Bisexuality and Disability
What is a disability?
A disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity” (ADA National Network). It has been found that more LGB folks have disabilities than their heterosexual counterparts. When people hear the word, they have different ideas about what it means in a social context, and there can be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. People with disabilities may use different labels to describe themselves, such as “disabled,” “a person with a disability,” or “differently abled.” Whatever terminology a person uses, only they, and perhaps the medical professionals with whom they work, can say if they have a disability or not. Physical illnesses, mental illnesses, injuries, and chronic pain can all potentially result in both visible and invisible disabilities, and all should be accommodated in the bisexual community.
Inclusivity, Exclusion, and AccommodationsUnfortunately, there is bi+ antagonism (sometimes called biphobia) in the disability/chronic illness community just like in other parts of society. Similarly, there is ableism in the bi+ community just like in other parts of society. Thankfully, it is often unintentional and many people are open to learning more. Though organizers in the bi+ community aim to make their events accessible, they don’t always have the knowledge or resources to do so completely. Accommodations needed can include ramps, accessible bathrooms, spaces free of chemicals, braille, places to sit at events where most people stand, allergen-free foods, quiet areas at larger events, and/or text to explain memes and GIFs on social media.
To make your events accessible, consider the following:
- Find venues that can be accessed without stairs and that have wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.
- For events with speakers, get a sign language interpreter.
- Provide seating at all events.
- Ask your participants what they need.
- Provide an open, accepting environment where people feel comfortable requesting accommodations.
- For every event you post on social media and/or your web site, include a few lines at the end of the event description that state what is and is not accessible at the event and provide contact information so people can get more information.
- Request that attendees avoid wearing perfume or other scented items.
- If you organize multiple events, include a variety of venues and activities. Someone who can not attend one event may be able to attend another. For example, one person may not be able to participate in a picnic but would enjoy a hike or a paint night.
If you are in need of accommodations, here are some suggestions:
- Contact group leaders to ask about accessibility at their events.
- Contact event organizers and request specific accommodations.
- Make your own accommodations in order to attend gatherings.
- Ask friends and acquaintances to assist you in getting accommodations.
- Choose not to discuss your disability. It’s ok to not discuss it if you prefer not to.
- Give this link to your local organizers.
- Volunteer to help make spaces more accessible.
- Practice self-care by taking breaks from advocacy work, even self-advocacy.
- Organize your own accessible events.
If you aren’t able to attend gatherings and events, consider:
- Reaching out to online groups of bi+ and/or disabled folks to find community there.
- Inviting friends to your home to socialize.
- Hanging out with friends via video chat.
- Organizing an event you feel able to attend.
Creating your own small community takes time and effort. Start small and build from there.