Making Spaces Safer: Bodymind Affirmation and Access Intimacy

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The reality is that marginalized people experience discrimination in public spaces. As they move through their lives and through various spaces, they cannot predict if they will be treated with respect, let alone if they will be safe. When they attend a show or event at your space, they should be able to know what to expect, or at least what you intend to have happen—and not happen—within your walls. So, how can you let them know? You can’t just open the door; you have to put out a welcome mat.

Making Spaces Safer: A Guide to Giving Harassment the Boot Wherever You Work, Play, and Gather
Home » Enable Dignity: Accessible Systems, Spaces, & Events » Making Spaces Safer: Bodymind Affirmation and Access Intimacy

🦺 Making Spaces Safer

Of course, making safer spaces is more than a checklist. You have to think both holistically and specifically. For instance, don’t overlook the little things that make up the overall feel of your space.

Making Spaces Safer: A Guide to Giving Harassment the Boot Wherever You Work, Play, and Gather

Accessibility

  • A ramp or alternative path for each set of stairs.
  • A bathroom stall that can fit someone’s wheelchair.
  • A spot to watch the show from a seated position.
  • A couple of extra chairs (not bar stools) with no arm rests so it’s easy to get in and out of them.
  • Menus in Braille.
  • Paper and pen available for people who cannot hear or speak (or, better yet, someone who knows ASL).
  • If you have a signer for your event, include a “Sign Language Interpreter” symbol on all flyers and advertisements. An online image search will give you plenty of options.
  • Free and easy-to-obtain water.
  • A warning for intense light shows, the use of strobe lights, or smoke machines.

Food Options

  • Staff members who all know the difference between an intolerance and an allergy.
  • Options available for the most common allergens and dietary restrictions.
  • Protocols in place to keep problematic ingredients separated, when prepared and stored.
  • EpiPens (for people with severe allergies) on-site that everyone knows how to use.

Gender

  • Gender-affirming or -neutral language on bathroom signage.
  • Bag hooks in the bathroom stalls and at the bar.
  • Toilet paper, paper towels, and soap in the bathroom.
  • Obvious signage that transphobia or transphobic language is not allowed.

How about the resources specific to your town? Keep the numbers for taxis, shelters, and local support hotlines available at your door, front desk, or office. Have multiple copies on hand, especially if you have a bar, back room, or an upstairs.

Have a first aid kit on hand. Offer condoms and tampons, with signage in the bathrooms to let people know where or from whom to get them.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication used to prevent overdoses by blocking the effects of opioids. You could save a life by having the pocket-sized injector or nasal spray on hand.

Making Spaces Safer: A Guide to Giving Harassment the Boot Wherever You Work, Play, and Gather

🫀🧠👍 Bodymind Affirmations

Neurodivergent and disabled speakers, notably Lydia X. Z. Brown and Jonathan Mooney, preface their presentations with an access note and a bodymind affirmation. They encourage people, be it in an auditorium or a group video chat, to move around and get comfortable.

I believe we should all move in our space in whatever way is most comfortable for our bodyminds.

Please use this space as you need or prefer.

Sit in chairs or on the floor, pace, lie on the floor, rock, flap, spin, move around, come in and out of the room.

This is an invitation for you to consider what your bodymind needs to be as comfortable as possible in this moment.

This is an invitation to remind yourself to remember and to affirm that your bodymind has needs and that those needs deserve to be met, that your bodymind is valuable and worthy, that you deserve to be here, …, to belong.

Source: Against Ableism & White Supremacy: Disability Justice is Our Liberation – YouTube

I know that I myself could not sit still in a room like this for even 15 seconds. So if you are like me and you need to take a break during my presentation, that’s all good. You need to go to the back of the room and pace back and forth, I won’t be offended. You need to leave the room, it’s all good. I myself may wander off in the middle of my presentation, and you all will be accepting, inclusive, and accommodating of that for sure. (Laughter) But, hey, you know what, this is your time.

Source: Lab School Lecture Series – Jonathan Mooney – YouTube

We Stimpunks really like and appreciate these affirmations and need the access and understanding they offer, both online and in physical space. We bring our whole bodyminds — stims, senses, perceptual worlds, and all — to every learning experience.

☂️ Access Intimacy: That Elusive, Hard to Describe Feeling When Someone Else ‘Gets’ Your Access Needs

These pieces on access intimacy and forced intimacy by Mia Mingus very much resonate with our experience. Forced intimacy is the continuous submission to patient hood required to access the right to learn, work, and live differently. K-12 SpEd families, higher ed students, and workers needing accommodations regularly experience forced intimacy. Forced intimacy “chips away at your soul. Every box you tick, every sentence about your ‘impairment’ and ‘needs’ becomes part of the narrative of your identity.

Forced intimacy is a cornerstone of how ableism functions.” “Forced intimacy is the opposite of access intimacy.” “Access intimacy is that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else ‘gets’ your access needs.” That feeling is rare in the abundantly ableist medical and deficit models, though we have experienced it a few times, notably with neuropsychiatrists who noticed and met our sensory needs with a quiet, no-big-deal attitude. They understood that compassion and good user experience make for better data and better outcomes.

Our moments of access intimacy are accompanied by floods of relief. The usual mountain of anxiety, miscommunication, and empathy gaps need not be scaled. “Your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met.

Our most profound moments of access intimacy are when we meet an educator or healthcare worker conversant in neurodiversity and the social model of disability and respectful of identity-first language.

Treating my identity not as a disorder, but as a difference, one that matters in helping me and understanding me, is powerful compassion that makes for access intimacy.

There are many ways to describe intimacy. For example, there’s physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual, political, familial or sexual intimacy. But, as a physically disabled woman, there is another kind of intimacy I have been struggling to name and describe, what I have been calling “access intimacy.”

I have begun using the term loosely and am still realizing different aspects of it. This is in no way a complete describing of it, instead, this is an initial naming and the beginnings of giving it shape. I am offering it as something that has been useful for me and I hope is useful to others to describe all different kinds of access, not just in relation to disability. I think Access, as a framework, is powerful for so many of our lives. Here, I am speaking from my own lived experience as a physically disabled person but I know access intimacy can also happen in many different ways for mamas and parents, women of color, queer and trans folks, etc… Anyone can experience access intimacy.

Access intimacy is that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs. The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level. Sometimes it can happen with complete strangers, disabled or not, or sometimes it can be built over years. It could also be the way your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met. It is not dependent on someone having a political understanding of disability, ableism or access. Some of the people I have experienced the deepest access intimacy with (especially able bodied people) have had no education or exposure to a political understanding of disability.

Access intimacy is also the intimacy I feel with many other disabled and sick people who have an automatic understanding of access needs out of our shared similar lived experience of the many different ways ableism manifests in our lives. Together, we share a kind of access intimacy that is ground-level, with no need for explanations. Instantly, we can hold the weight, emotion, logistics, isolation, trauma, fear, anxiety and pain of access. I don’t have to justify and we are able to start from a place of steel vulnerability. It doesn’t mean that our access looks the same, or that we even know what each other’s access needs are. It has taken the form of long talks into the night upon our first meeting; knowing glances shared across a room or in a group of able bodied people; or the feeling of instant familiarity to be able to ask for help or support.

Access Intimacy: The Missing Link | Leaving Evidence

The contradiction of having to survive in the oppressive world you are trying to change is always complicated and dehumanizing.

Sadly, in an ableist world, access and disability get stripped of their transformative powers and instead get distorted into “dependent,” “burden” and “tragic.” Forced intimacy is a byproduct of this and functions as a constant oppressive reminder of domination and control.

Forced Intimacy: An Ableist Norm | Leaving Evidence

This is the story about a doctor and nurse I once had and how they “got it.”

“Getting it” isn’t necessarily something that you can define. It’s ineffable. It’s more of a feeling than a specific action. For me, it’s a connection that runs deeper than the diagnosis, the medical terminology, the treatments proposed. It’s a sense of being listened to and really heard. It’s feeling of being truly cared for. It’s a sense of empathy or at least a willingness to immerse oneself in my world as a patient, to feel and see what I face. When I think of my doctor and nurse who “got it”, I remember the sense of safety and calm they offered me and knowing that I would be okay. To each patient surely it may mean something different. But for me “getting it” gives me the ability as a patient to breathe, and perchance even to live.

The Doctor and Nurse Who “Got It” | Health as a Human Right

The Accommodations for Natural Human Variation Should Be Mutual

Enable Dignity

Real inclusive organizing should at a minimum include: Incorporating disability into your values or action statements; having disabled people on the organizing committee or board; making accessibility a priority from day one; and listening to feedback from disabled people.

Education Access

We have turned classrooms into hell for neurodivergence. Students with conflicting sensory needs and accommodations are squished together with no access to cave, campfire, or watering hole zones. This sensory environment feeds the overwhelm -> meltdown -> burnout cycle. Feedback loops cascade.

Wheelchair in a maze

Healthcare Access

They don’t take disability studies classes.

They don’t socialize with us.

They don’t listen to us.

Wanted: hospitals and doctors’ offices that…

They don’t socialize with us.

They don’t listen to us.

Green, yellow, and red folders with the words GREEN, YELLOW, and RED on them. The green folder has a circle on it. The yellow folder has a triangle. The read folder has an octagon.

Interaction Access

Interaction badges are useful tools. Their red, yellow, green communication indicators map to our cave, campfire, and watering hole moods. The cave, campfire, watering hole and red, yellow, green reductions are a useful starting place when designing for neurological pluralism.

Close-up of a keyboard with the Russian alphabet for the blind. Braille.

Communication Access

Written communication is the great social equalizer.” It allows us to participate and be a part of things bigger than ourselves.

Young Asian Cute girl studying with laptop at home during pandemic stock photo

Technology Access

Our multi-age learning community sets up and runs our organization. We don’t use learning management software. Instead, our learners use the professional tools of a modern, neurodiverse organization, without all the ed-tech surveillance baked in. We use technology to co-create paths to  equity and access with our learners.

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