access bathrooms due to architecture, and still more history of folks with chemical injuries getting ill from the chemicals used in cleaning bathrooms. If possible, it’s helpful to actually go to the public site, see the bathroom and speak with the management. Is there a toilet that is in a bigger stall, that is lowered and/or with a grab bar for folks with mobility impairments? If not, make sure to let folks know in advance of the get together so they can take care of business at home! Is there a “gender neutral” bathroom? If not, can you hang a sign on one for the day that says “Gender Neutral”? Does the site use unscented cleaning products? If not, can you provide them with unscented products and ask them to use them, starting a week before the event?
• Non-auditory options: It’s important to arrange for ASL interpretation at public events, and to announce to folks that there is ASL interpretation in your promotion if you do have it. Sign language interpretation is a skill acquired with many years of training; unless you are close personal friends with someone who’s an ASL interpreter who regularly offers to donate their services, DO NOT assume that you can just get someone to do it for free or cheap at the last minute. Book your ASL interpreter well in advance and pay them. If relevant to the event, get them a script of what will be said ahead of time so they can do their job well.
• Food options: If food is part of the gathering, it’s great to have multiple options – vegetarian, vegan, high protein (including meat), gluten-free, sugar free, etc. Post ingredients somewhere visible and read them outloud before people start serving. If people have food allergies or dietary restrictions, invite them to let others know what they can eat. If possible, let people know in advance if there will/will not be food for the group so people can plan accordingly.
• Wheelchair and other mobility-related access: We’ve all seen the little blue wheelchair symbol, but that doesn’t help to break down mobility needs. Good things to consider include: Is there a working elevator? Are there steps or a steep slope in the building so that access may be limited? For folks where distance can be an issue, is Point A far from Point B? Say how many steps there are, whether they are steep, and whether there’s a railing. It’s also helpful to include information about the availability of parking. If there are doors to open and close to enter the site, are they heavy? If there is a bell or buzzer, who will or won’t be able to reach it? Are there enough chairs for people? Are there wide chairs? There can be a lot of elements to trouble shoot, which is a good reason to have an access coordinator on the day of.
• Scents and chemicals: Can participants be encouraged to avoid scented products (commercial detergents, shampoo, soap, perfume) before the event? Is the space free of air fresheners, scented soaps, and other scented products? For outreach materials, consider a phrase like this “In order for beloved community members with chemical injury to attend, please don’t use fragranced products.” Given the way that scent moves, consider a fragranced area and a scent free area in your event. For guidelines on how to make your event accessible to people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), please visit https://eastbaymeditation.org/resources/fragrance-free-at-ebmc/.
• Video Conferencing or Live Streaming: Do folks need to be in the room? Sometimes not, and you can provide the option of Google chat or Skype for meetings, or live stream the event, for those who can’t be there in person.
• Lighting: Fluorescent lighting can trigger seizures and can make spaces inaccessible for people with sensory issues and/or neurological diversity. Are other options (like lamps) available? Has there been discussion of flash photography? If not, ask for consent from all participants as the flash can trigger seizures in some.
• Structured schedules and awareness of time: When organizing, it’s always good to be aware of time – it’s important that people know the schedule and that you try your best to stick to it (with flexibility) – for lots of reasons! Attention and information processing needs, pre-scheduled transportation, schedules with assistants, childcare schedules and more can be elements that may impact someone’s ability to stay for the event. We can never assume people can stay an hour later if we’re late on schedule! If there have to be schedule changes, let people know and be as clear about them as possible.
• Language access: Everyone communicates in the way most familiar to them. When you are inviting people to the gathering or having the discussion, will everyone know what you are saying? Are you using words most people will know? If not, can you explain those terms? Check in with folks – would it be helpful for people to say their name before they speak? Are interpreters (e.g. ASL, Spanish, Tagalog, etc) possibly available for the event for community members who have a language other than English as their first language?
• Access to quiet space: It can often be helpful to have a space where people can go if they need to be alone/with less stimulation. Do you have the space and flexibility so that people can step back if they are getting overstimulated or tired?
• Transportation: How are people arriving? Can people rideshare? Is there public transportation that would dovetail with the time of the viewing? Does paratransit need to be called?
• Identities and experiences: Are folks aware of people’s preferred gender pronouns (not everyone goes by he/she or him/her, and we can’t assume based on presentation)? Similarly, remember that not all disabilities are visible, and some people may choose not to disclose a disability.
• Transparency: Be upfront about remaining known barriers.
Some of this guide has been adapted (with permission and gratitude) from Stacey Milbern’s writing.
[Image description: A photograph of Black poet and organizer Cara Page, holding her hands out before her, leaning back, smiling wide. The text reads, “All bodies are caught in the bindings of ability, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, sexuality, citizenship. We are powerful not despite the complexities of our identities, but because of them. Only universal, collective access can lead to universal, collective liberation. This is Disability Justice.” Photograph ©Richard Downing; text ©Patty Berne; courtesy of Sins Invalid]
Neve Be(ast) & Nomy Lamm
In this workshop, we will explore simple sounding exercises and movement exercises for self expression, creativity, and building community. All levels welcome.
This journey will be an embodiment playground, a place to deepen your work to reclaim the full range of your humanity. We will explore how the very act of claiming our bodies, our right to take up space, and our right to sound, move, breathe, and be is a revolutionary act in decolonizing ourselves from the legacies of colonialism, racism, classism, sexism, cis gender normativity, heteropatriachy, capitalism, sizeism, and other systemic oppressions that take up residency in our bodies.
To register for the Oakland workshop, please email India Harville at email@example.com
To register for the Olympia workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please provide your name, contact information, accessibility needs, and some general information about your social location (e.g. race, class, gender, ability).
This will enable us to prioritize participation from queer people of color with disabilities and to make the space as accessible as possible. The specific location of the event will be given out following registration.
Space will be limited, so register soon!
India Harville is an African American, queer, disabled, femme of center integrated dancer/dance instructor, choreographer, performance artist, somatic bodyworker, social justice activist, and educator. India has danced Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange, DanceAbility, and is a company member in the Dance Sing Drum Company and Inclusive Interdisciplinary Ensembles at Cal State Hayward and Sins Invalid based in Berkeley California. India has had the privilege to travel and perform across the United States. India’s performance work addresses racial justice, queer identity, survivorhood, disability and chronic illness. In addition to choreographing and performing, India is dedicated to supporting people with personal and collective healing and transformation from a place of embodiment. India believes “If you can breathe, you can dance.” India offers classes in many styles of integrated dance including DanceAbility, American DanceWheels Wheelchair Ballroom, Adaptive Stretching, NIA, Dancing Freedom, and KiVo.To find out more about India please visit her website at lovingtheskinyouarein.com.
Neve Be(ast) (aka Lyric Seal) is a bud, an outburst, a growth on the mossy embankment of a river. Descended from many rivers and people, including the Nile, The Mississippi, the South Branch of the Raritan, and the author of The Velveteen Rabbit, Neve has never stopped swimming, or becoming real. The Beast called Neve, in their current form, is a black, gross femme, queer punk writer, dancer/actor, and sacred/creative accessible space maker for all occasions. They are an adult and alt art film performer and director, sex and love coach, wedding officiant, accessible event consultant and planner, columnist for Maximumrocknroll, contributing writer for Everyday Feminism, and proud queer family builder and crew starter for those who like to roll deep. Neve co-founded Oakland’s Blueberry Jam with Ali M-O, an integrated improvisational dance lab for women and nonbinary people. Ali M-O also co-starred with Neve in them and Nikki Silver’s upcoming film, Diathesis: A Tale of Three Dancers, their third screen collaboration to date. Beast has been working with Sins Invalid since 2011, first as a summer intern traveling from New Jersey, and then as a local writer, educator, and performer beginning in 2013. They now a-bound and grow in Seattle with their partners and many other collaborators in life and love. Neve is proud to be writing for and performing in their first Sins show this year. Their writing also has appeared in ModelViewCulture, Plenitude, Harlot, Curve, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha and students’ zine Hard Femme Poetics, Jiz Lee’s Coming Out Like a Porn Star, and on Crashpadseries.com‘s blog, most frequently in the form of the advice column Slumber Party with Lyric Seal! You can learn more at littlebeasthood.tumblr.com or on Twitter or Instagram @littlebeasthood.
Nomy Lamm is a writer, performer, voice teacher and creative coach who is now living (again) in her home town of Olympia, Washington, after almost a decade in the Bay Area. She has been working with Sins Invalid since 2008 as a performer, advisory board member, and staff person, and is beyond excited to offer this workshop to the Olympia community. Nomy makes short films including animations and experimental documentaries, and is embarking on a larger film project about the Shriners called Legacy of the Mystic Shrine. Nomy has been publishing writings about fat, disability and queerness since the early 90’s, in zines, magazines and anthologies, including Ms., Make/Shift, The Body is Not An Apology, and most recently Glitter and Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy. Nomy has co-written a rock opera called The Transfused, and released two solo albums, Anthem and Effigy. She has two projects available on bandcamp, ((double hug)) and ganser/lamm. You can learn more about her work at www.nomylamm.com and www.nomyteaches.com.