By Disabled Eliza | @disabled_eliza
Hi, I’m Eliza. I am a Disabled, LGBTQ+ person, and my pronouns are they/them. I am a wheelchair user, I’m nonbinary, I’m dyslexic, I have a dog called Pod and, I think most importantly, I have rainbow hair!
A quick description of myself: Eliza is a White fem wheelchair user with rainbow hair. They have brown eyes, a small thin mouth, and love to wear anything rainbow. They have rainbow spokes on their wheelchair and wear a gold necklace around their neck which holds a ring their grandmother gave them.
It is Pride, so as the month rolls on (lol rolls? Wheelchair? No? just me! Okay let’s carry on…) we are likely to see lots of Pride events, parades, companies turning their logos rainbow and lots of rainbow-themed outfits. I can’t lie, I am a ‘classic’ stereotype and I LOVE a rainbow outfit…I admit it, I admit it! That’s not all LGBTQ+ people, BUT I am a rainbow lover.
However, there is still a LONG way to go when it comes to LGBTQ+ events being accessible for Disabled people. Now, it is important to be aware that it isn’t really possible for a location to be ‘full accessible’. The Disabled community is vast, lots of people need different things, and NO – popping a ramp down does not make a location ‘fully accessible’ (we have all heard that one before hey, whilst struggling to get round a sharp corner, or finding there is no accessible loo!). However, although it may not ever be possible for somewhere to really ever reach ‘full accessibility’, there are lots and lots of things you can do to make places as accessible as possible…
But how does this relate to the LGBTQ+ community? Well, lots of Disabled people are also LGBTQ+! In fact, around 30% of the LGBTQ+ community are also Disabled.
I live in London, it’s filled with old wonky buildings, cobbled roads, and old-fashioned pubs. On a Saturday night you can stroll through the bustling city and get a constant whiff of beer and hear the roars of football fans. The LGBTQ+ community are known for holding a great party (yes, this is a stereotype, I personally HATE parties but stick with me) but we were often in the past forced to go underground to celebrate our identities in locations that often come alive at night. Pushed into darkened rooms, silenced away, forced to hide ourselves from sight. Because of this, most of these locations from the past were not accessible. They were dark, smelly, damp, loud, and often included or still do include drinking, and of course had steps to get in. These are venues and walls that held joy, laughter, celebration, riots, freedom and so much more. They are iconic locations filled with history. Lots of these venues are still used today! ‘The Cave of the Golden Calf’ was one of the first LGBTQ+ bars in London that opened in an underground location, and it sparked the opening of many more bars in locations such as the iconic Soho etc. Soho is often marked as the ‘Gay Capital of London’ and it can be great fun to dance the night away along those cobbled streets.
These venues often hold a deep and rich history and are important symbols of our community, however, when typing in ‘wheelchair accessible LGBTQ+ venues in London’ NOT ONE exists – according to Google anyway. Not a single one… and wheelchair access is often considered ‘easy’ to implement by the Disabled community… so imagine all the other access needs that are being missed.
Now, no Disabled person is asking you to knock down these venues that are important and include rich LGBTQ+ history… but we are asking you to make new venues as accessible as possible, to make Pride parades accessible, and at the very least, list the accessibility of your venue on the website – because many do not. This is frustrating, as it assumes being ‘non-disabled’ is the norm and shows little regard or priority for your Disabled customers (and as I said before, over 30% of the LGBTQ+ community are Disabled).
Disabled people are often thrown aside, which is a feeling that many LGBTQ+ people are used to. The feeling of being left out, treated poorly, and seen as ‘different’. Yet, we aren’t currently making the LGBTQ+ community accessible to all! Leaving Disabled LGBTQ+ people out can be dangerous, and it is deeply unfair. We are not a ‘community’ if we are leaving 30% of us out!
Accessibility helps everyone and by making LGBTQ+ locations and events accessible you are helping not only the Disabled community, but the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Remember, anyone can become Disabled at any time, so ensuring locations are accessible means that you are protecting and helping the future of the community!
Now, I’ve highlighted some issues, and trust me, it can feel utterly overwhelming when we read blog posts and articles without knowing what the solution is. It’s like a wheel of doom…so here are some steps you can take to be an ally to ALL Disabled people – but especially an ally to LGBTQ+ Disabled people.
1. Support accessible LGBTQ+ events and clubs. Although not many of them exist, the few that do should be funded and should be receiving your money if you are in a position to spend it! Please do visit them, support them, and donate to them if you are able to.
2. Support Disabled LGBTQ+ creators, and hire us if you are in a position too! Ensure we are paid fairly, and if you are able, encourage your workplace to hold discussions with LGBTQ+ Disabled people about the lack of accessibility. Spread the word!
3. Question your local LGBTQ+ venues and Prides. Ask them what they are doing to make the events accessible, and remind them that access helps everyone!
4. If you are holding LGBTQ+ events, hire LGBTQ+ Disabled accessibility advisors to make the location as accessible as possible.
5. Be open to lean and listen, which I already know you are, if you’ve got this far down in the blog!
Thank you for supporting and loving all of the LGBTQ+ community, not just the non Disabled ones!
And finally, from one rainbow bean to another, a BIG happy Pride xx