10 MORE Tips for Building an Accessible Movement

Posted September 10, 2015 by Shawn Reilly

In my previous article, I provided ten tips on creating accessible social justice spaces. But I wasn’t done! Here are then more strategies to add to your accessibility warrior toolkit:

  1. Create accessible leadership positions, create representation in leadership

When creating executive boards or leadership positions, make sure to institute specific jobs that anyone, regardless of ability, can fill. Further, create support structures to give strength to team members that have hit a wall, whether it’s from having a panic attack or from a particularly stressful week. It is also important to make sure to elevate people with different ability levels to leadership positions, in order to offer positive representation to general body members.

  1. Keep spaces scent-free

Certain folks have particular sensitivity to various scents, chemicals, and fragrances. For some people, these things can create real challenges for well-being. Asking people to ditch the perfume for a few hours or days is way easier than having to address the negative health reactions to those fragrances.

  1. On Facebook event pages, outline the accessibility details

Is your protest going to include a long march? Say it. Will the space be accessible to wheelchairs and walking aids? Say it. Outlining all of the accessibility details of an event will help people with disabilities plan, stay informed, and make the best and safest decision for themselves.

  1. Offer maps beforehand that map out where an action is taking place

If you are planning on having a march or some action with a lot of movement, consider offering a map that outlines the route of the action. This way, people can plan beforehand where they can take breaks on the route, or if they need to meet the crowd at a certain point.

  1. Create a resource list of translators for actions, meetings, etc.

Language can be a difficult barrier to overcome in many spaces. For people that use sign language and don’t have a personal translator, social justice spaces can be incredibly inaccessible. Try to create a proactive contact list of people who would be willing to volunteer time translating meetings, conferences, or other spaces. Try contacting local schools that have American Sign Language programs to see if there are any students or community members they know that would be willing to donate their time.

  1. Create An Access Point Person

At every action, especially disruptive ones, make sure to appoint an access person. This person can assist participants in finding calm spaces or help them process through emotional triggers. Additionally, offer people an email or contact to reach out to in order to set up accessibility measures before the action/meeting/conference/retreat.

  1. Ensure accessible bathrooms.

One thing all humans have in common? Everybody uses the bathroom in some way or another. Make sure that there are accessible (and if possible, gender inclusive) bathrooms available as close as possible to the meeting space.

  1. Create identity caucuses

Creating space for people to talk about their experiences with disabilities is important in building power. Having these spaces be peer support groups can help folks decompress, express discontent, and strategize for more inclusive spaces.

  1. Have conversations about certified help animals

When holding get-togethers in unfamiliar spaces, it is best to check with the staff to ensure they understand the importance of service animals. Checking to make sure that they are aware of people with disabilities’ rights to have a service animal can help avoid conflict and possibly triggering situations for folks that use them.

  1. Be intentional with recruitment

Make sure you are including people of all ability levels when recruiting for general body members and leadership. Do not tokenize people with disabilities, but work to create real, authentic relationships with people to allow them the space to empower themselves.

Bonus: For reiteration, I believe the most important rule for creating an inclusive space for any and all identities, is to practice grace. From my previous article:

“What I believe is the most important tenet of accessibility. Not everyone learns the same way, not everyone experiences situations the same way. People may have reactions to things that you may not understand but may be the result of prior experience, various disabilities, and/or challenges with mental health. Allow people space to make mistakes, and to take time to take care of themselves. Offer support in whatever way they ask you for it, and grant grace whenever possible.“

It may be difficult to incorporate all of these strategies at once. However, creating an action plan to phase in these initiatives, or a committee that is in charge of accessibility initiatives for your event/program/conference might be good ways to approach integrating the needs of all folks. Again, please feel free to add to or criticize this list, and use it to build your toolkit of serving all people equitably.