Disabled folks have some really diverse needs. i know i do! i’m interested in expanding the understanding of accessibilities, disabilities, accommodations, liberation.
i don’t have big answers to any of the questions i find myself pondering around this stuff, and don’t claim to have a full picture of what anyone else needs or where we should really start or go to with conversations about this stuff (or who “we” is anyways), but there are some real basic things i personally require to start the process of getting into a space. At its most basic, here are some (not all, just some) of my personal questions around my accessibility needs that i have to answer before i can attend something. Having to think about all of this, do all of this work before i can even consider going to an event is one of the reasons it rankles my kankles when people say “why don’t YOU just call and find out it it is accessible?”
before i get in
- Is it on an accessible bus route? Does that bus run late? Is the location far from the bus? Is there parking outside in case i’m being driven? (i take the bus. i have a gimp pass, and its the only way i can regularly travel that isn’t completely triggering to me–i was broken in a car crash, that’s why i’m gimped. Sometimes i don’t have a choice and have to go in a cab or someones car, i need to know if after that i’m going to have to hike somewhere)
- Are there stairs to get in? Are there rails? (It matters to me. It also matters to me if there are “a couple”, “a few” or “wow i don’t really know how many but some”. Sometimes one is too many. 2 and 20 are not the same. Rails and no rails are not the same)
- Can i open the door by myself? Can i fit through the door? Is there a doorbell or do folks have to call on a cell, because i don’t have one in canada where i live? (Can we pre-arrange a time where someone will be there to let folks in? Or are folks basically on their own?)
- Is smoking allowed outside (i’m allergic)?
- and more
- Are there strong scents used to clean the space? Are people allowed to wear strong scents? (i’m allergic)
- Is everything i’ll need on the same floor? (Once going through getting somewhere, the last thing i want to do is climb more stairs)
- Is there a variety of seating options? (Sometimes i need arms on chairs to help me get up, sometimes i cant use them because they’re too tight and don’t fit my belly or otherwise hurt my body)
- Is it a space where aggressive dudes are encouraged to be aggro? (i’ve got ish, ok?)
- Can i bring food / water with me? (i may not be able to eat or afford the food / drink there)
- Is there fluorescent lighting? (Major headaches)
- Is there loud music? (Can’t converse)
- Is a workshop set up as a fishbowl style or open so i can see everyone who’s talking? (i often lip read to get a fuller picture of what someones saying because i miss a lot aurally)
- Are there microphones being used? Does everyone actually use them or do they yell “can everybody hear me?!” and proceed to not use the mic? (i hate being the one person who needs you to use the mic, when i know it makes you uncomfortable to use it. When a mic is provided, people should assume its necessary for everyone)
- If i’m there with a lover who seems to “match” my gender presentation, will we be safe there? Are people making assumptions and/ or attempting to use their “queerdar” and/or their “transdar” with me or us? Do people think they’re being supportive when they do that? (i’m queer and trans and have a variety of sexual and intimate interests and connections. Will i feel and be safe there?)
- Are there spaces to go for more quiet so i can hear my friend? (Again, i cant hear well when there’s a lot of noise. Doesn’t even have to be super loud noise)
- Are people getting wasted and bumping into me and/or triggering me around alcohol? (i’m a recovering alcoholic, and it is hard to be in spaces where folks are drunk, so i like to know ahead of time; and drunk people have a tendency to run into me, and that shit is dangerous for me)
- Will folks bring food / drink to my table for me? (i use 2 crutches and cant carry stuff like that)
- Are people staring at me because of my crutches? (Happens all. the. time. But if i’m going to go out of my way to go to a space, i want to feel like i’m being treated with respect or at least indifference, rather than being gawked at and commented on– which happens even in some of the most “progressive” spaces)
- Are the bathrooms gender neutral? How? Do people know what that means? (i am trans and genderqueer, and i need to pee)
- Are bathroom doors wide enough for me to fit? Are there grab bars in the stalls? Do the stall doors go in our out? Do i have to straddle the toilet to fit, then try to turn around with my crutches somehow? And what about all the other things that make a bathroom more accessible to me? (Being fat, even the size i am, and using 2 forearm crutches means that trying to use a bathroom whose door swings in usually means i have to basically straddle the toilet if i want to try closing the door behind me, then i have to try to turn around –all while supporting myself– so i can pee. Is there a coat hook? A shelf? Is there a lock i can reach and use? etc etc
- Is there scent-free soap? (i’m allergic to most scented varieties)
- Is there reasonably priced food options? What price? Is there a “minimum purchase” in place? How much? (i’m broke a lot of the time. i can’t afford to spend more than a few bucks out. i want to know ahead of time so i know whether i should just eat something at home, and whether my friends can come and won’t be treated like shit because we can’t pay a certain amount)
- Are people staring at my body? Does it feel safe? (see earlier)
- Are people just talking over each other all the time? Is there an understanding in the space about how that impacts folks with hearing/ cognitive disabilities?
- Is the fire escape accessible to me or obstructed by bins, ladders or other obstructions? (If shit goes down, i want to get out just as much as anyone else!)
- Is the event/ organizing/ you name it, is it friendly to me? Do the folks involved know anything about ableism? Accessibility? Radical access? Are they trans, disabled, fatty, queer, sex worker friendly? Anti racist? Etc etc etc!
These are some of the questions i ask myself about spaces and events and organizing i might want to frequent. About groups i may wish to be part of. About organizing i might like to contribute to in some way. Some folks don’t have to consider any of this, some considerably more, some a mix depending on the day and time.It seems daunting. It is daunting to me sometimes. But there you go.
What questions do you have to ask yourself about spaces you go to?
And if you think a space you own, work from or promote as such is accessible, ask yourself: what does that mean?