Making your activism accessible

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Purpose: This page was created to support activists in making their spaces more accessible, that is, to ensure everyone's needs to access movement spaces are met so more people can contribute to the climate movement in whatever way they can! Several of the topics found in this guide are based on questions asked by activists in the HUB's community.

This guide includes: definitions of accessibility, understanding why disability justice is climate justice, considerations for accessible event, action planning, communication and content sharing, considerations for creating an accessible culture and other suggestions related to creating a space that is accessible to everyone who wants to contribute to the movement for climate justice.

Learning objectives:

  • Equip grassroots groups with strategies to meet the access needs of participants, make their messaging accessible to all folks, and increase engagement and involvement in their activism and organizing spaces.
  • Learn from the lived experiences of people with access needs.
  • (Bonus) Discuss new ideas to add to the roundup of practices currently listed in the guide

Where does the knowledge come from? The information included comes from existing organizer databases and resources and knowledge by movement thinkers. We've included knowledge from; blogs written by people living with accessibility needs, resources provided by staff at the People's Hub, an instagram live with Priya Penner from the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and other organizers living with disabilities. However, note that each personal experience is distinct, thus we encourage further insight from different positionalities to share further ideas on how this page can be expanded upon and improved.

Accompanying activity suggestions:

  • Individual or group read-through using our apply your understanding questions at the end of this guide. Go through them as a team.
  • Trying to model the good practices in the guide and running an action plan workshop for the group based on them. Goal is to come up with plan, timeline and bottom-liners to implement some of the ideas in the guide
  • Checking back in after a couple months’ worth of testing the ideas in the guide in real life and doing a rundown of what worked well and what didn’t as a group
  • Allow group members, using some of the scenarios in the guide, to speak to resonance and hear what new ideas and considerations are shared

Defining accessibility

"Universal accessibility is the character of a product, process, service, information or environment which, with a view to fairness and an inclusive approach, allows anyone to carry out activities independently and to obtain equivalent results." - Groupe DÉFI Accessibilité (GDA) [1] & Ex Aequo

Ex Aequo distinguish accessibility from adaptation: "Adaptation would consist of changes made in order to accommodate people in relation to “an environment, a communication, a program, or an already existing service. We adapt when we build a subway with only stairs, then add elevators several years later. We make it universally accessible when we provide access ramps to the buses."

Why is Accessibility Critical to Movement Spaces?

Access Culture expands on definitions of accessibility, explaining:

"For people who live on the margins, who have to fight to prove their existence, who are excluded from movements, who are subject to abuse in the form of isolation, having access to spaces means having access to community, to connection, to existence. When we make spaces accessible, when we build movements based on inclusion, we recognize that each person has an intrinsic value, that our existence is beautiful and necessary. Creating accessible spaces is about recognizing that connection is necessary, that community is necessary, that our culture is built on the myth of separation, the lie of disconnection. We must move from independence to interdependence in order to transform society." 

Accessibility matters for the following reasons:

1. Collective liberation: we all win when we oppose ableism
  • Disabled people are oppressed by the same systems of power we are fighting across movements. Ableism denies people with a physical or mental impairment opportunities to care for themselves. It is deeply rooted in capitalism, colonialism and white supremacy. 
  • Disability justice is anti-capitalist. It opposed the push for productivity, extraction and commodifying our bodies for labour and building wealth. 
2. Not actively unlearning and practicing = replicating oppression
  • We want to fight marginalization, not contribute to it. Within movement spaces, we must actively work to unlearn behaviours that reinforce oppression to fight against it. This includes practicing an access culture and challenging internalized ableism, racism, homophobia etc. 
      • Internalized ableism prompts: do we reward some people over others because they can contribute more time and effort? Do we favour their voices over those who have to care for their health, need to work a second job, have caretaking responsibilities etc.?
      • Access goes beyond disability. There's a reason primarily white folks are accessing climate activist spaces. 
3. Prioritizing and leadership of marginalized people
  • The needs of those who do not benefit from our current oppressive systems must be prioritized as decision makers for a just world that prioritizes people and the planet.
  • Those most affected by forms of oppression are best suited to define how we can operate our society more equitably. Disabled, black, brown, trans etc. people live through some of the most challenging consequences of capitalism and the climate crisis
4. Meeting everyone’s needs = more people power
  • On a strategic note: We will not mobilize the mass we need without considering disability justice, access needs and building cultures of care that actively challenge internalized oppression.
      • If people do not see their immediate survival needs being prioritized by your campaign, they will not want to join.
      • Otherwise, those who would be interested in organizing may be unable to join, or continue, if their access and care needs are not considered. 
  • Putting the planning in today means greater and sustained participation tomorrow. We are all likely to experience chronic or acute disability or access needs in our lives, whether from old age, stress, illness or an accident. 

5. Organizers burn out when opposing ableism isn't prioritized

  • Non-disabled organizers are impacted by ableism too. Oppressive systems have their own way of defining what value and care mean, and who is deserving, and when.
      • Internalized ableism uses productivity and sameness to define our worth. Doing too much to achieve too much can lead to burnout; a major problem in movement spaces.
  • Disabled queer and trans communities of colour have already been preparing for the survival of their communities through disasters. They teach each other skills in resilience-based, care-based organizing to strategically create the changes that we need for our futures. These skills are necessary for other organizers to learn from. [2]
  • Learning from other multiply marginalized people, I've found amazing community. There is so much love, support and sustainability in these relationships. I wouldn't be here in the ways I am without these friends, because they've supported me when I needed support or solutions. Turning to my disabled friends and comrades is one of the best ways to get something done. Finding that community to sustain yourself and co-conspire with you, and recognize what you're going through, is key.

As described by Aerik Woodams at People's Hub, individual access is often framed as extra work; that there are 'more important things to address'. Disabled and otherwise marginalized people ask us to do things differently. This might feel like work at first, but these efforts benefit all of us by giving us more strength, understanding and tools to build a better world. 

A note on what 'counts' as activism

First and foremost, taking care of one's disabled body is radical activism. As described by Audre Lorde, caring for bodies that do not fit the ‘favoured’ white, male, cisgender, able-bodied ‘ideal’ set by western, capitalist, individualist norms, is political. [3]

There can be a tendency in movement spaces to debate what the 'best' way to take action is. Many disabled people (and also non-disabled people) must factor in things such as energy levels, physical ability, transportation, scheduling requirements (e.g. medication, appointments etc) when thinking about how they'll participate in activism. There are many things we can do to support these needs at our events and action as outlined in this guide. And, we should recognize, value and encourage the diversity of ways one can meaningfully contribute to grassroots movements. And, that our movements are not successful without them!

The following examples are two personal accounts from people with different disabled experiences on finding their role in organizing spaces:

Priya Penner, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies [4]

[Paraphrased] To do physical activism, you need a lot of people to support you in the background to ensure you're successful. I started with a grassroots organization, trying to figure out where my place was in this movement. Within that journey I was part of different subcommittees. I was part of the media committee, and these people are so important, but quickly realized to be successful in this role you need to take a step back and see what's happening, call the media and put in the hard work of calling 20, 50 etc outlets. I realized the importance of that, and did not enjoy that part nearly as much. I feel most comfortable being directly in the action. 

Kenzie Harris, Global Grassroots Support Network [5]

I experienced a severe burnout and, from it, developed chronic health issues and new access needs. This meant the very fast-paced and demanding organizing I was participating in was no longer accessible to me (I tried, and my health suffered for it). I now have to consider things like... will I be able to seek accommodations for my, now heightened, sensory needs at this meeting/event/action? Will I have enough time after to recover, so that I'll have the energy and manageable pain to do daily living activities in the following days? I've learned to appreciate the other meaningful ways I can contribute, that aren't as taxing on my body/brain, more often. I feel best in an educator role, translating information for popular education and outreach purposes. I enjoy making knowledge more accessible for people to engage with. For other autistics, you may find the following article by Devon Price useful in finding ways to work with, not against, your disability in movement spaces.

Disability Justice is Climate Justice

Sometimes approaches to climate can reinforce ableism, and this is represented by the term eco-ableism. See our page on ableism for examples of eco-ableism

1. Natural disasters disproportionately harm disabled people
  • Structural barriers become a matter of life or death during disaster. 
  • [Paraphrased] People with disabilities are 2-4x more likely to die during disasters. [6] Why is that? One of the things you learn is we are forgotten. We aren't part of planning conversations, disaster preparedness. We aren't talking about what happens when the best laid plans go wrong. We aren't part of the conversation in planning for disasters. So when we talk about climate, we see again that we're forgotten. People with disabilities aren't mentioned in plans at all. Countries are neglecting their obligations to fulfill the rights of disabled folks in response to the climate crisis. When we look at smaller conversations about planning for disaster, plus the larger conversations about climate justice, we aren't included.
  • [Paraphrased] As a multiply marginalized person, we don't get invitations to join conversations. The fact that the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies exists says a lot, that things are changing, but we have to keep pushing.

Specific examples include:

  • "Some members of the disability community are especially vulnerable to extreme heat events due to increased sensitivity to keeping our body temperatures cool enough." -Tiffany Yu
  • Natural disaster can cut electricity, "which is especially problematic because so many disabled people need electricity-powered medical equipment to survive." -Tiffany Yu
  • Droughts and flooding cause food and water insecurity. "Because of other social factors like the disproportionate number of disabled people who are caught in an endless poverty cycle, the disability community is especially vulnerable during these shortages." -Tiffany Yu
  • Disabled people may be unable to evacuate from disaster and/or may lose "critical mobility and accessibility devices (wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, hearing aids, communication devices)." -Tiffany Yu
  • Post-disaster, "the prospect of rebuilding a home that had been built around an individual disability can also be daunting and expensive ― particularly considering disabled workers typically earn significantly less than their able-bodied counterparts." -Jenavieve Hatch for Huffington Post

2. Disabled people are marginalized and are equally deserving of liberation

  • 80% of disabled people live in the Global South, regions most impacted by the climate crisis and exploitation. [7]
  • "From homeless encampments to local jail cells, the social, political, and economic disparities among disabled queer and trans people of colour put our communities at the frontlines of ecological disaster.” -Patty Berne
  • Disabled people are not 'hoarding resources' or 'draining the system', two phrases often used to demonize disabled people for collecting disability benefits. The ultra-rich benefit from blaming disabled bodies, while they continue to benefit from the system.

3. Systems of oppression are intersectional and best addressed by leadership of the most impacted

  • [Paraphrased] You can't separate identities from a person. We can't separate these systems of oppression. We recognize none of us are free unless we're all free. Disability justice provides a framework for creating inclusive resistance movements that support other movements by resisting these intersecting systems of oppression. It's not like we can say 'I'm only going to fight ableism' and ignore white supremacy. They're all connected. It's not going to be climate justice if we don't prioritize the needs of the most impacted. Some of the most marginalized folks are multiply marginalized disabled folks. We know we have to prioritize their leadership. This is one key way to effectively resist. Disabled folks know what it's like to resist these systems, and our solutions are pretty bad-ass. We are some of the best problem solvers because we have to go through it day in and day out.
  • Disability justice is migrant justice. "Climate change is accelerating forced migration at a time when disabled people find it increasingly difficult to cross borders — not simply because of the physical demands, but also because of political opposition." -Julia Watts Belser
      • Disabled people may be unable to enter countries because their diagnosis or condition is considered 'burdensome'. -Julia Watts Belser
      • Migrants may struggle to access the services they need (health services and long-term medical, financial, and social support). -Tiffany Yu
  • The oppressive conditions we’re living in can be disabling themselves. For example...
      • Chronic stress can be disabling. Neurodivergent people (ADHD, dyslexia, autism, anxiety) are more likely than neurotypical people to experience physical health problems. 
      • Racism can be disabling (e.g. Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old black child, experienced a brain injury after being shot by a racist white man).
      • Colonialism can be disabling (e.g. Aamijiwnaang First Nation has been impacted by settler colonialism, capitalism and environmental racism. Over 60 petrochemical facilities can be found within a 25 km2 area. Community members face high rates of cancer, respiratory illness and reproductive health issues). [8]
      • Living in poverty can be disabling. It significantly increases the likelihood of developing chronic or acute health problems (e.g. limited access to healthy foods, shelter, clean air and water, chronic stress etc). [9]

4. Environmental racism and natural disasters cause disabilities

  • "If we ask ourselves why Black and brown communities have higher rates of asthma, we also must look at where they live." -Daphne Frias for Stanford Social Innovation Review.
  • Injuries obtained living through a natural disaster (e.g. earthquakes, hurricanes etc) or from being exposed to toxic chemicals (e.g. Mercury, see environmental racism) may cause acute or chronic disability.

5. Eco-ableism reinforces oppression

  • "Prioritizing personal ownership of environmental impacts over corporate responsibility fuels ableism and discrimination toward people with disabilities."-Daphne Frias
    • See our eco-ableism section of ableism for examples.
    • Disability is one of the first forgotten or first attacked experiences when discussing climate accountability or solutions. It's important to recognize disabled people caring for their needs are not to blame for the climate crisis. True accountability lies in those hoarding resources and wealth (the ultra rich).

6. There can be no climate justice without addressing immediate survival needs

  • "Disabled people are so busy just surviving. We have to self advocate all the time for access to employment, education, benefits or healthcare. It means unless there is a flood at my door I’m not thinking about the climate so much. We need to get people out of poverty because you can’t do anything about the climate if you are completely ostracised from participating in regular life.” -Pauline Castres
  • "When issues like discrimination, access to adequate healthcare, unemployment, and poverty are among our top concerns, climate change tends to be an afterthought. When we are fighting for basic human rights and equality, how do we have time to think about climate change? Being concerned about and fighting for climate justice is a privilege." -Tiffany Yu
7. 'Survival of the fittest' is an oppressive mindset
  • Accepting the loss of some lives to the climate crisis as 'inevitable' is oppressive. "We aren't just talking about physical vulnerability; ableism, racism, class inequality and other forms of oppression work together to compound and intensify risk." -Julia Watts Belser
  • Access to wealth makes it easier to evacuate, and white supremacy translates "into the political clout and communal resources that make climate disruptions more survivable in the first place — better infrastructure, less exposure to environmental hazards and more robust public assistance during and after crisis." -Julia Watts Belser
  • We all deserve to have our needs met on a planet that has enough resources, but that are hoarded by a minority. Capitalism describes disabled individuals as a drain on our resources. In contrast, it is capitalism that drains us, and drains the earth's resources. 

Advice from Priya Penner at the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies on how to prioritize disability justice in your movement spaces:  [Paraphrased] Reach out to the most impacted folks. Let them lead; listen and take a step back. For folks that want to work in coalition with disability justice activists, let them lead, listen to what they need and work with them, not for them. You need to recognize who is missing from your table, your spaces, as climate justice activists. Disability justice activists have so much to teach folks, just as climate justice activists do. It's a mutual relationship. Prioritize access. Meeting access needs often requires a lot of money. But, if you do have money, ask what you're prioritizing. Are interpreters more important, or markers and posters? We will show up if we know we are wanted. Are you opening that door?


See the following video by Climate Atlas of Canada for a quick overview of how disability justice intersects with climate justice:

Holding Accessible Events and Meetings

Meeting Attendees Needs [10] [11]

Disability and able-bodies exist on a spectrum. Most of us have experience with ableism and the pressures of capitalism, and/or experience being excluded by other systems of oppression that limit our access. We invite you to reflect on how making a space accessible goes beyond ensuring people can physically access a space, but also that they can show up as fully as others in the room. If helpful, we suggest checking out our wiki on incorporating space watchers and holders for further considerations.

Quick tips:

  • Pause frequently during events and meetings to ask if anyone has any access needs that need to be addressed!
  • UK Mutual Aid has an example of an accessibility checklist that you can use as a blueprint to creating a checklist for your team.
  • Consider creating an access guide that can be distributed for your meetings/events. Once you have a template down, you can swap out specific details as needed! *See the example below of an access guide made for a HUB event!
  • Consider where people can access with and leave strollers.
  • Provide babysitting if possible!
Wheelchair accessibility
  • A person in a wheelchair should be able to move around in all the rooms and access a toilet.

Doors must be 800mm minimum.
The dimensions of a toilet cubicle must be 1500 x 1500mm minimum.

  • All paths must be obstacle-free and have a clear width of at least 920 mm.
  • Check if the place is under construction or renovation, which could make the space temporarily inaccessible.
  • The entrance must be a single level or equipped with an access ramp. It must be at least 800 mm wide.

  • Snow will always make accessibility more difficult for folks with limited mobility. [3]
Food and water
  • Water is especially important during long events or on hot days.
  • Plan meals that respect dietary restrictions. 
  • Provide snacks during long or hot days!
  • If you're selling food, provide free or low-cost options.
  • Share the ingredients lists
Accessibility support
  • Designate support persons for those in need as requests arise.
  • Identify them with something such as an armband or shirt.
  • Including descriptive language can paint a picture of what others see and provide richer context for those with vision trouble.
  • Choose a place that is accessible by public transport and that is close to toilets and shelter from the sun or the rain.
  • Have people wait at these places to accompany people with reduced mobility while they wait for transport.
Ways to participate
  • If the event cannot be universally accessible, offer other ways to participate, such as actions that can be done remotely.
  • Livesteaming is great for those who can't attend in person.
  • Plan an activity with several components to promote the involvement of people with reduced mobility.
Timing and barriers to participation
  • Be transparent about the schedule for the event. Let participants know the destination(s) and duration ahead of time.
  • Be transparent about barriers to participation and mobility!
  • Are speakers using word choices that most people will know?
  • Are interpreters available for community members who use a language other than English? What about those with visual or auditory impairments?
  • Do not hold your event too early in the day, or too late. Some disabilities/situations that limit people from attending early morning/late evenings.
Allergies and sensitivities
  • Ask participants not to wear scented products. 
  • Fluorescent lighting can make spaces inaccessible to some people.
  • Having a few pairs of earplugs can be helpful at events with noise, and/or suggest attendees bring some ahead of time.
  • Always ask before using flash photography.
  • Encourage attendees to avoid taking photos of faces without asking for consent from those in the photo.
  • Are they accessible and safe for everyone (such as transgender people) to use?
Neurodivergent and/or introverted inclusion

Neurodivergent: describes how developmental disorders are normal variations in the brain. [12] The neurodiverse umbrella [13] includes but is not limited to ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and other learning disabilities. Many people also include mental illnesses under the umbrella of neurodiversity, such as  anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, schizophrenia etc.

Introversion: Susan Cain describes that where people who are extroverted are stimulated by their environment and absorb energy by interacting with others, introverted people recharge when they are alone and feel overwhelmed by prolonged social interactions and stimulations from their environment.

Meeting neurodivergent and introverted needs:

  • Written schedule/plans: Outline event plans ahead of time and/or throughout the event if possible. An awareness of time can be particularly helpful. For example, some people take time-sensitive medication, need to leave by a certain time etc.
  • Breaks/slower periods: This can help avoid overstimulation and help people refocus.
  • Quiet/low stimulation space access: The space should not include fluorescent light, and should be calm with no pressure to socialize.
  • Moments of pause / introspection: Before starting discussions on a topic that people have not had time to think about, allowing some quiet time to think and write down your thoughts helps more people feel comfortable discussing participate in discussions.
  • Stimulation: When planning activities and get-togethers, keep in mind that we are trying to avoid both overstimulation for the most introverted people and loss of interest for the most extroverted people. Try to balance the types of activities included in your event/action to avoid overstimulating the most introverted people and losing the interest of the most extroverted people. For example, an event that exclusively involves networking will probably exclusively include extroverts! Space out activities that take a lot of social energy.
  • Tools to support sensory needs: If you're able to have a few sets of ear plugs, cheap pairs of sunglasses and a few fidget toys handy, this can really help neurodivergents who struggle to remember these! "I've brought a few fidget toys to meetings before, and within minutes people (often who haven't indicated they're neurodivergent) pick them up, and I can tell they're able to pay attention and remain grounded better!" -Kenzie Harris, Global Grassroots Support Network [14]
  • For further information on meeting neurodivergent needs, see this resource by Rooted in Rights.
BIPOC inclusion [15]
  • Publicize the organization's anti-racism position and how the organization will deal with a situation of racism.
  • Have staff available that are Black, Indigenous and Persons of colour in case of a person's concerns, insecurity or distress
  • Do not publicize the event with images of BIPOC people unless they occupy an important place within the event itself (e.g. in terms of resources allocated, people invited, partner groups, staff etc).
Gender identity inclusion [16]
  • Have staff with different gender identities available for people’s concerns, insecurity or distress.
  • Ask people to write or say their pronouns.
  • Have gender-neutral toilets and identify them as such. Don’t use illustrations or gendered vocabulary.
Low-income inclusion [17]
  • The most accessible option is to offer things for free; voluntary contributions are another option, but it’s better to avoid putting people in these situations.
  • Consider whether internet access is necessary for participation.
  • Provide adapted vocabulary or accompanying documents.

Example access guide

Pandemic Safety Measures

If you do not have safety measures in place during a pandemic, higher-risk individuals in particular are unlikely to attend your event.  It also sends the message that people at high-risk of becoming very ill are disposable. Safety measures prevent people from becoming seriously ill, long-term disability and death.

Thomas A. Russo, professor of Infectious disease at the University of Buffalo, suggests that safety measures to put in place when planning an in-person event include:

  • Advertising that attendees wear masks for the duration of the event, even for events held outdoors. Have extra masks available for those who come without one, ideally N95 or KN95’s which are one of the best available options to protect against COVID-19.
  • Have a few volunteers who can provide hand sanitizer every so often, and especially before distributing food if this is included in your event.
  • State that those who are feeling ill, have come in contact with someone who has tested positive OR have come in contact with someone who has tested negative but is showing symptoms of illness, should not attend.
  • Encourage attendees to keep their distance from one another as often as possible.

The People’s CDC has further recommendations for planning safe gatherings during a pandemic:

  • Provide universal pre and post event testing.
  • Stay in small, consistent groups.
  • Perform contact tracing.
  • Ensure the meeting space has adequate ventilation and air quality (open windows/doors, ensure HVAC systems are functional, use HEPA filters if possible).
  • Perform high filtration universal masking. Provide certified N95/KN94 masks if possible.
  • Provide a place for folks to eat outside.
  • Reduce high-risk activities 5 days prior to the event (i.e. unmasked, indoor activities outside of the household)
  • Gather outdoors when possible. The risk of catching an airborne virus from an outdoor gathering is lower than from an indoor one. There is still a risk of contracting a virus, especially at crowded protests or gatherings.

Suggestions for Virtual Events [18]

Internet access
  • Can people attend without an account on that platform? (i.e., Facebook Live, Instagram Live/Stories, YouTube).
  • If you’re hosting an event over video conferencing software (i.e. Zoom, Google Hangouts, or GoToMeeting); offer a dial-in by phone option.
  • For people with limited or no access to internet at home. Be willing to share information offline too.
  • Create a tip sheet for online platforms with directions. The tip sheet can include information, step-by-step, about how to use the platform(s).
  • For more, see this resource on video conferencing software for accessibility.

Invite and include disabled people and their needs

  • Include disabled people as speakers.
  • Share what you are planning to do to increase event access.
  • Budget to provide closed captioning, sign language interpretation and other language interpretation. 

Live descriptions, captions and good audio are key for live streamed events.

  • Make sure the service you’re using to host is compatible with assistive technology, for example screen readers, and that it allows for computer-based listening/speaking and 'phone-based listening/speaking.
  • Make sure your events are accessible to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users. This requires offering multiple ways to participate, answer questions, submit questions, and interact.
  • Have an accessibility point person who can assist with access issues and technology concerns. Mention how to reach them at the beginning of your event.
  • Wear a headset when presenting to improve audio quality, and try to have speakers limit background noise. It's helpful for speakers to state their name each time they speak for those with hearing impairments and the accuracy of the technology they rely on.
  • Describe live scenarios and any images, read any text that appears on screen, and describe gestures for those with visual impairments

Share the format of the event and how long it plans to run 

Provide any written or visual materials ahead of time. 

Allow attendees to send questions and comments in advance. 

  • Allow attendees to send questions and comments in advance. You can also share if attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions during the event.
  • Make it possible for people anonymously, or with their name and RSVP attached, to make access need requests.
Build time for reflection/breaks into your event, as well as time for questions.

Offer channels to provide feedback about the event
  • I.e. including accessibility, to help you prepare to plan the next one.

Suggestions for Hybrid and Virtual Meetings

Virtual and hybrid virtual/in person meetings require stable internet connections, access to hardware (i.e. cell phones and computers) and some technology literacy. 

If you’re working with participants who don’t have access to the internet or hardware, these tips may be hard to implement. However, there are other tools and techniques you can use such as conference call services, message groups, photos of call lists, etc. that can be used. The following are tips for holding hybrid (in-person and virtual) meetings, and general meeting tips.

Blueprints for Change offers an extensive guide filled with tips on hosting effective hybrid meetings. The following compiles some of the tips found in their hosting virtual/hybrid meetings guide, and from the write up developed by Training for Change.

Considerations for Planning a Hybrid Meeting

Things you'll need to do this successfully 

  • Internet connectivity. There are workarounds for lower bandwidth connections, such as the phone-in options built into platforms such as Zoom, but the drawback is a lack of visual contact. 
  • Internet connection of phone-in options for participants (otherwise call-in teleconference numbers are usually available)

Those who join a meeting using their phone do not have the same functions available as those using a desktop. Consider sending important links ahead of the meeting, or in your workspace during, so people on the phone can access them.

  • A platform to stream the meeting (i.e. zoom, google meets etc).
  • Tech literacy (provide tools and norms, such as via sharing visuals with your attendees, ahead of time so they can learn on their own)
  • Use a shared document for notetaking. Offline versions of meeting documents allows those joining by phone to participate better. 
Prepare ahead of time
  • Schedule group meetings at least 2-3 days ahead of time. This helps members to arrange for schedules, care-taking, quiet space, tech, etc. 
  • Have plugs and power cords set up ahead of time so in-person attendees can plug in as needed without interrupting the meeting. Attendees joining virtually will also want to ensure they have adequate power for the duration of the meeting.
  • Instruct in-person attendees to bring their computers/phones and dial into the virtual meeting platform (such as Zoom) so that all attendees, regardless of what space they’re in, can see everyone. If your meeting has a cluster of people together and only 1-2 people in the virtual space it may not be appropriate for every attendee to be at a computer. You’ll want to prep and think ahead about in-room camera and microphone placement and position chairs, easels and more in spots that can be seen and heard by the people on camera.
  • Use one central mic to pick up everyone’s voices in the room, or pass a microphone around the room. Or, everyone in the room can unmute while they talk and re-mute when they’re done to avoid mic feedback. Encourage virtual attendees to have headphones handy that they can use. 

Roles you might consider when hosting hybrid meetings

-Lead facilitator


-Bridge facilitator; to bridge the digital and IRL spaces and who can support the IRL facilitator to make sure the digital folks are supported. This person could also be assigned to keep track of participants who have asked for a speaking turn so that both in person and digital voices are included.

-Visuals, Slides & Notes lead 

-Tech lead; to manage your session slides, doing things like screen sharing, watching the chat box, setting up and doing sound checks at the beginning of your session, and troubleshooting if problems come up along the way.

-Vibes & Energizers lead 

-Stack keeper (monitor order of speakers, chat and Q&A functions)

-Buddies for virtual participants (for hybrid meetings)

Plan for shifts in power dynamics, because some people are in groups vs others are on their own.

  • How many people are connecting individually versus in groups? How many different groups are connected? Do any of the groups connecting together already have some power (i.e. circles of established friendships)?
  • Consider...

-People connecting in groups may have an easier time connecting with others in the same room.  

-People connecting on their own may have an easier time connecting with others who also connected on their own.

-Those who connected the same way as the facilitator may have an easier time communicating with the facilitator. 

-When you use the chat box, those on their own device have easier access to participate.

-When people are in a room together, those controlling the screen, who are on camera and/or closer to the microphone are advantaged.

Preparing Participants Before the Meeting

Provide and seek information 
  • Check out this example prep email provided by Blueprints for Change, which demonstrated some of the information that could be helpful to provide pre-meeting to make participants comfortable and prepared.

Information to provide/seek to prepare participants include:

  • Context regarding the main agenda items before the meeting. For example, what is the main purpose of the meeting? What are the meeting goals? Also include approximate time allotment for each item.
  • Provide items you want participants to review ahead of time so folks can reflect before the meeting. 
  • Input and feedback from all who will be participating to add agenda items and confirm whether the meeting goals address their needs. 
  • Ask participants to share if they will need translation, interpretation, or any other accommodations. Provide at least a few days for participants to inform you about their needs.
  • Mention if you will be recording ahead of time so folks can raise concerns if they have them.
  • Remind people to download needed software and/or sort out their audio in the invite email sent in advance.
  • Ask folks to set up in advance of the call.

Offer a training on how to use the platform

  • Offer an advance prep meeting to train and support some folks who could use your support to join and engage in the meeting. These slides have some information on how to engage in a zoom meeting that might be helpful. Make the meeting purpose and outcomes explicit for your attendees and help them understand the flow of the meeting.

Holding the Hybrid/Virtual Meetings

Start with introductions and a check-in.

Let folks introduce themselves, their pronouns and make time for relationship building by letting people share how they are doing or something about them.

  • For example, check-in questions related to care might be "what colour best describes how you're feeling today?" Or, "If you're comfortable, share one high and one low from your week so far!" 
  • You can also hold more fun get-to-know one another check-in's to lighten the mood of the meeting, such as "tell us about a book or tv show you engaged with recently that you'd recommend!" Or, "what is your favourite houseplant?" 

Try to take notes and video recordings for those who can't attend.

  • Name it early that you are recording and allow folks to opt out, by getting off video, or managing their participation.
  • Plans to record should also be mentioned before the meeting so concerns can be addressed.

Provide a person or place where attendees can seek support

  • In the case they feel disrespected or have needs that aren't being met during the meeting.

It might be relevant to share participation guidelines and/or the group's mission statement to ground the group before beginning.

Examples of participation guidelines, inspired by Aspiration Tech [21] , might include... 

-Please focus on listening, not only on what you are hearing. 
-Wherever possible, please refrain from multitasking on email or social media. 
-Please use simple, accessible language. Please avoid jargon and acronyms.
-When you speak, please try to make one point or a few brief points and then let others speak. 
-Help us be mindful of the schedule and stay on time. Please support us in moving the dialog forward. 
-Please indicate you want to speak by raising your hand on video; if you are not able to use or raise your hand, please feel free to speak up, but please try not to interrupt others. 
-Stay muted when you are not speaking. 
-Please be mindful of background noise and join the call from a quiet location if you can. Parents and caregivers are certainly exempt, but muting still applies.

Get participants to engage with one another!
  • If all attendees are virtual in a “room” together encourage people who are not experiencing sensory or personal needs to turn their camera on. This helps to foster community and share non-verbal cues. 
  • In a hybrid meeting environment people who are on screen should be assigned a buddy who is in the physical room. Their buddy regularly checks in with them and makes sure they can see and hear at all times. If you only have 1-2 people in the virtual space you may also want to have a direct line open between the virtual participants and the facilitator through text.
  • Encourage folks to come off mute at the beginning for introductions and check ins. This sets the tone for engagement throughout the meeting. Check the chat regularly for participation from folks who are less comfortable speaking up, and read ideas out loud.
  • Share visuals in the online space, not in the room. I.e. leaving ideas in an online doc, rather than on chart paper. This includes note-taking on a shared online document!
  • Encourage new members to contribute ideas using strategies that avoid calling them out if they aren't comfortable speaking yet, such as using an interactive powerpoint or allowing them to leave ideas in the chat that can be read out by the facilitator.
  • Invite your attendees to regularly evaluate your meeting, share feedback and suggest tips to make your meeting work for you and your attendees.

Use a circle up tool to keep participation equal 1. Put all participants around one big virtual circle. 

2. Mark a little check next to someone whenever they speak. You can also use a star or other symbol to track when each person shares during a specific activity. Have one person assigned to do this, and to let the facilitator know who deserves speaking time. See the example from Training for Change

Be mindful of participants who may not be able to see or hear or otherwise fully participate in virtual meetings. *If an attendee is blind, you should use more descriptive language that paints a picture of what others are seeing and provides richer context.
  • Some people use screen readers to access information. In this case, make sure your presentation has image descriptions and refrain from using images/GIFs with flashing lights as they can cause seizures, headaches, and migraines.
  • If an attendee is deaf or hard of hearing, make sure you're using a platform that supports real-time closed captioning.

Closing Meetings

  • Hold a check out question, but try to keep it simple. For example, "what's one word you would use to describe how you're feeling after today's meeting?" Or, "share a compliment about 1 attendee present at today's meeting!"
  • Send the notes and a meeting summary afterwards. Share the main items that were achieved, any major decisions or action items and a meeting recording if relevant.
  • Provide a channel for follow up questions, suggestions or comments.

Creating Accessible Group Cultures

The following section drew from the writings of:  

  • Liz Kessler, a person who describes themselves as disabled and who is involved in struggles for justice [19]
  • Lee, a disabled, queer, trans and autistic activist. [20]

Suggestions for fostering accessible group cultures:

Set practices for working with different abilities and limits 
  • Do not set standards for how hard, or how much, work should be completed. Workflow norms are tailored to some identities more than others.
  • Check with people on what they need to be able to pause and ground themselves, and/or move forward.
  • Last-minute disengagement related to personal conditions or situations is common!
  • Value various forms of knowledge, i.e. other than academic knowledge (e.g. lived experience).
  • It can be helpful to intentionally carve out time or have practices in place to check on how people with varying capacities and abilities are managing. For example, have some general check in/reflection time every 3rd meeting. 

Incorporate regular discussions about personal and group boundaries

  • This allows each person to give their consent actively and enthusiastically, and promotes respect for these limits.
  • Short term limits encourage long term sustainability.

Plan break times

  • Do not have meetings or tasks to complete during breaks. Commit the entire team to taking a break so no one feels excluded or singled out.
  • When a person takes a break from activism, access to the support and social contact of the activist community encourages resilience.
Focus on content, rather than how something is said
  • Some people express ideas or comments using emotion, rather than using statements such as "I feel..." and "I think...". No matter how emotional the person is when sharing their ideas, what they have to say is of equal importance.
  • Some people have trouble with eye contact, or need to fidget to maintain focus during a discussion. Focus on what they're sharing, not how they're sharing!
Uplift intersectional perspectives
  • Intersectional perspectives are those of people who experience more than one social identity limiting their accessibility to spaces.
  • The people who are most often 'front and center' in our communities, and in our spaces, enjoy white privilege, attractiveness (or body) privilege, able-bodied privilege, and class. Have honest conversations about this in your group regularly.
Avoid and challenge ableist language

Finally, accept that building accessible group cultures is a process. There is no set finish line. We have to stay tuned and pay attention to the people around us.

Accessibility in Media and Materials

There are many things to consider when it comes to accessible communication. It is important to ensure our written material is easy to read, easy to understand, and make it easy to find the information you need and use the first time you read it.

General Guidelines for Accessible Written Materials [21] [22] [23]

Order, bolding and font

  • Put the most important information at the beginning, bolded, and include background information (when necessary) toward the end.
  • Use bolding over underlining or italics.
  • Use sans serif fonts, such as Arial and Comic Sans, as letters can appear less crowded. Alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, Calibri, Open Sans.
  • Font size should be at least 12-14 point.
Avoid jargon, abbreviations and technical terms
  • Keep your language as simple as possible (e.g. disseminate vs 'send', in accordance with vs 'by'). See more examples of simplifying your language here.
  • If you are targeting the general public, a rule of thumb is to aim for an 8th grade reading level or lower. Check out the following resource which can be used to reduce the reading level of your writing.

Use as few words as possible

  • Limit paragraphs/written sections to 3-8 lines, 5 being a happy medium.
  • Reduce wordy phrases like "a number of" to "some", and "in order to" to "to".
  • Remove 'filler' words such as descriptive words that do not add to your main idea.

Break up the text 

  • Break up written text with blank space, tables, lists, images or other ways of formatting.
  • Blank space draws the eyes better to key written ideas.
  • Images can help to illustrate text and keep it engaging.
  • Add headings if they'll help break information up further
  • Line spacing of 1.5 is preferable. Use left-alignment.

Use gender-neutral language

  • Avoid creating binaries such as "ladies and gentleman", "he/she said..." etc.
Use accessible colour choices
  • Choose contrasting colours. You can review your chosen colours to check if they meet colour blind requirements using this resource. Try not to use colours that are too bright as these can also be hard on the eyes and make reading difficult.
  • Use single colour backgrounds. Pale or pastel backgrounds rather than stark white can be easier to read.
Web access
  • When a document is published online, make an HTML version available (the only universal format currently)
  • Use the WAVE tool to test the accessibility of a website. Ensure that the options displayed with the mouse can also be displayed using only a keyboard.

Writing Image Descriptions [24]

Most important elements to describe:

  • The people and animals in an image.
  • The background or setting of an image.
  • The context of an image. For example, an image description of a congested highway would describe the packed cars.
  • The colours of an image (don’t overdo it... a simple ‘light blue’ will do).

Basic process for writing a description:

  • Describe what the content is (e.g. a photo, educational graphic etc).
  • Describe the Object-Action-Context
  • Provide details. For example, the clothing and the position that people in an image are in.
  • If the background is a simple colour, include it in the first sentence of the description. However if it is more complicated, such as a river winding through a dense forest, include that at the end of the description after describing the important elements.

Accessible Audio and Video [25]

Add subtitles/captions

Audio descriptions

  • An audio description is a form of narration to support blind and low vision users.
  • If audio descriptions are not available, written descriptions can be used. They are typically presented as written text that can be reviewed along with the video.See this example presenting the trailer for The Wheel of Time.  
  • An option for making videos with audio descriptions to create two versions of your video, one with an audio description integrated with the rest of your video’s audio and one without. Below is an example of an audio description.

Apply your understanding

We suggest taking a couple/few meetings to go through this, to get the most out of your reflections!

Reflecting on why this matters to us
  • Why is accessibility something that we want to prioritize?
  • Is accessibility as a value expressed in our organization's mission/vision/principles? If not, how can this be improved?
Reflecting on our own practices that might hinder accessibility
  • Thinking critically... what are some of the practices or 'norms' in how we operate as a team (e.g. group culture) that might replicate internalized capitalism/ableism?
  • What are some of the practices we hope to embody to challenge these norms?
Reflecting on barriers/resources to making our organizing group more accessible
  • What are examples of current barriers to our meetings being accessible? What resources could we deploy to improve this?
  • What are examples of current barriers to our events/actions being accessible? What resources could we deploy to improve this?
  • What are examples of current barriers to our outreach/education materials being accessible? What resources could we deploy to improve this?

Reflecting on bringing disability justice into our climate justice campaigns

  • What messages about how disability justice is climate justice most resonates based on our current campaigns?
  • How might we incorporate disability justice in our framing and strategy?

Closing reflections

  • What questions are we left with?
  • What are our next steps? What's the action plan to make these reflections most useful?

Further resources


  • People's hub offers trainings on creating culture of access, and also a peer support space for people with chronic illness/disability to meet online.
  • Sins invalid offers numerous resources in various forms.
  • Disability Justice Network of Ontario: DJNO has an abolitionist Prison Project that’s working to highlight the experiences of people who’re disabled, racialized and are currently/have been incarcerated. 

  • Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT): CILT partnered with No More Silence to offer zoom meetings with Indigenous community members who experience challenges & barriers when attempting to access cultural and ceremonial spaces to develop guidelines to increase the accessibility of these spaces.
  • Barrier Free Saskatchewan-"Non-partisan coalition from the provincial community of individuals and organizations of and for persons with disabilities, Saskatchewan citizens, organizations, and companies"
  • The Disability Collective-Fully disability-led performing arts organization in Toronto
  • Tangled Art & Disability-Supports "Disabled, d/Deaf, chronically ill, neurodiverse, k/crip, Mad, sick & spoonie artists; to cultivate Disability Arts in Canadaz'




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  1. Groupe DEFI Accessibilite (GDA) - Research report for associations in Montreal - Universal Accessibility and contributing designs (version 5.3), Langevin, Rocque, Chalghoumi & Ghorayeb, University of Montreal