Not Complex At All

Earlier today Leftwing Idiot sent me a photo of a poster for an event taking place near the castle. He’d noticed it because it used language commonly associated with disability, ‘Complex Needs’, and had the tagline ‘A Christmas party for those in need.’

Christmas is a time of year when many people feel isolated or under pressure. Disabled people are particularly at risk. A recent report by the Jo Cox Foundation described an ‘epidemic of loneliness’ amongst disabled people, with one in four feeling lonely on a daily basis. For those aged 18 to 34 this rose to 1 in 3.

A festive, accessible, party then is clearly a great way of tackling this on a local level so – curious about the night – I decided to find out more. I’m sad to say the event didn’t turn out to be quite the generous and life-enhancing offer the poster might have implied. At best the language used was thoughtless and inappropriate ¬– the event isn’t accessible at all: it’s taking place downstairs in the basement of a local bar. Shockingly on its Facebook page the promoter describes its music policy as ‘Schizophrenic.’

I felt a surge of disappointment and anger when I read this. In 2017, do we really need to say that using conditions or impairments to describe a music policy in this way isn’t ok? It’s damaging because it plays on stereotypes and entrenches otherness, which contribute to the exclusion and isolation of millions of people.

Schizophrenic isn’t a synonym for erratic, like Tourettes isn’t a synonym for swearing, and like OCD isn’t a synonym for meticulous.

For me, having support needs that can be described as complex, finding accessible places to party is hard. Very few venues share information online about access, and as a wheelchair user my needs are rarely thought about when new clubs and venues are built.

When I do go out it’s not unusual for me confronted with damaging assumptions and cruel questioning. It’s therefore deeply affronting to see the language of impairment used light-heartedly to promote an event to which disabled people don’t have access. Especially as this one is right on my doorstep!

Accessible, inclusive events are in desperately short supply. There are a great many people who are in need of opportunities to relax, dance, meet new people and feel part of a dynamic community. There are also some amazing organisations addressing this like Heart N Soul and Attitude is Everything.

To the promoters behind tonight’s non-accessible party this post isn’t a telling off – it’s no use if you ignore me or get defensive.

Instead I want to invite you to get in touch, learn about ‘Disability Culture’ and possibly explore the potential for collaborating on an event that’s truly open to everyone who might need it.

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