Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sheffield Fems and Inaccessibility

Last November I wrote a post about my local 'feminist' group and their meetings being held upstairs in a building without a lift.

I was told that they had discussed the issues but didn't want to meet somewhere that would alienate non-students. Other than that, I have seen the agenda and minutes for each subsequent meeting, and it has not been mentioned.

They also wrote a post on their blog about it. The post is copied below, and my comments are in bold italic

We are still trying to find a new place to meet that has disabled access. Currently we meet upstairs in the University Arms which has no disabled access at all, although we keep being told they are working on it! (Personally I think they need a good kick up the arse on this because they’re been saying that for a while now and nothing has changed!!!)

Is it the pub that needs a kick up the arse? Or the customers who continue to use it?

However there are certain limitation on where we can meet as well…

A lot places charge to book rooms which we just can’t afford! Any fundrising we do we want to be using for campaigns and charities not just on booking a room (and some of them are really expensive)

They are now paying to use the inaccessible room, which makes me wonder about the above point.

It has been suggested several times that we use the Student’s Union building. We are a university group so would be entitled to book rooms, but we are also open to none student and the union building is not open to the public in the evenings (it is possible to sign people in) and we don’t want to alienate none students either! There maybe the possibility of booking Coffee Revolution, but this again does require that it ‘makes money’ and if that means that we have to guarantee a certain amount of sales this could be a problem (I’m going to investigate this)

It is possible for non-students to be signed in. It is not possible for people who can't climb stairs to climb stairs. Who's being alienated?

So we need to find somewhere free, but we would also, ideally like to find somewhere with a more relaxed atmosphere as we have found that this results in more welcoming and relaxed meetings, which is important to us. Particularly when we have new members or are discussing sensitive issues we have found that atmosphere is important and sterile meetings rooms can be rather intimidating. Equally we do need a private room. For a while we met in the downstairs bar area of the University Arms and found that we weren’t able to have open discussions and debate or even hear each other half the time!

How great is an excluding, exclusive atmosphere? How relaxed is that?

This is an issue that is discussed fairly regularly in meetings but one we are yet to resolve! Trying to find the balance of a venue that is accesible and welcoming to all and will not take all our money is really not as easy as it should be. Please let us know if you have suggestions either through the website or through email (I shall apologies in a advance if I forget to the reply to emails, I have a mind like a sieve! I do read all the emails and all points are taken on board, but sometimes I forget to reply. *Sorry*) and feel free to contact the University Arms and tell them to hurry up with the disabled access!

I don't know whether to be reassured that it is discussed regularly. It is virtually never on the agenda or in the minutes. What does that say about the discussion? And if it's discussed that regularly, why hasn't something been done?

You can't put all the blame on the venue you choose to use. You choose to use it!

I am beyond being diplomatic about this. I think it's shit, frankly.

And then tonight I got an email from them with the following sentence in it:

We talked extensively about the pros and cons of all the suggestions made and tried to find the most inclusive solution that meets the needs of as many as possible

Sounds promising? Nope. They're talking about men. You've got to be inclusive of non-students (of which I am one), and men. But disabled women, nope. No hope.


Anonymous said...

Hippie already knows the below, but I explain in case you're another reader.

I am another disabled feminist from Sheffield. My condition is episodic, which means sometimes I can climb stairs and other times I find it impossible. This kind of thing drives me round the bend (but not up the stairs unfortunately ha ha).

I used to be involved with an activist group on another issue, who met in Manchester. I stopped being involved when they organised a big meeting in an inaccessible venue, and wrote on the publicity that the venue was inaccessible but they'd done it to save money. Having already struggled but just about made it to some of their meetings, that was the final straw.

It seems to me that people will keep doing these things unless we call them on it.

I've always found it difficult to understand how one badly treated group fails to understand another (e.g. individual gay people being racist and so on) the more so when they have some kind of political consciousness, which you would think a feminist group would. But Sheffield Fems, you are being ablist, and you only seem very faintly embarrassed about it.


incurable hippie said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago I joined a very feminist hotline that had broken off from a larger group so one member of the hotline could continue to participate as the larger group had moved to a wheelchair inaccessible building. 20 years ago. In Philadelphia of course, not Virginia, but still, I'm just saying :) This just seems unacceptable in 2008 to me.

incurable hippie said...

Thank you hymes, it seems unacceptable to me too. They really should know better.

I'm glad that at least part of your hotline back then had some guts!

Anonymous said...

Incurable Hippy, I've posted a response on my personal blog since as a comment it got huge.
All the best,

icancarryallthebagsandthebabiestoo said...

Shame on them.

And good for you for turning up the heat and making them be aware.

driftwood said...

Incurable Hippy,
I came across this a bit late in the day, but it made me think. I'm not quite in the stage to be so assertive about it as you are. I posted something that partly comes as a response - Bad for You.

I loved the phrase 'Is it the pub that needs a kick up the arse? Or the customers who continue to use it?'. It came quite unexpectedly to me, but it shouldn't have.

Best, Peter