This guide is a living document intended to advise planners of Boston DSA projects, meetings, and events of best practices for including comrades with disabilities. This guide was informed by the work of DSA’s Disability Caucus and Working Group, Portland DSA’s Accessibility Committee, Boston DSA’s Mental Health Working Group, and Boston DSA’s Disability Caucus.
Questions about this guide or general accessibility can be directed to email@example.com.
Need to request an accommodation?
Request a Speaking or Voting Proxy
At the 3/24/18 convention, Boston DSA members unanimously passed an amendment that allows speaking & voting proxies for members unable to be at a meeting but able to participate via livestream.
If you are able to watch a livestream of the GM but cannot be there in person, you are entitled to a Speaking or Voting Proxy. Proxies are only used for debatable or amendable discussions at the meeting, not for any vote which is available in an online ballot. Information about the process can be found here.
Event and Meeting Planning
When organizing events with other groups, coordinate to ensure the event meets the same accessibility standards as one of Boston DSA’s own events.
PROMOTING THE MEETING
In event descriptions, a clear explanation of the accessibility of the space, the firstname.lastname@example.org email to contact the accessibility team, and the http://bit.ly/bdsaaccess form to request accommodations should be listed. This includes announcements during meetings, emails, Facebook listings, website event listings, and flyers.
Consult the meeting location list for guidance on booking accessible spaces. If new spaces are needed, add them to the list.
Event spaces with full accessibility should be prioritized.
When setting up for events, ensure adequate space for people to navigate the room.
Food at meetings must be labeled with allergen information. A basic guideline for allergens can be found here. Major allergens include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans. It’s important to not only note allergens in ingredients but possible cross-contamination. Full nutrition information should be included if possible. Display the nutrition label from bulk or packaged food and encourage potluck participants to use a recipe nutrition calculator.
Ensure adequate sound and amplification for the size and space of the event. Speakers should be politely stopped and asked to use microphones properly if necessary. Some people will prefer not to use a microphone because they are nervous or insist that their voice is loud enough. Facilitators should ask them to use the mic for accessibility reasons. If speakers still do not use a mic, someone with a mic should repeat what they say.
If possible, speakers should not be required to move to reach a microphone. Use mic runners whenever possible.
KICKING OFF THE MEETING
Facilitators should instruct attendees to use snapping and ASL applause instead of clapping and cheering at all meetings. The facilitator should demonstrate the ASL sign for applause found here and have attendees try it with them at all meetings.
At the beginning of a meeting, facilitators should invite any outstanding accessibility needs to be heard.
DURING THE MEETING
Social anxiety may prevent many members from attending meetings and events. Having reserved time for one-on-one conversations, difficult icebreakers, group movement, and group singing can make events even more difficult. Event organizers should ensure any of those activities have a subtle and easy “out”, by building a break or less-prescribed activity into the agenda. Let members make the choice to participate in something without drawing attention to themselves.
Keeping to stack and agenda timing will make attendees more comfortable in speaking; update agenda timing as you go to ensure all attendees are on the same page. Facilitators should be comfortable asking attendees to step back if they are speaking too much.
Pictures in presentations should be described fully to the audience.
Videos and audio must have closed captions or transcripts.
Whenever possible, speech transcripts should be made accessible.
If part of your meeting planning involves social events or post-meeting social events, try to have some at locations that do not serve alcohol, and minimize events in traditional bar environments.
Invite attendees to give feedback about accessibility to email@example.com or directly to the meeting facilitator in the post-meeting email
As a goal, people participating in DSA events should always be aware that facilitators and organizers are responsive to their needs, and participants should know who the point of contact is to express those needs before or during an event, and how to give feedback after an event.
Be conscious of barriers that could prevent people from participating and consider multiple ways to engage membership. Plan ahead or offer accommodations in your initial ask.
Finding ways to include members in the work of the chapter should be the responsibility of project or campaign organizers, and ultimately chapter leadership, in dialog with the member.
Planning ahead and being thoughtful in asks is necessary so that members feel comfortable approaching project or campaign organizers and don’t feel excluded from the work of the chapter.
Slack, email, Signal, Facebook, and Twitter each have their own accessibility issues. It’s recommended that important info go out on multiple channels but WGs decide to use one discussion platform. Accessibility requests for online channels should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any media posted to online organizing tools should be captioned or have transcripts.