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How to foster a culture of inclusion and accessibility

Portrait of Symposia author Maya Ayson
Maya Ayson

Mar 15, 2022

 | Max 


 min read

Woman in a wheelchair working for the disability justice collective
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This article is for people curious about working with disabled people. It includes an introduction to disability justice and dives into the disability artists and pedagogy working with the disability community. This guide is perfect for learning more about creating equitable access and inclusion in their communities.

When I hear questions like "How can you work with the disability community?" my heart rises in gratitude. These are often hard, meaningful conversations that we need to have as a society. They're not only happening through art - but also more generally by people of color who live at different points on this spectrum between able-bodiedness/not disabled enough, etc., which brings me back full circle: these artists deserve our support too.

This guide is for anyone who wants to work with disabled people but may not have any experience doing so. It includes an introduction about disability justices and more detail on artistic or pedagogical projects that can help you get started.

The accessibility needs of disabled people are often overlooked in our society. Many non-disabled individuals do not know what it is like to be wheelchair-bound or have an intellectual disability that prevents them from working due to the lack of access rights for employment opportunities.

I've learned this through personal experiences over time. However, I hope you will still find value even though I am imperfectly capturing aspects of these issues here because there's no perfect way of representing everything true about any community.

Disability is not just an issue for the disabled. It's also a matter of human rights, and I am no exception to this rule. When it comes down to my identity as well-I'm using "Deaf person" with capital D because there are many different cultures within our community members that must be respected: Empowering myself means understanding how each one influences who we ARE on both sides - mentally/physically.

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How to Make Your Event Fully Accessible

This world is too diverse to ignore the disabled people, who make up 15% of our population. They should be able to participate in events and give us their perspective on what it's like for them.

Working with an Accessibility Consultant is the best way to ensure that your event will be fully accessible. They can help you plan out every detail of your venue and make sure all participants have easy access, whether they are coming in person or not, by using virtual reality technology during parts of it. If hiring someone else isn't possible at this time, then ArtsEverwhere has created an online guide on how to co-create space specifically designed for people who cannot physically come into our buildings due to their mobility disabilities - check it out today.

To ensure that everyone has an enjoyable experience at your event, you must get their access needs identified in advance. One great way of doing this is by asking those who plan on attending about any special accommodations they may need beforehand, not having trouble providing them with what's required, such as sign language interpretation or real-time captions for the visually impaired.

Consider the needs of every attendee

When planning your event, think about how participants feel and what they need. For example, if there's a preference for fragrance-free soaps or written images descriptions of visual materials in the venue, then provide these options to ensure that all attendees have an enjoyable time. You can also work with people who are reactive towards loud sounds by avoiding clapping during programs - this way, everyone wins.

It would be best if you never underestimate the power of including accessibility in your event budget. It may seem expensive at first, but when you consider all that is needed for people with disabilities or other special needs, it becomes less daunting and more affordable than one would think.

Hire a consultant if needed

The work of an accessibility consultant and the services they offer should be valued. Both sides deserve professional rates for their time, so it's crucial to negotiate prices before starting any project or event in order not only to comply with the law but also to make sure everyone gets paid fairly.

DIY spaces are always a challenge to make accessible. Making space Accessible is An Act Of Love for Our Communities (Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha) provides excellent insight into what needs to be implemented to achieve this goal. If you have limited funds, try making your space more inclusive by learning from QTBIPOC disabled low-income folks who've published examples on how they created accessible buildings through grassroots organizing.

Tips to remember

  1. Make sure your spaces and programming are accessible to everyone
  2. Work with an accessibility consultant for help
  3. Get input from attendees ahead of time about their needs
  4. Respect the work of accessibility consultants and negotiate rates fairly
  5. Consider DIY solutions if you have limited funds
different disability communities and community code

Create a Code of Conduct with Your Members

Creating a space where people feel safe and respected is of utmost importance. By creating your code of conduct, you'll be able to lessen harm in any event or community spaces that fall under its jurisdiction by establishing shared understandings about what constitutes respectful behavior—and holding others accountable when they skirt these guidelines.

It's vital to recognize the overlapping systemic patterns that aggravate and create disability communities' problems. One may begin a creative discussion by posing an open-ended inquiry such as "How can we love one another in an ableist environment?"

How to create accessible events to meet people where they are

One of the most critical aspects of creating accessible events is to meet people where they are, which means that you should always be open to feedback and suggestions about making your event more inclusive for everyone involved.

As you prepare to welcome the disability communities into your space, they must be educated on what constitutes as accessible and how we can help them get around in a way where everyone involved has an enjoyable experience.

I've found these three things helped me when working with clients who have physical or mental illnesses:

Make a point to be sensitive and respectful of others' identities. Everyone is different when you come down p support groups. Even if someone has the same disabled person as another person, recognize that it doesn't necessarily mean they will want or need what's being offered.

We all have a role to play in eliminating ableist language. You may assist promote positive sentiment by avoiding using any negative words or phrases that may only refer to one person's experience.

Respect people's preferred languages and provide translation when necessary.

A simple question may go a long way when you check in with people regularly. "How are you feeling?" is frequently all that is required to make someone feel observed and cared for. If they seem like the situation is getting too much or there isn't enough support for their needs- ask, "What do I need?" This inquiry helps break down barriers, so everyone feels uplifted no matter what stage life has them at today.

It might be time for a self-care routine if you feel burnt out lately. Dealing with the demands of life can wear on people and lead them to neglect their own needs as well, which is why taking some alone quality moments now will help sustain your energy levels throughout the day while also increasing productivity at work or school - all without forgetting what matters most in this world.

Tips to remember

  1. Meet people where they are when creating accessible events
  2. Educate attendees on what accessibility means
  3. Show sensitivity and respect for others' identities
  4. Avoid using ableist language
  5. Respect people's preferred languages
community partners and disabled artists
Consider how people with disabilities navigate crowded events like art openings

Making Interactions and Materials Accessible for Blind and Low-Vision People

To make your space more accessible, consider redesigning the visual aspects. Here's some advice:

Make Interactions Accessible

When a person is disabled, they often suffer from physical contact that was not consented to. This can lead them to have an unpleasant experience and create trauma that will affect their day-to-day lives for years afterward.

Non-disabled persons use body language even when they are not consciously aware of it, so bear that in mind at all times when communicating. Use your words rather than gestures to communicate. Instead of saying "Go over there" while gesturing in the general direction, for example, say "Take three steps to the right."

When teaching a blind or visually impaired student, don't ask if they can see something. Instead, use 10 Tips for Teaching Blind Students from the NFB site to guide how best to Approach this problematic situation.

Some people use sighted words when talking to a blind or low-vision person. They may say things like, "I'll see you later." These phrases refer to how we see the world and what our hands mean - whether by touch, bringing objects to close together, or out into society at large again so that others can interact with them too.

Make Technology Accessible

We made sure that the information was accessible to those with low vision by using large fonts for our workshop. We recommend 40-60 font sizes for print and digital materials because of their screen reader compatibility.

The font size needs of blind and low-vision participants can vary. It's essential to ensure high contrast when printing materials in color, as some people may be using braille printers or capsules paper with an audio tone guide instead of digital screens readers like Proloquo2go, for example. Consultants should ask those who work at your venue what they prefer so you don't end up providing both options, which nobody wants (filled page).

We all agree that providing digital resources in a way that everyone can access is critical. Make sure you add Alt-Text (alternative text) to your website for blind/low-vision groups when creating it. "Alt-Text as Poetry," as the name implies, is an excellent method to make your textual descriptions stand out.

If you want more creative freedom, use visual materials and give some detail about what's in each image instead of just one line such as "There is a mountain with the sky"; try describing it using words that will paint pictures for readers' minds - something like "The view from up here feels like art on canvas."

Use headers in your content to make it easier for readers. Screen readers will allow people with disabilities or impaired vision to access specific materials quickly and efficiently so that they don't have any problems reading what you've written.

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When planning an art event or speaking engagement, be sure to have an ASL interpreter on hand if your attendees request one to be present.

How to Make Events Accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

Make your events accessible to the Deaf community. Give CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) and Sign Language Interpretation so that they can understand your material in its entirety.

Interpreters should be given enough time to prepare for their interpreting sessions. This will ensure that both the signer and viewer have an enjoyable experience watching/listening and understanding what's being said due in part by giving them advance notice about any materials containing jargon or technical terms so they can prep accordingly.

When inviting a Deaf and Hard of Hearing individual, inquire about their preferred sign language translation. There are around three hundred distinct kinds available today.

Video content should be made more accessible to the disabled community. Sign language interpretation or captions for visual learners who cannot hear sign Language? If you're filming your video, consider translating English words into other languages that better represent what is being said with their fingerspelled words on the screen.

How to Make Your Events Accessible for People with Disabilities

Give individuals more time.

Be patient and understanding of how various people perceive their hours, days, or weeks - each one is unique. The key to making sure everyone has a great experience at your event is by providing enough time for them. If people are feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable, they may need more than 10 minutes of rest before continuing with their next program; in these instances, we recommend 15-minute breaks between programs and scheduled check-ins so that no one feels left out.

Give families personal space.

We all know someone who is disabled. It's vital to give families space and respect their dynamics when it comes time to show off the Chronic Rhino Syndrome they were born with.

writing alt text captions for an entire website
Always have an ASL interpreter available if someone requests one

How to use technology to empower those with disabilities

The use of technology in your space and events can be a powerful tool to empower those with disabilities. Understanding the goal is about supporting access, not undercutting it.

When thinking about integrating technology into your space/event, consider the following:

  • Take the time to familiarize yourself with how people who have disabilities use any software or hardware you're thinking of using. For further information about technology consent Consentful Tech Project.
  • Technical difficulties are unavoidable, but you may prepare for them by practicing ahead of time. If technical issues arise at the event itself, stay calm and improvise while keeping things simple to assist other attendees if feasible.
  • Respect the privacy of disabled people. Disabled individuals might not want to share their background or home environment online, so you must give them an option for a virtual screen backdrop and off-camera surroundings. It's also worth noting that everyone comes from different economic backgrounds, which may make some uncomfortable sharing photos online, too - this includes brick & mortar stores as well.
  • Send all materials ahead of time so that attendees are more prepared for the event (via email or email). This will allow them to become more familiar with everything before it happens, resulting in a pleasant experience.
  • The world is an exciting place. It would be wise to keep this in mind when you're out and about because people can act differently depending on their needs or those around them- such as children who might need distracted from what's happening near them at any given moment.

How to Create Inclusive Environments for Disabled People

When working with and for disabled people, it's essential to understand the intersections of disability. This means recognizing that everyone experiences their disabilities in unique ways, shaped by factors such as race, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Learn about Disability Justice

Start by reading about Disability Justice theory. This will give you a foundation for understanding how different oppressions intersect to create unique experiences of disability.

Once you have a basic understanding, start exploring the work of disabled artists and writers who are creating change in their communities. A great place to start is Disability Arts Online, which has an extensive list of resources.

The world can be scary for some people when it comes time to experience different cultures. A great way to help these people is by preparing them for the adventure they're about to embark on, such as a tour around China, for example.

begin making programs for an external environment

Accountability and Inclusion in Disability Rights

Disability is a human rights concern. Be open to modifying your preconceived ideas about this subject, and be ready to correct yourself as you learn more.

It's essential for society because many people with misconceptions often base their opinions on what they see or hear from others without ever actually getting acquainted with themselves first-hand (which could lead them down an internet rabbit hole).

Hold yourself and each other accountable

If you or anyone else discriminates against someone, hold yourself and each other accountable. When one of us makes a mistake, we must apologize so everyone can learn from our errors without feeling ashamed about them in general- because shame will only get in their way when trying to make better decisions next time around.

Our peers can hurt us all, but it doesn't mean we can't create an environment where people feel safe. It's essential that any accountability process you set up poses no risks for harm or silencing those who are already marginalized because they need everyone on their side as much as possible if a change happens.

There are four parts to accountability. The first is addressing conflict and hurt by offering an apology that's genuine for any harm done; this will help build up trust again in times where there has been low-level confusion or broken commitments between people who care about one another.'

Self-Determination and co-creating access - Share Knowledge & Assist in Autonomy

To create a culture of inclusion, we must show disabled people the same respect and dignity as everyone else. It's also crucial for us to ask them their interests and collaborate with them to make programming or spaces welcoming. As you go through this guide on creating meaningful relationships instead of transactional ones, I want you to take note of how much more productive those approaches can be when paired together - especially since both will lead towards positive outcomes without any negative feelings whatsoever involved (which sometimes seems inevitable).

Disabled people are all around us—they live in our neighborhoods, go to school with us and work alongside their families. We must interact more often so as not to miss out on the opportunity for understanding disabilities or hold space improperly when interacting with others who may be disabled.

Disability conversations can sometimes lead down dark paths where there is no room left over just above ground level; lighthearted bantering about football scores isn't going to cut it anymore.

In Summary

Co-creation is key to creating accessible and inclusive environments for all. We've outlined some easy steps for you to follow when co-creating with others, but we want to hear from you too. What has your experience been like co-creating access and inclusion? Leave a comment below or reach out to us on social media and let us know. Together, we can make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in our communities.

  1. Disability is a human rights issue
  2. Preconceived notions about disability can lead to discrimination
  3. We need to be accountable to each other and hold each other accountable
  4. Respect and dignity must be shown to disabled people
  5. We must collaborate with disabled people in order to create accessible and inclusive environments
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