Accessibility, Ableism, and Accommodations

Reflections on the 2023 Creating Change Conference, part two

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Selfie of Pax at the top of a steep outdoor staircase. They are wearing a blue denim cap, red-rimmed tinted glasses, and a purple jacket.

This post is part two of a series of reflections on the 2023 Creating Change Conference. For part one, see “Mixed-Race and Rootless”. For part three, see “Trans Athletes and Fairness to Women”. For part four, see Trans Takeover at Creating Change.

When deciding which sessions to attend at the Creating Change Conference, I didn’t prioritize transgender topics. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 20 years, so I’m around other openly trans and nonbinary people all of the time. I also worked at the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives for two and a half years. I am what a former co-worker might call a “professional queer”.

Instead, I sought out sessions on subjects that I’m less knowledgeable about. One such subject is ableism and accessibility. I attended two sessions on this topic, the first entitled “Dismantling Ableism to Create Vibrant Accessibility in Queer Spaces”. The hosts were Brittanie Wilson, equity and justice director at The Arc Minnesota, and Jillian Nelson, Community Resource and Policy Advocate for the Autism Society of Minnesota.

When I entered the session room a few minutes before the scheduled start time, it was already crowded, filled with large round tables with little room to walk between them. I initially chose a seat near the front as that table wasn’t filled up yet, and I didn’t see any signs indicating that it was reserved. Presently, I was told that a DeafBlind attendee and interpreter might need those seats. So I moved to the only available seat at another table, which was facing the back of the room.

I felt very uncomfortable, as I was elbow to elbow with my table mates, and the room was very noisy with everyone talking amongst themselves. I almost left when I saw a late notice on the conference app that Alok Vaid-Menon was giving a previously-unannounced talk at the same time. But I thought that it would be rude to leave so close to the start of the accessibility workshop, so I stayed put.

The presenters were great, though to avoid twisting my neck to see their presentation, I ended up downloading their slides and following along on my cell phone. They apologized for the over-crowded room…

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch