AC­CES­SI­BIL­ITY WHAT DOES MEAN?

Broken Pencil - - Editor's Note -

It’s a ques­tion that we’ve been ask­ing at Bro­ken Pen­cil for many years, par­tic­u­larly in our ca­pac­ity as event or­ga­niz­ers for our yearly zine and in­die cul­ture fair, Canzine: fes­ti­val of zines and un­der­ground cul­ture. Does ac­ces­si­bil­ity sim­ply mean a space where peo­ple with mo­bil­ity is­sues — canes, crutches, walk­ers, wheel­chairs — can move around com­fort­ably? Or does it also mean hav­ing a sign lan­guage in­ter­preter, pro­vid­ing gen­der-neu­tral bath­rooms and dimmable light­ing? Which ser­vices, if any, need to be top pri­or­ity? And does a lack of any of th­ese ser­vices mean the space is fun­da­men­tally in­ac­ces­si­ble?

Th­ese are im­por­tant ques­tions for any­one to con­sider if you’re putting on a pub­lic event. But when the con­ver­sa­tion turns to punk/diy/ art spa­ces, the dis­cus­sion be­comes par­tic­u­larly fraught. It’s an un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity that many DIY events from punk shows to zine fairs that con­sider them­selves open to all are rel­e­gated to old churches, base­ments and musty out­dated build­ings with nar­row en­try­ways, no el­e­va­tors and no ramps. Af­ford­abil­ity is def­i­nitely a key fac­tor — we Bro­ken Pen­cil folk can tell you a har­row­ing tale or two about try­ing to find an af­ford­able ac­ces­si­ble event space on a tran­sit line, par­tic­u­larly while op­er­at­ing on a non-profit bud­get. This year, we were for­tu­nate enough to se­cure the Art Gallery of On­tario’s We­ston Fam­ily Learn­ing Cen­tre as a Canzine Toronto venue. It’s a huge open space with high ceil­ings, wide aisles, win­dows, and most ex­cit­ingly for us, el­e­va­tors! Al­though we still need to work on over­crowd­ing is­sues, this is a huge step up for us in terms of mov­ing to­wards an events space that is in­clu­sive for all Canzine at­ten­dees and ven­dors.

Not ev­ery­one is so lucky. The or­ga­niz­ers and at­ten­dees of the long-run­ning Mon­treal zine fair Ex­pozine be­came em­broiled in a par­tic­u­larly heated on­line de­bate sur­round­ing the is­sue of ac­ces­si­bil­ity this past Novem­ber. As any­one who’s at­tended Ex­pozine knows, the event’s lo­ca­tion at Eglise St. En­fant Je­sus — a 150-year-old church — lacks ramps, el­e­va­tors and can feel cramped, over­crowded and claus­tro­pho­bic. This year, heated Face­book ar­gu­ments (are there any other kind?) erupted on the event’s pages as ques­tions and de­mands about the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the church were raised. Peo­ple got de­fen­sive; some got nasty. A pe­ti­tion was tabled, call­ing or­ga­niz­ers to work on se­cur­ing an ac­ces­si­ble venue. Tablers and at­ten­dees threated boy­cotts. It was un­pleas­ant, un­com­fort­able and more than a lit­tle ugly; but then again, you could ar­gue that most con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity and the need for change of­ten are. To their credit, the hard­work­ing or­ga­niz­ers of Ex­pozine are clearly work­ing to change and learn from this ex­pe­ri­ence and have pledged to find a new ac­ces­si­ble venue go­ing for­ward.

Our cover story on the crip­ple punk move­ment (by the rad writer/dis­abil­ity ad­vo­cate Sid­ney Dr­may) tells the story of a bur­geon­ing com­mu­nity of dis­abled peo­ple who are weary of the ableist crap they face on a con­stant ba­sis, par­tic­u­larly within the punk scenes that have both nur­tured and os­tra­cized them. They’ve taken their rep­re­sen­ta­tion, val­ues and iden­tity into their own hands in the face of a so­ci­ety that mis­un­der­stands and of­ten to­k­enizes their dis­abil­i­ties. We learned a lot from work­ing on this story with Sid­ney, and hope that it might help you em­pathize with what it’s like to live in a scene that of­ten for­gets about and ex­cludes dis­abled bod­ies and minds.

Ali­son Lang

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