How to make IWD more inclusive for disabled people


How to make IWD more inclusive for disabled people

Note the author has used identity-first language.

When it comes to International Women’s Day, there’s a lot of talk about how important inclusivity is. However, something that becomes apparent around this time of year is how little disabled women are included in the conversation.

International Women’s Day events often talk about empowerment and inspiration, but with accessibility often not thought about, many disabled people can’t even enter the building. The onus is almost always on us to contact an event to ask about accessibility information. Even then, a lot of people don’t understand what accessibility truly means, which results in all sorts of havoc for people with access needs.

If we point out the lack of consideration for accessibility, some event organisers respond with hostility, while others just completely ignore us. It sends the message that these events are not a place for us.

But they are.

We need event organisers to prioritise disabled access and disabled representation. We represent one-fifth of the Australian population, and our voices need to be heard. Feminism isn’t feminism if it isn’t intersectional, and disability inclusion and justice are a key part of that.

So, here are five simple ways businesses and brands can make International Women’s Day more inclusive and accessible for disabled people.

Invite diverse disabled people to speak

International Women’s Day can be such a powerful opportunity to introduce people to disabled voices and perspectives, so make sure to invite us to speak at your events and be involved in your campaigns.

Don’t just have one token disabled person involved—and make sure you also consider the diversity that exists in the disability community by inviting people who are neurodivergent, LGBTQIA+, First Nations, culturally and linguistically diverse, and from rural and low socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s vital we share experiences of intersectionality, and recognise the value of diverse disabled experiences.

Consider accessibility

Don’t just take a venue’s word when it comes to accessibility, because a lot of non-disabled people don’t understand what accessible means. Instead, consider hiring a disabled accessibility consultant. No one knows disability better than us, and you have the added bonus of providing a disabled person with meaningful work.

Accessibility might include things like making sure:

  • The venue is wheelchair accessible, with no lips or steps, and a disabled bathroom that’s big enough for wheelchair users to navigate.
  • Any provided materials are accessible for people who are deaf or blind, or those who might require materials in easy English.
  • You hire interpreters if needed.
  • There are plenty of breaks with shorter events that start later, so they’re more accessible for people with chronic illnesses and energy impairments.
  • There is accessible parking nearby.
  • There is a quiet room available for those with sensory needs.
  • COVID-safety protocols are in place, including masks, sanitiser, air purifiers and anything else that can reduce risk for those who are immunocompromised.
  • There are low-cost tickets and companion tickets available.

There is so much more you can do to make an event accessible, so it’s important to ask what people’s access needs are. Don’t assume, because many disabilities aren’t visible. Hybrid events can also be a great way to make your event more accessible.

List accessibility information clearly on your website or event page

It’s one thing to consider disability, but it’s another to make sure that information is easy to access.

So often, event pages will talk about the delicious food, beautiful location and impressive speakers, but include nothing about accessibility. Please make it easy for disabled people to know whether they can go to an event by having the information clearly on your website or event pages.

Remember to also include information about getting Companion Card tickets. Considering accessibility when planning and promoting your event doesn’t take long, and it will make a world of difference to us.

Pay us

Please don’t ask disabled people to work for free. Our voices and perspectives are important, and by paying us, you’re valuing our time and lived experience. Disabled people often have less capacity and opportunity for paid work, and have significantly more expenses related to our health. Exposure can’t pay our bills, so please make sure you consider this when working out budgets for events or campaigns.

Be open to feedback

If a disabled person contacts you with feedback, please listen. We experience accessibility issues almost any time we leave the house, and a lot of us are way too exhausted to share. It would be a full-time job if we provided feedback about everything that happens to us. If we use our energy to tell you about our experiences, please listen and actively do better. It’s also important to ask for our feedback, and provide different ways we can do this.

Because together, we can make International Women’s Day so much better.

Zoe Simmons is a disabled journalist, copywriter, speaker, author and advocate. She writes—and speaks—to make the world a better place. You can follow Zoe on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or Tik Tok.