10 March, 2009

Access Issues at Ad Hoc Activist Meeting
in the KPFA Community

Access Issues at Ad Hoc Activist Meeting in the KPFA Community

Last fall, the three of us, Adrienne Lauby, Jan Santos and Shahram Aghamir, organized an informal ad hoc meeting of people who want to improve KPFA. We shared a sense of urgency and scheduled the meeting in a private home after a local station board meeting the next day on September 13. This is an apology to everyone for our lack of consideration of wheelchair and other accessissues in the planning and implementation of the meeting. Because our lapse was serious, we want to share our deeper understanding with a wider group of people in the hope that all of us will hold each other to a higher standard as we go forward.

Although we wanted a confidential meeting and so met outside the station, we did not consider the steps into the house, the inaccessible bathroom and the animal dander of the private home we chose. This ignored a basic tenet of the disability rights movement. It also made it impossible for a member of the unpaid staff council, an unpaid staff producer and a local station board member to attend. There was a hurried attempt at the time to provide some reasonable accommodation and we met in the yard so the person who is allergic to animals was able to be present. Other accommodations were either not made or not carried out as arranged.

It is not a standard of progressive behavior to ignore basic access needs even in ad hoc, informal situations. To exclude people from meetings due to circumstances of physical and mental disability excludes members of our community with valuable insights and talents. Entrances, bathrooms, and air quality are critical areas to evaluate in choosing a meeting place. As organizers we also should attempt to provide materials in advance for blind participants, and make requests for a scent free environment and that the discussion be loud enough for the hard of hearing. There are many different kinds of disability and a multitude of access needs but the difficulty of making every meeting and event completely accessible should not be an excuse to ignore common and relatively easy-to-overcome barriers to access. The people with disabilities who we know should be considered as the individuals they are and specific needs they have expressed should be taken into account in planning decisions.

It’s also important to make community events and discussions available for people with disabilities who we may not know yet. And we need to support those among us who are struggling to be more open about their disabilities. As progressive media workers at KPFA, we need to develop a better list of potential meeting venues

Perhaps our bad example can serve as a preventative lesson to other organizers in the KPFA community.

Given the historical segregation of people with disabilities and the slow pace of access accommodations in our society, we believe that progressives should go the extra mile. If people with access needs are known participants in a group, it is a matter of principle, as well as respect, to make every effort to include them.

We deeply regret that people active in this group were discriminated against because we didn’t consider access needs. We also regret not considering people who may have attended the meeting if it were more accessible. We apologize to these individuals and the larger community.

Adrienne Lauby
Producer, Unpaid Staff Member, Pushing Limits
KPFA Access Committee

Jan Santos
Producer, Unpaid Staff Member, Pushing Limits
KPFA Access Committee

Shahram Aghamir
Producer, Unpaid Staff Member, Voices of the Middle East and North Africa
KPFA Local Station Board Member

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