Prevention Accessibility: How to Organize Inclusive Social Justice Events

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With prevention’s emphasis on social norms change and creating protective environments, community mobilization efforts are becoming increasingly common as a way to engage entire communities in working together to prevent sexual violence. Community and societal level work often involve a great deal of event planning and organizing, whether it be weekly group meetings, events or trainings. As we make our shift to macro-level impact, we must remember not to leave the most marginalized in our communities behind, and this means being intentional about the space we are occupying being accessible and welcoming to all.

Before taking action, event organizers would benefit from familiarizing themselves with the work of folks like disability activist, Mia Mingus or Lal Zimman’s Trans Talk Blog. In addition to physically accessible spaces, appropriate language and behavior are significant ways to signal allyship and ensure a space feels safe for historically marginalized individuals. For some poignant examples of  harmful, yet common, behavior check out Nik Moreno’s article, 5 Ways Ableism Looks in Queer Spaces.

Additionally, here are examples of five simple things organizers can do to make meetings and events more Inclusive:

  1. Put Accessibility Information on Event Flyers or Registration Link

If this is too much text for a simple flyer, you can also include a phone number or email for people to call and inquire, however, at the very least the flyer should say whether or not the space will be wheelchair accessible. People with disabilities typically do not want to come to an event and determine whether or not they can access a building.

  1. Ensure All Gender Restrooms are Available

For trans folks, especially those who are non-binary, access to an all gender restroom is a necessity. Not only is safety a major consideration, but being forced by circumstance to use a restroom that does not align with one’s gender identity can be majorly dysphoric. Consider announcing restroom information at the beginning of your event so people don’t have to single themselves out by asking.

  1. Utilize a Microphone

Many preventionists are seasoned public speakers and have great voice projection, however, this is seldom sufficient for our colleagues and community members with hearing impairment. An important part of planning an accessible event is building this technology into your budget, and ensuring that people speaking are using the microphone.

  1. Create Pronoun Badges or Stickers

Normalizing pronoun usage in community spaces and events helps discourage people from making assumptions about connecting gender identity and gender presentation. It also prevents trans and gender non-conforming individuals from being misgendered. Lal Zimman, trans sociocultural linguist, has a helpful guide one getting pronoun badges right.

  1. Go Scent-free

 Chemicals and fragrances can often pose a severe risk to people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Encouraging event attendees to go scent-free ensures that the space is accessible to those who are reactive to fragrances. Check out this article to learn more about the important of scent-free events.

 

People who are marginalized often get self-advocacy fatigue, meaning that folks get burnt out on constantly having to ask for basic access. Ensuring that events are accessible, safe, and inclusive from the beginning is an excellent way to signal to your community that you’ve done the important labor of considering their needs. For a more detailed list regarding access plans, website accessibility and more, check out S.E. Smith’s helpful article How to Make Your Social Justice Events Accessible to the Disability Community: A Checklist.

Sarah Orton

Sarah has a BA in Sexuality Studies with a focus on Research Methodology from the Evergreen State College. In 2011, during the pursuit of her undergraduate degree, she began volunteer work in reproductive justice and has been working in sexual assault prevention and intervention for the last six years in California and Tennessee. Her work has primarily included program management and implementation at community rape crisis centers, college campuses, and systems-based facilities. Additionally, she has a background in training and education, including providing comprehensive sex education and healthy sexuality group facilitation.

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