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How Queer Spaces Can Better Serve People With Disabilities

This Is Why Queer Spaces Must Be Acessible for People With Disabilities

Ariana Grande’s go-to tattoo artist Mira Mariah explains why accessibility is a queer issue.


Have you heard about "spoon theory"? It's a way of visualizing chronic pain and disability-related fatigue that says we all have a limited number of spoons to spend each day. A disabled person might have fewer spoons at any given time because they might have to spend more in order to complete a simple task -- like getting dressed or riding the train.

I have a prosthetic leg, and sometimes I use a wheelchair. So when I go out, I might decide that I'm going to spend five spoons dancing for 10 minutes because it brings me joy. If I dance, I won't have the spoons to keep standing, and I'll need to sit down. I could always skip the dancing and remain standing, but I deserve a little joy once in a while and I can make that decision for myself -- unless the space I'm dancing in doesn't have any seating.

Seating is important. If a space doesn't have seating, it limits what disabled people can do once they come inside -- if they can come inside at all. Some spaces have steps at the entrance or a flight of stairs leading to the bathrooms. If you can't walk up a flight of stairs, or can't easily do so at a moment's notice, then you can't use that space. If a space doesn't have seating, then it's not accessible. If a space has a flight of stairs, then it's not accessible. And if a space is not accessible -- if it doesn't have seating or has a flight of stairs or steps at the entrance -- then it's the responsibility of whoever runs that space or hosts events there to tell people that ahead of time. That's just being a good host.

If a disabled queer person suggests a way to make your space more accessible and you can afford it, then it should be done. I know that queer spaces don't always have a lot to work with, budget-wise, and what we do have is pretty makeshift, which is cool and rock 'n' roll and all. But I don't want our cool, rock 'n' roll, makeshift culture to forget about people who are so deeply rock 'n' roll and makeshift themselves.

Living as a disabled person means innovating and creating things with what you've got. It's innovative. It's colorful. It's dope as hell. Disabled people aren't just the clean-cut athletes or wholesome all-American types you might see on TV. Some of us are queer. Some of us are kinda rock 'n' roll. Some of us love drinking and partying and dancing. Queer disabled people like this exist, so why don't our queer spaces reflect that? We can make our spaces more accessible. We all have the spoons for that. -- as told to Harron Walker

Follow Mira Mariah on Instagram at @girlknewyork.

To read more, grab your own copy of Out's March issue featuring "The Mothers and Daughters of the Movement" as the cover on Kindle, Nook and Zinio today, and on newsstands February 26. Preview more of the issue here. Get a year's subscription here.

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