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Blazing New Worlds: Accessible Activism: Beyond the Streets – a pamphlet by Kolia Bene

Published: 1 February 2022 Author: Kolia Bene

As part of the Blazing New Worlds open call, drawing on the wisdom and insights of the disabled led collective Community Action to Inspire Hope in Gateshead, the artist Kolia Bene created a pamphlet to help transforming the way disabled people plan for and participate in multiple forms of activism.

Below you will find the content of a 31-page long digital pamphlet developed by Kolia, and the link for its live version. We encourage the reader to leave a comment or feedback, add or edit, and share with us how it went when implementing these suggestions.

According to Kolia, ‘the aim is highlight what works and how it works best for disabled persons in event planning or organising. A check list for the much cherished accessibility and inclusion by all arts organisations, those under resourced too’.

Introduction

The revolution must be accessible. As we continue revolutionary actions, access should be the norm. The future we are building needs to ensure all of us are at the table. Access should not be a “special” accommodation someone has to go out of their way to ask for. 

A large portion of the folks we want fighting by our side are disabled people. If disabled people must ask for accommodations, then they’re an afterthought; they are not being centered. How is your event and movement staying true to its mission if it’s not centering those most marginalized within it? For example, 1 in 4 adults in the U.K. have a disability. It is essential for inclusive activism to center and follow the lead of all disabled activists.

Resist the pull of capitalist urgency. Disabled people prove time and again that moving at the rate of the most impacted ensures that nobody gets left behind. Slowing down ensures that we resist pushing ourselves past our limits, allows us to view and solve problems from new angles, and helps create sustainable movements. Disabled people have been organizing for forever and we know what it’s like to constantly negotiate barriers. We have so much wisdom to offer and most of us are waiting to be asked for insight. 

While making activism accessible, remember that not all disabilities are visible. Disabled people are likely already attending your events. How can you accommodate people with hidden disabilities and make everyone feel comfortable asking for and using accommodations?

 

 

While planning any event, you will likely identify many components that are inaccessible. Please do not hide these barriers. Communicate barriers honestly and clearly by providing as much information as possible. Remember that disabled people can choose for themselves whether or not they’d like to try navigating these barriers or if they’re non-negotiable barriers.  Many guides and books exist that outline how to make events accessible and we did our best to link some of them in this guide. 

Please consult as many resources as possible and also understand that nothing can replace the insight gained from consulting disabled people in the planning stage. Ideally, pay a group of disabled people to help with planning, as there is not a singular experience of disability. Having a disability does not mean that a disabled person is an expert or even knowledgeable about accessibility or accommodations, but they are certainly an expert on their personal experience, which is invaluable feedback. Disabled accessibility coordinators or consultants are equipped to advise on a wide array of disability experiences and how to accommodate them. 

Our practice of accessibility and foundation of Disability Justice is deeply indebted to all the Black, brown, queer and trans leaders we have come across. We are grateful to the elders, mentors, and leaders who came before us and credit them with the framework that our work is built upon. 

Accessible Activism: Beyond the Streets by Kolia Bene / PDF version

About the artist

Creative practitioner (theater making+ creative workshop facilitator).

My identity is multifaceted and inter-sectional. No one part of me is separate from the other. Each one comes with its difficulties, but the beauty always wins. Being disabled has shown me how strong and resilient I can be, while also reminding me of the importance of kindness. Being an immigrant has taught me fortitude, focus, and courage, and shown me the love of brotherhood and connection. Being a flawed human being has taught me patience and perseverance. While in many ways, it has forced me to leverage my tenacity and strength, even when things get particularly challenging. 

About Blazing New Worlds

Blazing New Worlds is a programme of commissions, events and workshops in celebration of The NewBridge Project’s 11th Birthday. Throughout the programme a series of open calls and funding opportunities were released and supported projects were hosted in the gallery and online. Commissions by the artists Graeme Hopper (Grassi Art) and Cassie Thornton have been publicly displayed in the gallery throughout the programme, since October.

We commissioned Slack’s founder Jon Cornbill, to construct a radio booth that has been on display in the NewBridge gallery throughout the Slack’s Radio residency. The first round of the residency saw Slack’s Radio take over the gallery with a programme of music, performance, spoken word and conversation.

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