Making Space Accessible is An Act Of Love for Our Communities
by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
When I think about access, I think about love. I think that crip solidarity, and solidarity between crips and non(yet) crips is a powerful act of love and I got your back. It’s in big things, but it’s also in the little things we do moment by moment to ensure that we all- in all our individual bodies- get to be present fiercely as we make change.
Embedded in this is a giant paradigm shift,. Our crip bodies aren’t seen as liabilities, something that limits us and brings pity or something to nobly transcend, cause I’m just like you. Our crip bodies are gifts, brilliant, fierce, skilled, valuable. Assets that teach us things that are relevant and vital to ourselves, our communities, our movements, the whole god damn planet.
If I’m having a pain day and need you to use accessible language cause I’m having a hard time language processing and you do, that’s love. And that’s solidarity. If I’m not a wheelchair user and I make sure I work with the non-disabled bottomliner for the workshop to ensure that the pathways through the workshop chairs are at least three feet wide, that is love and solidarity. This is how we build past and away from bitterness and dissapointment at movements that have not cared about or valued us.
There is so much more I can say about this, but one small thing I will add, that is one small (and huge) thing you can do to ensure access: Please be scent/fragrance free to the extent that you are able to. Folks who have chemical disabilities need to be able to participate in the AMC! So it would be great if everyone could avoid using shampoo/cologne/deodorant/detergent/fabric softener that is scented/has lots of chemicals all weekend. (This includes essential oils.)
If you want more info about how to be fully scent/fragrance free, see http://www.peggymunson.com/mcs/fragrancefree.html, but the basics for the weekend will be great.
It’s easy to get inexpensive scent/fragrance free products at Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Whole Foods (they suck, but they make $3 scent-free shampoo, conditioner and lotion), independent health food stores and co-ops, and you can also just get some cocoa butter, coconut oil or shea butter in the raw and make your own products, which is cheap and fun. Cutting out scents may seem like a pain in the ass, but it means that awesome, ass-kicking community members you love can attend the AMC without having seizures, throwing up or otherwise getting really sick, and/or spending the whole weekend in their rooms and not being able to be in workshops.
Partial list of products: http://takebacktheair.com/pdf/FragranceFreeProducts.pdf
List of products, including people of color specific ones, from the East Bay Mediation Center: http://eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/scentfree.html
More information, borrowed from the website of NOLOSE (http://www.nolose.org)
If you are not accustomed to reducing your use of scented products it is important to think carefully about all the products you use in your day. You can reduce your use of scented items like shampoo, soap, hair gel, hair spray, perfume/scented oils, skin lotion, shaving cream, makeup, etc., before the conference and while at the conference, and bring your own unscented products.
Many fragrance-free products can be bought in your local drugstore. For hard-to-find products (especially hair products), check out your local health food store or the NEEDS catalog: www.needs.com. If you are unable to find “fragrance-free” at a store, often the hypo-allergenic version of a product is scent-free. Simply read the ingredients on the label and see if the word “fragrance” appears. If not, you’re OK. Suggestions for fragrance-free products are at the end of this page.
What will it do for my health, and the health of others, to limit my use of scent?
Reducing your use of scent or going scent free is an important step toward access for people with disabilities. Plus, you may be surprised to find that you feel better as well!
People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (also called Environmental Illness) experience serious and debilitating physical and neurological symptoms when exposed to the chemicals used in most scented products. Often, the damage caused by these chemicals causes an individual to react to other intensely volatile substances, such as essential oils, tobacco smoke, and “natural” fragrances. The process by which we “smell” something actually involves microscopic particles of that substance being absorbed through mucous membranes and entering the nervous system. The intense symptoms associated with chemical sensitivities have led most medical experts to theorize that the disorder is neurologically, not immunologically, based.
Because no government agency regulates the ingredients of household and personal care products, the last several decades have seen a huge increase in the number of harmful chemicals added to these products. Many of these chemicals are banned for use in industrial settings because of their known toxic effects. According to a 1986 U.S. House of Representative study: “Ninety-five percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxins and sensitizers—capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions.”
Symptoms of chemical exposure include dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, drowsiness, irritation to mouth, throat, skin, eyes, and lungs, headache, seizures, fatigue, confusion, and liver and kidney damage. As you can imagine, these symptoms constitute serious barriers for people with chemical sensitivities in work, life, and of course, conference attendance. Promoting low-scent and scent-free environments is very much like adding ramps and curb-cuts in terms of the profound difference in accessibility it can produce. We appreciate all participants in the NOLOSE Conference cooperating with the Low Scent Policy to make this an accessible conference.
If you smoke:
Please smoke only in the designated smoking areas. Washing your hands after you smoke helps too! Please also keep in mind that many chemically-sensitive people will also get sick from the smoke clinging to your clothing and hair.