July 12, 2019 at 6:18 am #267felixfordParticipant
Hi, Felix here –
Members of the council have received several messages on different platforms about disability and the DAC’s plans to make publications and events more inclusive. I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread for people with disabilities, or who are differently-abled, to provide input for discussion in DAC meetings. There is no need to disclose personal medical information here unless you feel comfortable sharing that information as part of discussing access needs.
I thought I’d begin by sharing my own story.
I have psoriatic arthritis – an autoimmune condition which affects my skin, joints and immune system – as well as depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed when I was nineteen years old, and my mental health has fluctuated more or less in relation to the progression of my arthritis. These conditions are mostly well-managed with medication and talking therapies, but their constant presence throughout my adult life – and the degree to which I spend my time managing them – means I feel disability is part of my identity: as defining of my life and who I am as my race, gender and sexuality.
For myself, I use the term disabled. To me it perfectly describes the sense I have of no longer enjoying the able-bodied advantages which preceded my diagnoses. However, my disabilities are largely invisible and when my conditions are well-managed, I can pass as able-bodied and enjoy many of the activities which have – at various times in my life – been impossible. These are huge privileges, and a reminder to me that disability is a spectrum, covering a vast range of access needs, abilities, and conditions. I am continually learning more about that spectrum, and the different ways in which people with different conditions and needs can be better welcomed, represented and included in our world of craft. I’m hoping this thread could maybe be something of a wishlist which can feed positively into DAC meetings.
Some of the things that I have wished for as a disabled person operating in the craft world include:
1. In magazines –
more disabled models. I would like it to become increasingly normal to open magazines and see models with disabilities. Not as part of an INSPIRATION STORY but just as an incidental detail, which quietly asserts that life doesn’t end when you become disabled. I would like to be able to see that people with disabilities can have successful modeling careers. When I was 19 and coming to terms with new limitations and a vastly-altered self-image, it meant everything to see images of disabled people living their best life: there were not enough of them.
2. At festivals and events –
Quiet spaces/rooms in which there is water and somewhere to sit when it all gets a bit much. Festivals are incredibly exciting but can also be overwhelming and the excitement can tip over into stress all too easily. Spaces in which to regroup enable people dealing with all sorts of health conditions to better navigate busy festival environments.
More places to lean/hang a walking stick while browsing merchandise (having a walking stick and constantly dropping it/knocking stuff over with it/having nowhere to put it is no fun). A large hook with a friendly sign “hang your walking stick here while browsing” could make a huge difference for walking stick users.
Management of ambient noise and crowding – crowds are an access issue, as there are many impairments which are exacerbated and worsened through being in crowded spaces. Opportunities to access market places when they are less crowded would enable people who otherwise avoid large fiber festivals to feel able to attend.
More priority seating for disabled people – at talks and around vending spaces.
3. From the perspective of being a fiber teacher –
Speaking from a teaching standpoint, it would be amazing to have systems at fiber festivals through which class attendees can submit access requests well in advance of workshop sessions. I’ve had people arrive at classes and say they need to be seated at the front of the class in order to be able to lipread what I’m saying. This is easy to accommodate but often means shuffling people around, and making the person who is asking for access disclose their needs in front of a class, which is not ideal. A means to submit access requests in advance would enable needs to be managed with more care and foresight. It also creates a healthy culture in which needs and access can be openly discussed and handled with dignity and respect.
That’s just a very simple beginning I definitely haven’t covered everything! And I’m sorry it’s a bit long, but I wanted to give this important topic a proper introduction.
I’d love to hear further thoughts and perspectives on how publications and events might better serve crafters with disabilities and appreciate your taking the time to read this and to share your own thoughts.July 18, 2019 at 4:09 pm #268jandbParticipant
Here’s a suggestion for those with mobility issues. Because our local military commissary serves so many vets (especially elderly) with mobility issues, they have a policy of opening their doors early for those in need of special assistance. It can be difficult to try to navigate a crowd if you need some sort of device to get around. This gives those folks an opportunity to shop in a less crowded environment and employees are more free to provide assistance. I know it’s difficult to set up large events with vendors and still have access for those who aren’t able to get around easily. Maybe this could help? Just a thought. Also, if you know of fiber artists fluent in sign language for the hearing impaired, that could be a plus. It helps if the person signing knows the lingo.November 13, 2019 at 7:25 am #322felixfordParticipant
Hi there @jandb – thank you so much for your input. Early access to marketplaces is something we are looking into; there are some logistical considerations, but you’re absolutely right that crowds are one of the biggest barriers of entry for people using mobility devices and this is something we are examining and looking to address. Thanks also for bringing up sign-language for talks; that is definitely something that we could look into, going forward, for making large talks accessible to everyone. Thank you!
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