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The Cost of Access

A Black person signing in front of a screen with CART captioning.Dear organizers, event planners, and company representatives:

Stop assuming that access is too expensive.

Build access into your budget from the start of planning, not as a reluctantly tacked-on afterthought. When you seek funding or set prices, determine the cost of your event with a range of access services included.

Ask actual people what they need if you don’t know, and be broad in your call for input. Many people aren’t attending your events because they assumed they wouldn’t be included. It takes a lot of energy to reach out and ask for a particular access need to be met when your lived experience has been constant rejection. And not everyone who would benefit knows to ask–plenty of folks who don’t identify as disabled will have a more pleasant event when you consider things like captioning, designated quiet rooms, and nutritional variety. That means that they’ll come back, recommend you to friends, and spend their money on your event. They may think of services as “luxuries” rather than accommodations, but the principles of universal access don’t require anyone to identify as disabled. The point is recognizing that keeping access in mind benefits everyone.

Oh, and if you say you’re going to provide a particular kind of access, but fall through because you didn’t take the cost into account? You look like a jerk.

If you belittle the person asking for services, make value judgements about their request, suggest that they pay for the service, or tell a Deaf person to find their own interpreter? You look like a jerk.

If you say you’ll provide access, but ignore the actual request and provide an alternative (cheaper) service that doesn’t fully meet an attendee’s needs? You look like a jerk.

If you’re a big company and refuse to provide types of access that plenty of small non-profits bend over backwards to provide, even digging into their own limited pockets, because it’s “too expensive?” You look like a really, really big jerk.

Access matters. Do the right thing.