Inclusivity is an essential part of grassroots organizing. One way to be more inclusive is to address accessibility in your organizing. People with disabilities can add diverse experiences, give valuable perspectives and generally make your campaign better.
This guide will cover:
What is accessibility?
How to be physically accessible
Accessibility means different things to different people. Since not all impairments are similar or even visible at a glance, accessibility should be understood as a subjective and fluid concept. Basically, accessibility is a space that is free of barriers to anyone who wishes to use it. In an organizing context, space can be physical, such as a location of a fundraiser, or social, such as a culture within a movement.
Physical accessibility is what comes to mind when most people think about disability. It includes accessible parking, ramps in front of buildings and automatic push button door openers. However, it is much more complicated than basic surface changes. It can be difficult for able-bodied people to find barriers, so accessibility audits such as this one produced by Independent Living Nova Scotia can be helpful. The best way to evaluate a space is to ask local disability rights groups to perform audits. Talk to people with disabilities who are involved in your organizing to make sure spaces are barrier-free.
Turn accessibility into a priority when organizing events. If your protest involves a march arrange for transportation for people with impairments that cause fatigue. Seeds for change has a great guide on how to do this, as well as a guide about how to make workshops more accessible.
Just like sexism, racism and homophobia oppress and discriminate in society, so does ableism. It is a prejudice against people with disabilities. To ensure your organizing is anti-ableist, incorporate anti-oppression and safe space training that focuses on disability rights. Ableist language is common and rampant. Call out organizers who continue this system of oppression.
Many organizers have great intentions to address accessibility but end up letting it slide. Organize a committee to check in on accessibility issues, collaborate with disability activists and organizations and check in regularly with progress.
Making spaces accessible involves work, but it creates a better and more inclusive community.