Inclusion and accessibility don't go without saying

People don’t know that you will meet their access needs unless you tell them you will. Many people won’t, and people with disabilities can’t read your mind to figure out your intentions.

It goes a long way towards easing stress for everyone if you talk about access explicitly, rather than assuming it goes without saying that you will do the right thing.

For instance, if your store sign says “no dogs allowed” it should also say something like “except service dogs” (don’t say guide dogs specifically, because there are a lot of reasons other than blindness that some people have service animals)

  • This sends the message that you know service dogs exist
  • And that you’re not going to kick them out of the store for having a service dog
  • This does not go without saying; people with service dogs get illegally kicked out of stores all the time

Similarly, if you ban laptops/electronics, it’s important to say “except when they are needed by students with disabilities.” (and not to demand proof of diagnosis).

If you’re organizing a retreat and there is a rule against outside food, it’s important to either make an exception for people with dietary needs, or else work with people to provide them food they can eat. And to make it explicit that you will do this, because it very much does not go without saying.

If you’re advertising an event and it’s in an accessible venue (which it should be), put that information on the fliers (and make sure it’s true). That doesn’t go without saying. Many organizations whose values suggest that they should care about accessibility routinely hold events in completely inaccessible venues. No one will know that you’re doing it the right way unless you tell them. 

There are any number of other examples.

tl;dr: Keep in mind that people with disabilities can’t read your mind, and make it explicit that you will meet access needs, especially if your statements or rules suggest that you won’t.