Chloe Douds is an autistic and physically disabled individual who is also a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. They were celebrated on Dimensions’ 2021 Leaders List for their work campaigning for more inclusive Pride events. Following Autistic Pride Day this June, they discuss the importance of making Pride events accessible for all.
The need for change
The need to make Pride events more inclusive was made clear to me after the first Pride event I ever attended. The whole event was a very overwhelming sensory experience and yet there was no provision of quiet spaces for me to take a break in.
The facilities were not accessible for physically disabled individuals and, in some cases, when I raised concerns the security staff became aggressive. Even after my carer explained that I needed someone to be with me at all times, the staff refused to allow my carer to join me on the viewing platform and demanded I removed my ear defenders, mistaking them for headphones, that were helping me cope with the sensory overload.
The entire experience was completely disheartening and made me never want to attend a Pride event again. However, after taking some time to reflect, I realised that I was in a pretty good position to drive the changes that are needed at these events. As an autistic and physically disabled member of the LGBTQIA+ community, making my voice heard is essential to driving the change needed to make Pride accessible.
Campaigning for change
Following this experience, rather than waiting around for someone else to make things different, I began campaigning for more accessible Pride events. I began with the challenge of pushing for the main Pride event in my local area to hire a Mobiloo – a toilet facility which has accessibility features for physically disabled individuals.
I began raising awareness of these issues in my social circles and on social media and became a member of the LGBTQIA+ society at my university so I could share my perspective. In my work volunteering for a charity called Your Voice Counts, I became a member of our EDI Working Group which led me to create an easy read poem and video explaining what Pride means to me.
These experiences highlighted to me the importance of making my voice heard. I am often the only person in the room that thinks of a particular perspective that others might not have considered, this has helped me to push for change where others may not have considered it was needed.
Continuing to go further
However, there is still much that needs to be done to make Pride events truly accessible and enjoyable for all. A significant change I would like to see would be for all staff to be provided with in-person training delivered by people with autism and/or learning disabilities on how to be supportive at these events.
It is also vital that Pride events improve the provision of sensory areas. Currently, there are no sensory areas provided for adults and even those provided for children are not accessible for any children who use mobility aids. Equally, simple changes such as providing easy-read information and allowing people to take in their own food and drink, especially if they have sensory difficulties related to food and drinks, can make a significant difference.
With much more still to be done to truly make Pride accessible, I am continuing to campaign for change. I have recently been in contact with both Northern Pride and Northumberland Pride to try and encourage the organisers to make these two events as accessible possible. Following Autistic Pride Day, I am reminded of the importance of making ourselves heard so we can be the advocates for the changes we want to see.