How to respond when you’re asked about wheelchair access

A black and white photo showing a white person in an electric wheelchair in the centre of the photo. Behind the person and along the length of the image are blurred bushes, showing that the electric wheelchair is moving rapidly.

When ostensibly ‘social justice’ or ‘left wing’ events don’t put access details on their websites, they’re functionally excluding disabled people – but how should you respond when asked about wheelchair access?

When I have to email your space or event to ask you about wheelchair access, I’m already annoyed. I’m annoyed because you should be advertising this already. You should already be giving basic information about access and someone to contact for more information. I shouldn’t have to describe my access needs to you for you to tell me what your access information is.

You should be saying:

-Whether you have steps/stairs and how many

-Whether you have a handrail

-Whether you have a lift, and what weight limit it has

-Whether you have a ramp and what weight limit it has

-How steep the ramp is (you can just show this in the photo)

-A photo of the ramp (to show that it’s actually usable)

-Whether the toilets are literally wheelchair accessible*

-Whether the toilets are adapted*

-Whether it is possible to fully experience the event whilst being in a wheelchair

If the venue isn’t wheelchair accessible I need to know:

-What you’re doing to change that

-When it will be changed by

-What you will do in future to avoid using inaccessible venues / being an inaccessible venue

What I don’t want to hear is:

-How old the building is

-Why you have to be using that building

-Why you didn’t expect wheelchair users to want to attend

-How at some vague point in the future you might buy a ramp

-How it’s wheelchair accessible if you can walk

-How it’s wheelchair accessible if the person in a wheelchair literally consents to being picked up and carried in order to enter – if you wouldn’t ask this of the other attendees, it is completely inappropriate to ask it of wheelchair users

-How it’s accessible because you own a ramp (without a photo to show that this ramp is useable)

-How dreadfully sorry you are that you’re not accessible – I don’t care – if you are literally barring wheelchair users from your space / event, I’m not bothered by you being sorry, unless you’re sorry and doing something about improving access

*’Wheelchair accessible’ means ‘you can literally get a wheelchair there’, ‘wheelchair adapted’ means ‘necessary adaptations to make this easier for a wheelchair user to use – e.g. grab rails, transfer bars are in place’

This guide from Access is Everything will help you figure out what to put on your event page or website.