Accessibility. We tend to give that a lot of lip service, whether we’re talking about sex education or kink events, but honestly, do we even know what that actually means? In conversation about events, we speak to wanting them to be accessible, and everyone nods their head, but how do we know what accessible is and what it looks like for different communities?
For some, accessible is a literal translation of the word; is there physical access? This can be interpreted to mean can folks in wheelchairs attend. While that is certainly a good start, let’s think about what physical accessibility really means. If there is a person who has impaired vision, will there be someone to direct them to where the event is if there are not signs with braille? Will a seat be made available on the end of a row or at the front for a person with a guide dog? If there is a presentation or workshop, will an ASL interpreter be provided upon request? I cannot tell you the number of emails I get from people who asked their local kink or sex education even for an interpreter, and were told it was “too expensive” or “not needed for just one deaf person.” This is ridiculous, and how dare events bill themselves as “accessible” when in fact, the same events use ableist language to turn down requests for that very accessibility.
Then there is locale accessibility. Is it near public transit for folks who don’t have cares to attend? How about parking; is there a lot, or parallel, or pay parking? Are all of the events and workshop being put on inside the main metro city, making it difficult for folks in smaller cities and rural areas to come on out? Is it in a little known or hidden space, and if so, are adequate directions provided so people are wandering in circles just to get a flogging or learn about the G-spot.
And of course, financial accessibility. Yes yes, we know, most people/groups/events/businesses want to make money, or at the very least, break even. Yes, space costs money, refreshments cost money, speakers cost money. However, when sex education classes are 25 bucks (or more) a pop for an hour class, and parties are upwards for $25 or $30, we need to realize that as a community, we are leaving people out. Students, folks on disability, aging folks, you name it; these people are on restricted incomes, and we can make it as “accessible” as we want, but if we don’t offer volunteer opportunities, sliding scale options, etc, we are shutting are doors to these folks.
What are some solutions? Perhaps your space is up a flight of stairs; note this on the flyer, and consider having volunteers willing to carrying up folks in chairs who might be interested in attending anyways. Concerned about the cost for an ASL interpreter? Ask around and see if there is a trained member of the community who might be willing to do it at a discount to give back. Event out in the middle of nowhere? Coordinate carpooling. Not easy to find? Have a volunteer help direct people who will be attending. Food and drink driving up your event’s cost? Consider hosting it as a pot luck. Can’t lower prices for everyone? Respond on a case-to-case basis, reducing costs for people will to volunteer, market the event, bring a certain number of people, etc.
Often times, when we get into the nitty-gritty of what accessibility is, people shut down. They feel it is too hard, or not needed, or not worth their time. Here’s the deal; it can be hard, but by reaching out the community, you can get help and support, and truly create accessible spaces…and if that means that just one or two more people can attend who might have never been able to attend a sex positive, educational or kink event before can actually attend? Then yes, it IS absolutely worth it.