Is Pride Disability/Spoonie Friendly?

Pride is not the most friendly place for someone with sensory processing issues and/or chronic illness. In my own case, the two start a feedback loop and result in exhaustion and higher pain levels. While sensory processing has always been a challenge for me, with the added joys of chronic illness and pain it has become imperative that I manage it more stringently. Looking back at 2012 and my post Toronto Pride – One Highly Sensitive Introvert’s Perspective I notice how I have changed in the past five years.

This year the only Pride event I attended was the Kulanu Pride Shabbat dinner and service. I led the service and spoke during the dinner. I had a good time and overall it went well. Yet, by the end of the evening, I was done like the dinner. The sensory overload had triggered the nerve pain. Stepping down from the raised platform and lectern I had a moment where my balance went and I avoided tumbling to the floor only by holding the lectern until my balance returned. More than a week later I was still feeling the effects.

Most years when I am in Toronto I attend the political march during the week, the Trans March on Friday, and the Dyke March on Saturday. The main Sunday parade has been just too much for me. This year I was not able to attend any of them. I was having a flare and knew that the crowds and noise would be overwhelming and exacerbate the situation. Instead, I spent time with my Mum late Friday afternoon.

Why an accessible, spoonie friendly Pride?

For many who are disabled, living with disabilities, or have disabilities (let the person choose how they describe it for themselves!) being able to attend social events is important. Many spend a lot of time at home and do not get out anywhere near as much as they might like. If one is queer/LGBTQIA+ spaces for people with disabilities are not always queer friendly, let alone positive.

Getting to a Pride event that is accessible provides a space that recognises all aspects of the person. We do not leave our queerness behind when we go to support groups or other activities for the disabled. We do not leave our disability at home when we go to Pride.

Pride Toronto, according to its website, made accessibility a priority and outlined what was available on their web site’s accessibility page. There were a lot of services available for physical disabilities. Braille guides, ASL services, and mobility assistants to name a few. This is wonderful and critical!

My impression having looked at the map was that getting to the space would be an overwhelming challenge if one was in sensory overload. Add in increasing pain levels and I don’t think it is as accessible as needed for some of us.

What I find is missing are tips and suggestions for those of us for whom being in a crowded, noisy environment is difficult. Not knowing what, if anything, is available requires us to wonder if it is worth the effort of going. We must determine ahead of time, without adequate information, if we want to use our limited energy to try to attend.

Going to Pride and other large events often requires anywhere from a day to as much as a week or three to recover depending on the response of one’s mind and body.

What might a spoonie Pride look like?

I know that this year there was an “Accessibility Service Hub” at Gloucester and Church. Having not been in attendance, I do not know how effective it was and I would appreciate feedback on this. Quiet areas are wonderful things, I do not know how quiet this hub was, or if it had a quiet space. Quite spaces are much, much, better than finding a washroom to hide out in for a while. The challenge with the space for Pride in Toronto is that it is a long stretch and getting to the quiet space may be extremely difficult, especially if one uses a mobility aid. To be clear, not having been to the space or received feedback I cannot say how effective it was.

Good information prior to events on what accommodations and services are available for those of us with sensory processing challenges and difficulties. One of my personal strategies when going to events like Pride is knowing all the ways I can quickly leave the event if I need to.

Have an adequate quiet space for people to go to when overwhelmed. In the case of Pride Toronto or other events in a relatively large area, have more than one space. This allows people to get to the space in a timely manner. One aspect to quiet spaces can be a place for people to be able to engage in quiet conversation without having to worry about noise and other factors making it difficult to carry out a conversation.

Offer ear plugs. This is relatively straight forward and ear plugs can help with cutting down on the noise without having to wear noise cancelling headphones.

Have events during the main weekend that are specifically spoonie friendly and promoted as such. Having events during the month is fantastic, but when there is nothing on the main festival weekend it sends the message that we are still second or third class members of the community.

For many of us, we are loud and proud about who we are as queer people. We just go about it in a way that does not overwhelm the senses.

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