Creating intersectional access to movement for people with disabilities and chronic illness through education, outreach, and classes.
Every body and mind has access to affordable and safe movement spaces.
Those of us with disabilities and chronic illness are a population more susceptible to PTSD as we are forced to navigate the stressors of institutionalized ableism, higher levels of poverty and abuse, and lack of access to services. Studies have found that trauma gets stored in our bodies and that access to somatic-movement is necessary for people to heal. Yet in the same violent culture that harms us, there is an assumption that disabled people either do not want to or cannot engage in movement-based activities. As a result, we are systematically excluded from safe space to work through PTSD, isolated and re-traumatized, with less opportunity to build the resiliency needed to survive the institutionalized ableism that creates this cycle. Access-Centered Movement (ACM) aims to change this, creating intersectional access to somatic-movement and therapeutic services for people with disabilities and chronic illness through education, outreach, and classes; creating safe(r) spaces and changing which kinds of bodies, minds, and variations are valued in movement and healing space.
In the Bay Area, it is popular to advertise movement classes as “accessible” or for “all bodies” without doing the work necessary to be available for people with disabilities. Disabled people are used in visual marketing to show that a class is “for everyone,” but when we go to these classes we find that the abled people leading them have little to no knowledge of access, thinking that offering seated options inherently makes a class universally accessible. It is common to find the slogan, “for all bodies” in an advertisement with the words, “unfortunately, the space is not fragrance free or wheelchair accessible” in small lettering at the bottom of the flyer.
Centers using a Disability Rights’ framework and “adaptable models” use singular ideas of access and accommodate few disabilities (typically wheelchair users, people that are deaf/hard of hearing, people that are blind/low vision, or seniors that have become disabled with age—we are not advocating to remove these centers, which many disabled people value, or to reduce these services), those of us that are not able to “adapt” and produce like abled people are left behind. Adaptable movement centers commonly use abled teachers, which can be helpful if we need able-bodied support. There are also typically more abled teachers available because there are almost no accessible body movement trainings. Nonetheless, using abled teachers for convenience sake contributes to an ableist paradigm that pathologizes disabled people as permanent students without the capacity to lead. Instead of using abled teachers because they are readily available, why not support disabled teachers in getting training and use abled assistants if needed?
Because of the widely accepted exclusion of persons with disabilities in mainstream group movement and healing spaces, we are routinely expected to access these services as “patients” in the medical sector. But, with one in four disabled persons living in poverty in the United States, with significantly higher statistics for disabled People of Color, lack of access to high-cost holistic care (typically only offered outside of insurance coverage) is an everyday reality. When we combine the transphobia, misogyny, racism, fatphobia, and overt ableism pervasive in medical care with this lack of economic access, we find that those of us living in the margins are forced to accept low-quality health services, if we can access them at all.
To change these realities, Access-Centered Movement has a threefold plan: firstly, to offer Access-Centered and Trauma-Informed workshops to people in our community so that we can have safe(r) space to move our bodies, supplying ourselves with comprehensive tools that we can take home to aid our self-care and healing practices and supplementing the lack of institutional support. Secondly, to offer somatic-movement training to sick and disabled folks to shift ableist paradigm and support the development of disabled teachers. This training will be a 20-hour certificate program, centering queer and BIPOC folks with disabilities, and will be sliding scale with no disabled person turned away for lack of funds. Thirdly, to offer workshops and trainings to body-movement studios, educational institutions, medical and healing centers, and meditation institutes that unknowingly center abled people and systematically exclude our community.