So if the bathroom in a space you throw events in isn’t wheelchair accessible, what are you going to do? Well, there are a few things you can do, right now, (not in order of importance fyi).
**See important note at bottom.
1) LOOK FOR WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE WASHROOMS IN SURROUNDING BUSINESSES. This is ONLY useful if that space meets the following criteria (and yes, you need to do the work of figuring out if it does, before you just tell people “oh, use the bathroom down the street”). Ensure that it is:
a) actually fully wheelchair accessible, and
b) open during the hours you are (seems obvious enough, but it actually needs repeating), and
c) completely amenable to having people use the bathroom without buying anything or adhering to any specific dress code, and
d) not more than a block away, and
e) if your event is all ages, that bathroom needs to be too, if your event is queer and/or trans friendly, make the business you pair with queer and trans friendly too (e.g. gender neutral washroom or no hassles about it, etc), and
f) you have had actual conversations with the owner/manager of that space and everyone on staff is in-the-know and cool about it, so folks don’t have to have a conversation with staff about it, and
g) you have a system in place where people who use it are welcome without hassle to in and out privileges through the course of the event, one which does not involve being marked with toxic pens or stamps if they don’t want to be, and
h) you have arranged to have someone/s go along with a person if they wish to have someone with them, through the course of the event (so yeah, make sure not everyone is wasted please, designated folks who can be relied on), and
i) only if you consistently advertise the fact of its existence, and
j) does not have air “fresheners” in it, and
k) are actively working on other solutions [Note! This is NOT an acceptable ongoing solution to the inaccessibility question! In fact, it is not a solution at all. If anything it is an old scraggly bandaid ready to fall off. But it’ something.]
l) make the off-site washroom THE washroom. Consider, if it is possible, having an arrangement where that off-site washroom IS the washroom for your space, for all attendees, even for an experimental amount of time. Believe me, you will see how quickly solutions arise.
2) FUND RAISE FOR AND RENT A WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE PORT-O-POTTY, if that is something you are able to have in the space or in a safe location around the space. Ensure that throughout the event it is:
a) properly secured, and
b) sufficiently stocked, and
c) does NOT have air “fresheners”, or you remove them, and
d) remains in good working order, and
e) is advertised and used as a priority accessible bathroom, not a changing room or ironic make out-slash-smoke pit, and
Again, not a permanent solution, but it shows you’re trying *something*.
3) IF IT’S JUST THE DOOR (ETC) TAKING UP MOST OF THE ROOM, CHANGE IT.
If the only thing stopping people from being able to access your bathroom is the fact that the door swings inwards, flip the damn thing around or take it off entirely and make a secure curtain / accordion door / other closure for crikey’s sake. Done and done. If the only thing stopping people accessing it are the random things you’re storing in there, get them out, find another spot for them, clear it out. A bathroom isn’t for storing plants, zines, toiletries that people are going to nick anyways, or that charmingly hideous broken lampshade. A bathroom is not there to stock up for armageddon, it’s there to piss, poop, and preen in.
4) IF THE BATHROOM IS DOWN OR UP STAIRS, ALL I CAN DO IS TELL YOU IS: DO. NOT. CARRY. PEOPLE. Neither you nor they can afford the physical and financial price if you drop them. Seriously. Especially but not only my fellow Eastside queers who consistently don’t seem to have a) insurance for events, b) trained folks who know what the hell they’re doing, c) even non-drunk folks who can assist throughout an event, or d) the medical know-how or even basic equipment to deal with the plethora of injuries that has happened and can very easily result from well-intended but careless “assistance”. If folks think finding accessible spaces is financially daunting, try paying for this. Do you have any idea at all how much shit you would be paddling and how utterly fucked for life i would be if you dropped me down stairs? Every time someone suggests that as a reasonable alternative to finding accessible space, i cringe. Stop using this as a go-to.
5) GET AN ACCESSIBILITY AUDIT done. These are available free, trade, or for a generally small sum for community groups. Make use of the work people are doing. Or, do it yourself. The magic of the internet (which most of you are using to advertise your events) makes finding this info a snap. But here is a link with audit templates, checklists, and many other resources so you don’t have to look far:
6) MAKE THINGS AS ACCESSIBLE AS POSSIBLE. If you can’t change the space, for whatever reason, the least you can do is attempt to make things as accessible as they can be, and not just re: wheelchair access. Show that access is on your radar. Ask about other kinds of access that may be attainable for you. You can’t just say “i can’t tear down this wall to make it accessible / i can’t make this 100% accessible to 100% of the people, so fuck it!” and expect that to be totally acceptable 100% of the time. Do some work… on SOMEthing, ANYthing. You’re full of soggy beans if you say you “can’t do anything” regarding access.
HERE ARE SOME ZERO-HASSLE, NO MONEY DOWN, THINGS OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO, RIGHT NOW:
a) remove all air “fresheners” from the entire space;
b) solicit friends and community for folks who can create captions for films you show (this is surprisingly easy to do with some formats like youtube and vimeo), or even just do a teensy bit of research to see if there already are cations for it; try this resource http://www.amara.org/en/ and see the comments below for some more specifics on how to do this in Amara for other formats (i’m always learning with this stuff because i’m not what you would call particularly computer savvy, but i am also someone who does this kind of work, talk with me about it and let’s share knowledge…)
c) put a jar at the door to collect donations earmarked for various accessibility initiatives. Whatever drops in that jar is more than you started the night out with – that shit adds up. If you don’t know what to do with the money to appropriately address various kinds of access issues, give it to people who can really take it on;
d) make sure people are smoking the appropriate distance from doors and intakes;
e) use a sliding scale;
f) if your bathrooms are gendered, just stop it. There’s generally no reason for this. If you have for example, 2 separate little bathrooms, right next to each other, there’s no need to have one be for “women” and one be for “men”. Put a picture of a toilet (and whatever else is in there, including if it’s accessible) on it and let people run wild, or, y’know, just pee. https://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/gendered-access/
g) make signage for your bathrooms, make bigger-font signs, black ink on white or slightly off-white background, that people with low vision can actually see. Just a couple pieces of paper. SOMEone in your vicinity / community has access to a library or home printer or to a pen if you don’t. Make use of it.
h) put a larger couch in the space or some type of wider and sturdy seating to accommodate bigger folks, and offer seating with and without armrests;
i) if someone you know is a fast typer, see if they would be open to trying out providing some Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) for an event;
j) ask questions.
Boom, simple. If you’re not even willing to get real on something as straightforward as these things? Yikes.
7) IF YOU DO HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE CHANGES TO THE STRUCTURE, WOULD YA JUST DO IT ALREADY?
Yes, this stuff takes planning, work, know-how, but it ain’t rocket science. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be, there’s plenty of time to get complicated. Bite-size pieces here, people!
8) CHOOSE A DIFFERENT SPACE; and no, of course it’s not easy, or cheap. No one (certainly not most disabled folks i know) is suggesting it is, so please stop using that as a reason to do nothing. It is not impossible. Broke queers have been doing this shit for a long time. Just do the work necessary to find a space and raise funds. You can also help facilitate this by having (egads!) fewer events. Disabled folks are expected to go without fun for months (and usually more) on end and that’s deemed an entirely reasonable status quo apparently, i’m sure others can learn to cope with not having an event every week or even every month. You can also team up with other groups in the community and beyond, and in fact, that’s almost always completely necessary, especially if you’re not really sure of what to do.
9) BE. HONEST. Don’t revise history, own the things you’ve done and move forward. Everyone fucks up. Everyone. Please don’t treat disabled folks and our allies as though we’re incompetent and just couldn’t possibly understand the intense pressure you’re dealing with as an organizer. Don’t treat us as though we don’t see what you’re doing, don’t know what could help, or are asking our communities for anything more than what every other non-disabled queer is asking for: access. That’s it. Nothing more complicated than that.
10) WORK TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT A PERMANENT SOLUTION, and is not an appropriate replacement for an accessible space. Reach out. Do the work.
11) EDUCATE YOURSELF by reading things like the following:
– easy-to-follow guideline for booking ASL interpreters, the best we can tell is this came from DAM2025, a group of fabulous disabled folks in Three Fires Conspiracy Territories (AKA “Toronto”) who were active in the mid to late 2000’s:
– a checklist for organizers on making events more accessible:
– Fragrance Free Femme Of Colour Realness, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha: http://www.brownstargirl.org/1/post/2012/03/fragrance-free-femme-of-colour-realness-draft-15.html
– other ways you can help people with Chemical Sensitivities and also help create change on a larger scale:
– comprehensive accessibilities audit, overview, FAQ and more, by yours truly, the Radical Access Mapping Project:
– Creating Accessible Events and Communities (this is a work in progress, there are tons of other great resources out there. please point me to those you find more/most useful!
and so on…
12) ALWAYS KEEP A MORE ACCESSIBLE VISION IN YOUR MIND AND IN YOUR ORGANIZING. These things are, i repeat, NOT replacements for fully accessible spaces.
13) DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, AND DO IT RIGHT NOW. All of these ideas are just some basic things you can do, right now, with very little to absolutely no money. You are not the one who is helpless in the face of inaccessibility. You have a role to play in changing this, a distinct voice in your various communities, and already existing tools to help you, so let’s get to it, yes?
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[So far, this is by yours truly. There are a ton of other things to add. If you have things to add, let’s do it!]
[**IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS IS NOT MEANT TO REPLACE IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER THE SEARCH AND COMMITMENT TO FINDING APPROPRIATELY ACCESSIBLE SPACES. If you find yourself using this as a reason to not be right now prioritizing accessible spaces and seriously challenging yourself on that and paying close attention to what disabled folks and our allies are saying and offering around this, you have, respectfully, misunderstood the intent. This point cannot be stressed enough. This post is in response to the ongoing, years long diversionary tactic of too many organizers who say things like “if we can’t be fully accessible right now, then what’s the point?”, and “you think we can’t do anything right! so why bother?”, and “we can’t be 100% accessible to 100% of the people 100% of the time!!!”, and “you just want a red carpet!!!”(not even kidding with that comment from a “anti-oppressive radical”) and “but we don’t have the time/ money/ energy to do any of this!!!”, a response to the feigned helplessness in the face of disabled folks and our allies speaking to access issues of various kinds, not a way out of prioritizing accessible spaces. There is very little being said here that has not been said before. My hope is that having it together, expanding, will help more folks see more is entirely possible, and help move something forward.]