Tag Archives: access

Nature for everyone

Not everyone in the UK has equal access to wild places and green spaces. I expect this is true of other countries as well. As is usually the way of it, underprivileged people are the ones least likely to be able to access green spaces. If you live in a flat with no gardens, then having some communal green space in walking distance is important for mental and physical health alike.

If you don’t have a car, and live in an urban environment, then our national parks are pretty inaccessible. Without good public transport infrastructure, you won’t be able to access the countryside closest to you, even. Safe routes for cycling would also really help with this issue.

Where can you access green spaces as a disabled person? Where can you find the information about accessible spaces? How do you find out where it’s possible to go with a wheelchair? What about if you have limited mobility – it’s not unusual to be able to walk, but unable to get over massive stiles in fences.

Nature for everyone means not pricing people out of the opportunity to spend time outside. It means accessible green spaces in urban areas. It means proper information about access and what to expect. It also means more than a stretch of mown grass and one lonely, tired tree! 

Here’s what we need from the government:

  • Make equal access to nature a core test of levelling up
  • Make it a legal requirement in levelling up legislation for developers and public bodies to provide access to nature-rich green spaces for everyone
  • Provide funding for locally accessible nature-rich spaces by extending the Levelling Up Fund to green infrastructure projects.

Help ensure everyone has the equal right to nature. Sign this petition.

Access and Toilets

When it comes to running a gathering, toilets often make a key difference in whether an event is accessible or not. Without a usable toilet, attendance is unfeasible for many people. It’s not as simple as whether there’s an accessible toilet – I have a local venue with an accessible toilet, but the only way into the building involves steps!

How far do you have to travel through the building/venue to get to the toilets? Is this feasible for everyone? Is it going to feel safe for everyone?

If you aren’t somewhere with toilets, how far away is the nearest toilet? If you’re doing an outdoors ritual, this is a big consideration. Able bodied folks – chaps especially – might be comfortable peeing behind a tree. Anyone menstruating will need to be able to wash their hands. Further, for the person with an erratic digestive system, a tree really isn’t enough. IBS, Crohns, EDS and other conditions can make a person’s digestive system unpredictable. No one wants to have to explain this. Whether you can be in the field may depend a lot on how far you have to go to access a clean toilet – because sitting down is an issue.

Who do the regular toilets exclude? I’m a fairly average size, but there are cubicles I’m too big to easily get into. I’m passably mobile, but I’ve got one local loo where I can’t reliably contort myself enough to get through the door. It’s worth really looking at your toilets, because being able to get in yourself isn’t necessarily informative.

Are there changing facilities suitable for older children or adults? There probably aren’t, these are really scarce, so if you do have them, make a lot of noise about it! Lack of such provision denies people access to events, impacting on carers as well as disabled folk. Are the changing facilities in a non-gendered location?

Are there non-gendered toilets? Again, these aren’t common and if you’ve got them, it’s worth a serious shout out because of the inclusion implications. It’s not purely a trans and non-binary issue, either. Gender neutral toilets make it a lot easier for men to bring their small children to events.

I doubt this is an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start. Everyone needs a clean, safe, comfortable place to pee and poo. Failure to take this into account leads to needless exclusion. If people have questions about the toilet facilities, they may well have issues that they really don’t want to have to talk about in detail. It’s important to respect people’s privacy and dignity, and not oblige them to explain to them why they need information or specific kinds of facilities.

Access and Anxiety

Anxiety and some kinds of neurodivergence can make the uncertainty inherent in an event a real barrier to participation. These sorts of issues can be easily overlooked and can result in excluding people who could have participated with the right support. Accessibility isn’t just about whether a person can physically get into the space, barriers are not just about bodies.

I’m no great expert on neurodivergence. My understanding is that unfamiliar things, changes to routines, and other kinds of uncertainty can be immensely stressful for some neurodivergent people. Knowing things in advance so as to be able to feel prepared can make a great deal of odds and reduces anxiety.

I do know a fair bit about anxiety. Given an empty space, the anxious brain will just go ahead and plug in disasters. The more you know, the less room there is to unleash the panic weasels, and the more manageable the situation becomes.

What kind of thing a person needs to know about is probably going to be quite variable. Based on what I’ve seen around event organising, the most important thing is not to be complacent around requests for information. Don’t assume people are being unreasonable or demanding if they need to know about something ahead of time. Also, they probably aren’t going to tell you if they have sensitivity issues caused by autism, or a hard time imagining unfamiliar things, or are checking to avoid trauma triggers, or need to stop their brain from coming up with a hundred potential disasters.

If you don’t know exactly how something is going to work, tell people what you do know – try and work out what the limits are. Consider asking if there’s any kind of information they need. Make it ok for people to step out if something turns out to be too much for them. Actively support people whose psychological needs are different from your own and don’t expect everyone to be the same.

It shouldn’t matter why people are asking for information and help – in that we should not have to be persuaded they have a specific need in order to act on requests like these.