Queer Accessibility - Is Your Event Accessible to All?
The queer community has an issue with accessibility. From gay bars to saunas, our social spaces and clubs are frequently and relentlessly exclusionary of disabled LGBTQAI community members.
Whilst to many the idea that you can access and be part of these spaces isn’t even given a thought, for many disabled queers the LGBTQAI scene spells exclusion and isolation. Whilst there is no one size fits all model to improve access within the community and its spaces, there are several key points to look at when considering just how accessible your LGBTQAI event might be.
Firstly, can we even get into the event?
Often when queers speak about getting our foot in the door it’s a symbolic gesture, meant to refer to getting a place within an organisation, but for disabled queers this often a very literal concern. Frequently I have attended parties and nights out at clubs that have had truly terrible access to even enter the space.
Steps leading to doors, narrow doorways, and entrances with no curbside access all contribute to preventing disabled queers from even entering an event. And then once inside it becomes a minefield of sharp turns, crowded queues, stairs up and down to bars, and all manner of other obstacles. When looking at which venue to use for your event, consider the following simple things.
- Could the venue be entered easily and by someone within a wheelchair or power chair?
- Once in the venue, could that individual navigate the venue with ease and have full access to all that is inside?
Another incredibly overlooked but essential element to finding a truly accessible venue is the issue of toilets. Again, most of us take for granted the idea that we can and will be able to use toilet facilities with relative ease and comfort, as well we should. Being able to use toilet facilities with dignity and respect is a fundamental human right. And yet when it comes to disabled toilets, venues frequently fail to accommodate this basic need.
Far, far too many times have I been in venues where disabled toilets are used as extra storage space, extra dressing rooms for performers and DJ's, or locked and only opened by request to staff, which forces us to out ourselves as disabled. For your venue to be truly accessible, disabled toilets must be easy to obtain access to, free of detritus or stock that makes them hard to traverse in, clearly marked and visible, and prioritised for the disabled queers attending your event.
Other questions you should ask yourself in regards to toilet access include but are not limited to:
- Is there a changing facility?
- Does your disabled toilet support those who use a hoist?
- Have you given proper training to others using and working within the venue on disabled toilets and the access issues therein?
The final issue I want to briefly touch on, is the dreaded and ever present “strobe light”, beloved of club DJ's and drag queens wanting a bit of flashy excitement, the humble strobe light has done more to make queer venues, events, and parties inaccessible than most other things combined. Lets be clear, when a lighting effect is most well known for its potential to trigger epileptic seizures then there’s no real need for it to have any place within your event or venue.
Besides, who’s ever left a night out saying “Wish that place had more strobe lights!”?
Hopefully these points have given you pause to think as to how you might make your events more accessible, as stated before, access is not one size fits all, nor is it something that is one and done. It’s an ever changing commitment to looking at the ways in which we can all make the queer scene embrace all of us, rather than exclude any.