Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who are taking a lead in their lives and helping make society better for everyone. This month we feature Chloe Douds, winner in the Advocacy, policy and the media category in the Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List
Chloe is autistic, uses a wheelchair and is part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They tell us why they are calling for Pride events to be accessible and inclusive for physically disabled and autistic people.
“In addition to being autistic, I am also somebody who is physically disabled and a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a result of this I have faced challenges in relation to being a part of these groups.
The first ever Pride event I attended was, in all ways, a disaster
“It was a very overwhelming experience sensory-wise, there were no quiet places for me to take a break and ground myself, there were no toilets that were useable in a wheelchair and security staff were aggressive and lacked empathy towards me.
“When I went to use the viewing platform to watch some of the performances, I was told that my carer wasn’t allowed to come up with me and that I would need to remove my ‘headphones’.
“My carer explained that I needed somebody to be with me at all times and that they were not headphones, but ear defenders to help me to cope with auditory sensory overload. The security guard was aggressive and rude, and mocked me for my needs and behaviours when I became really overwhelmed.
The whole experience made me want to never go to a Pride event again
“However, after taking months to reflect and recover, I learned that things needed to change. Rather than waiting for somebody else to make things change, I remembered that I was in a pretty good position to force this change and increase accessibility and acceptance.
“I took on this challenge, and in doing so pushed for the main Pride event in my area to hire a Mobiloo.
“I also started raising awareness in my social circles and on social media, and I joined the LGBTQIA+ Society at my university where I gave a presentation to show them how to be more inclusive of disabled and neurodiverse people in LGBTQIA + spaces.
“I also joined the equality and diversity group at the place where I volunteer, which led to me making an easy read poem and video about what Pride means to me and about how Pride is still a protest because although we have come a long way, we still have so far to go.
Being autistic means being different but in a really good way
“Without being autistic I wouldn’t see the world in the way that I do, and that makes me who I am.
“It also means I am often the person in the room that thinks of a perspective that others might not have considered, and this has helped me in both my volunteering work and when I was at university.
“Being creative is another big part of who I am, and I think a lot of that comes from me being autistic.
Pride is an event that is supposed to celebrate difference and fight for change
“For able-bodied and neurotypical people this is often the case; but for neurodiverse and disabled people, Pride is not always the most accessible of events. There are number of things that could make Pride more accessible…
“From the point of view of physically making Pride more accessible it would be great for organisers to rent a Mobiloo – a toilet facility on wheels that has an adult changing bench, a celling hoist, toilet, and handwashing facilities – so that everyone has access to facilities to meet such a basic need.
“In addition to this, having events on hard standing or providing rubber pathways would make Pride easier to access for those with mobility needs.
“In terms of making Pride more accessible for neurodiverse people, it would be great if there were sensory/quiet spaces that people of all ages could access and not just children, as is currently standard.
“In addition to this, people should be allowed to take their own food and drinks, especially if they have sensory difficulties related to food and drink.
“It would also be great if all information was provided in an easy read format for those who need it.
Other things that would make Pride more accessible…
- Provide sign language interpreters
- Have viewing points for performances for those who need them
- Allow carers in for free at paid events when they are supporting somebody
- Have staff – including stewards, volunteers, performers, stall holders, and security staff – trained in supporting those who are disabled and/or neurodiverse.”
The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List is produced by Dimensions in partnership with Learning Disability England and VODG.
Visit dimensions-uk.org/leaderslist2021 to meet all the Leaders.
Follow @DimensionsUK and #LDALeadersList to stay up to date.