Bonnie Eisenman bio photo

Bonnie Eisenman

Software engineer, author, knitter, Esperantist. Member of NYC Resistor and author of Learning React Native.

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Accessibility and ability are both complex spectrums. Many venues that claim to be “ADA accessible” aren’t actually accessible for all attendees with disabilities - or, perhaps, they’re only partly accessible.

As an example: I have intermittent mobility limitations and chronic pain. When I did a batch at the Recurse Center in its former location, the elevator-accessible door was often deadbolted shut in the morning, long after other participants had arrived. I’d have to balance the tradeoff between taking the stairs (painful, exhausting) versus taking the elevator and then banging on the door until someone let me in (differently painful, exhausting).

I was involved in a conversation a while back about how venues and event organizers can be more transparent about accessibility. Here are some suggestions I have for less-obvious accessibility questions:

  • Is there room to sit? Is seating guaranteed?
  • Do chairs have backs?
  • Are attendees permitted to sit? (e.g. many bookstores do not allow customers to sit on the floor)
  • If this is a large venue, what’s the typical distance between activities? Is there a to-scale map available? Can attendees with mobility issues arrive early / leave early?
  • Is there a map of which paths through a space are accessible? Where are there heavy doors, or stairs?
  • What are the acoustics of the space like? Will attendees with sound-processing issues be able to hear? Will there be captioning?
  • Are there outlets available for charging? (e.g. some assistive devices or prosthetics need to be charged)
  • Will attendees be permitted to bring medications? (some music venues have attempted to confiscate my prescription medication)
  • Is there a quiet space available for attendees to relax and recharge?

Obviously, this list doesn’t encompass what I consider the “standard” accessibility questions. (See the ADA National Network planning guide for detailed suggestions for event planning.)

As an organizer, the more information you can provide up-front, the more informed decisions your attendees can make about whether or not a space will be accessible to them at a particular time.