How to have an accessible Pride

Jeffie is a content creator and disability activist based in the south west of England. She has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. This means she experiences widespread chronic pain as well as chronic fatigue, mobility issues and daily joint dislocations.

In this blog for Pride Month, she explains how to prepare for a Pride event as a disabled person, and how Pride organisers can make their events more accessible.

A woman with red hair and brightly coloured eye make up smiles at the camera, wearing a bright pink top with multicoloured dots on it. Behind her, there's a golden retriever dog resting its head.

Pride month is a beautiful celebration of queer joy, resilience and resistance.

About one in three queer people are also disabled – and yet, LGBTQ+ spaces, including Pride events, are often inaccessible.

This is not only frustrating, but can make us disabled people feel that we are invisible within the queer community. This can even contribute to the ableist stereotype that disabled people are non-sexual and undesirable.

I’ve found that the barriers to attending Pride events have often meant it’s really difficult for me to take part in the way I’d like to.

So this is my guide to accessibility at Pride, for other disabled LGBTQ+ people and for event organisers. Here are some top tips on navigating and hosting Pride events with accessibility in mind. 

Planning your Pride as a disabled person

As disabled people, we all know how vital planning is in everything we do (and how tiring it can be at times!).

Attending Pride events is no different. It’s so important to plan ahead to make sure you’re as safe as possible. 

1. Read the event’s access information before you go 

Being neurodivergent as well as having a physical disability, I need to know as much information about an event as possible before I attend.

For larger Pride events such as London and Bristol Pride, you can find access information really easily online. There should be a dedicated page about accessibility on their websites.

For smaller events, it can be harder to find information online. You could try asking questions of the event organisers on social media, and asking people who have been to the event before.

Any event that’s accessible should make it easy to find out accessibility information ahead of the event itself. 

2. Make use of the viewing platforms

Concerts and performances are a big part of some Pride celebrations. But for some disabled people, being in a crowd can be overwhelming or even dangerous. 

Accessible viewing platforms are not just for wheelchair users – that’s a common misconception! Any d/Deaf or disabled people who need them can use them. 

They can provide a safe, calm space for you to enjoy the event, while also having access to things like disabled toilets and BSL interpreters.

Some Pride events need you to register for viewing platforms before you go, so make sure you do check that access info, so that you don’t miss out if you need it. 

3. Get to know the parade route

Parades are a huge part of Pride events. But when you’re disabled, it’s not as simple as just turning up and joining in. 

Those of us with physical disabilities need to know information ahead of time such as how hilly the route will be and whether there are places to sit along the way.

Some big Pride events, such as London Pride, provide an accessible shuttle bus to take you along the route. You might need to register for this beforehand, so again, make sure you check the website carefully!

As a wheelchair user, I’m always tempted to be in the thick of it during the Pride parade, but it’s wise to stay near the edges of the crowd. It can be hard to leave a crowd when you’re lower down, which is something I find daunting. The thought of being stuck in the middle of the crowd and not able to leave if I needed to is a scary one.

4. Look for smaller local events

With all the crowds and chaos, big Pride events may not be for you. Often, smaller cities and towns will have celebrations that can be less overwhelming, with shorter parades. These might be more suited to you. 

The issue with this is that the access information for smaller events can be harder to find. 

Your local LGBTQ+ venues may be hosting Pride events, such as drag brunches or parties. These can be fun, but check out the venues beforehand, because many local LGBTQ+ venues are not accessible. 

5. Pack the essentials

These are some of my go-to Pride essentials, which I’ll be packing for Bristol Pride this year:

  • Sun cream and a sun hat, especially if you don’t tolerate heat or if you take SSRIs.
  • An umbrella or rain coat/poncho – because let’s face it, this is the UK!
  • A travel fan and a neck fan – I love taking these with me when I’m wheeling about.
  • Water and any other drinks you might need.
  • Snacks.
  • Any medication you might need (with extra in case you’re out longer than expected).
  • Any comfort items you might need such as earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones or fidget/stim toys.
  • Portable chargers, including a wheelchair charger if you need it/can fit it – this will help you to cover those long distances.

How to make your Pride event accessible

Having covered my top tips for disabled Pride attendees, I also want to offer my advice to everyone out there who wants to make their 2024 Pride event accessible. 

1. Provide lots of access information before the event

It should not be up to the disabled person to hunt for the information they need to know so that they can attend your event safely. You should make sure this information is easy to find and – of course – accessible!

Access information should include things such as:

  • Disabled toilet locations.
  • Carer ticket information.
  • Details of accessible viewing areas/platforms.
  • Parade routes.
  • Local public transport.

London and Bristol Pride are great examples of this. They provide good information about local accessible transport as well as what to expect when inside event spaces.

2. Make adequate viewing platforms available

Some places still have a really long way to go in making their viewing areas and platforms good enough for disabled people. 

At some Pride events, there is no raised platform, which leaves some attendees unable to see the performances. Everybody should be able to see and take part in the day’s festivities. 

3. Create quiet areas amid the chaos

We all know that Pride can be noisy. It’s important to have dedicated spots people can go to if they’re overstimulated, or generally need a rest. 

Some Pride events hand out single use earplugs. This is a great idea for making events more comfortable and accessible for many people. 

You should also consider making accessible pathways throughout parades so that people with wheelchairs, other mobility aids or assistance dogs can join in safely without the fear of being jostled or hurt. Think of it like a cycle lane, but full of queer, disabled joy!

4. Give us more disabled representation on stage

I’d love to see more disabled speakers and performers onstage at Pride. 

There are so many incredible acts and people working passionately that deserve to be uplifted and celebrated in the same way as their non-disabled peers. 

5. Nothing about us, without us

We need to see more disabled people making the decisions and involved in planning Pride events from the beginning. This is the only way to really see the important changes needed. 

There should be no decisions made about us, without us. That extends to Pride celebrations.

The only way for disabled people to feel truly welcome at Pride will be if fundamental changes are made at the planning stages. We are making progress, but there’s still so much to be done.