i want communities to strive for better when thinking about how to label their venues wheelchair access wise (accessibility of course being so much more than that, but this is one of the features i directly deal with).
For example, there are a number of venues here in town which continue to be labeled “wheelchair accessible” and “fully wheelchair accessible”, even though (for example) a stage –realistically the central feature and focus of a space– is utterly not accessible. Why is this? i believe that the ways communities label the spaces it uses matters in the day to day lives of gimps, which is why i get excited about getting it right.
A venue can certainly be accessible on many fronts, but some parts of it continue to not be. For the City, sometimes that’s good enough, and codes/laws/etc differ from place to place. But for me, i’m not relying on the State’s definition of “good enough”, and unless the facilities used by all of us in the space are wc accessible, they don’t work, they don’t include me, and they don’t look far enough outside of old boxes… are simply not good enough.
If you’re having an event which uses a stage, don’t you also wish to include those of us who’d need wc access to it? If you see us at all, do you see us only as attendees putting money down or volunteering at the door or filling the audience with fabulousness, and not as directly contributing to the content? Is that truly good enough or is that just bottom of the bare bones barrel? Because i know a lot of gimps, and we have some seriously brilliant stuff to offer, brilliant stuff that we’re sometimes already sharing elsewhere with folks who already have it down, but often we’re stuck with no place to share it at all.
So if you are among those who really do want to increase access, and break down some of the ableist barriers (architectural, attitudinal, social, etc) tossed up all around us, i ask you in part to regularly question your listing of a space as “fully wheelchair accessible” for your events when it very clearly is not. Ask yourself, honestly, the questions above and these ones too: What is the focus of this space? Where is everyone focusing their energy/ attention/ adulation? Where is the power/ influence/ etc in this space? Is that space accessible? Why is the venue being listed as accessible when a primary feature of it is not accessible? What benefit is there to doing that? Who is being missed in this labeling? What opportunities are being missed by performers and audience members and organizers alike? What explicit message are you sending to potential participants by using that venue? What is the community you want to build? What can we do to change the situation?
Really, ask these questions, and more, and i think you’ll be surprised at what you come up with.