This essay was commissioned as part of a joint SRB-UtP project titled Radical Accessibility.

Listen to an audio recording of The R Word below.

When it comes to access, everyone is becoming ~Radical~ these days. I’ve noticed.

The term is getting bandied about quite a bit.

Disabled! Access! Inclusion! Radical!

Access is inclusion, so don’t worry Disabled, we’re Radical!

Access is Disabled; we need to be Radical and do Inclusion!

We don’t know if we can say ‘Inclusion’ anymore, and we don’t like saying ‘Disabled’, and ‘Access’ is a lot to promise, so… ‘Radical’!

It’s fun, right?
It feels like you’re doing something when you say ‘radical’.
There’s a lot of motion in the word.
Radial? Spinning on its axis. The full 360.
The complete flip. The big change.

Language is a very useful tool for distraction.

It’s a circular enterprise.

And round
And round we go, back to the beginning.

Google tells me, ‘if something is considered extremist or very different from anything that has come before it, call it radical.’

And I look at the Arts Organisation:

  • the one with no disabled people on its board or permanent staff.
  • the one that doesn’t subscribe to the Social Model of Disability.
  • the one that doesn’t have a hearing loop. Or a designated quiet space. Or an accessible toilet with a lock that works.
  • the one with the Artistic Director who says they don’t know where the disabled artists are.

And I think, there is nothing very different here.

Extremism is interesting. We are on the edge here; we are hard up against the wall.

If an extremist is radical, and access is radical, then to be pro-access is to be an extremist.

It does feel that way, sometimes.

When you are the only person who thinks it’s wrong that your community can’t buy tickets online.

When you are the only person questioning why the Arts Organisation is still hiring venues that aren’t wheelchair-accessible for its yearly pop-up festivals.

When you are the only person in the Arts Centre wearing a mask.

Enter slowly and
Scout the space

I don’t think many institutions would be comfortable with being called extremist.

But they do seem to like to be called ~Radical~.

I think perhaps what they are trying to signal, when they use the word, is that they are striving for something more.

Dear Generic Institutional Boss,

I hope this email finds you comfortably.

I’m emailing because I received a phone call today from a member of the disability community, asking if there would be any ‘remote viewing’ options for our exhibition.

They asked if we were doing any virtual tours of the gallery?

Any extra photography of the works?

Any livestreamed talks or gallery performances?

I remember we did those quite a bit over the last few years, but I haven’t really heard much about those programs lately – I’m just wondering, do we do that stuff anymore?

The person with disability that I spoke to told me that even though C*vid is ~over~ for non-disabled people, it’s not really over for the disabled, the chronically ill, the immunocompromised… (Their words not mine).

Anyway, let me know when you can? No rush.

Best wishes,
Non-disabled Middle-Man


Dear Generic Institutional Boss,

I hope this email finds you well, and great to see you at the team morning tea the other day!

I just wanted to email you because of a thought I had … maybe one AUSLAN-interpreted show in the three-month run isn’t enough? This has been niggling at me for some time – does it ever niggle at you too, Generic Boss?

I only bring it up because, well, we had an actual AUSLAN user in the theatre the other day. (I know, right!) And their presence suggests to me that there might be more…

I know there weren’t many of them at that last AUSLAN-interpreted show we put on, but I’ve been thinking: perhaps they just weren’t all able to come on that night? Some might have had other commitments?

Maybe we didn’t advertise it well enough, or with enough notice?

I’ve been thinking, perhaps next financial year we could do two AUSLAN-interpreted shows?

Or not – up to you.

I really love my job btw.

Kind regards,
Reflective Non-disabled


And now, an email that I myself sent recently:

Hi [redacted] and all,

I hope you are well.

As much as I would love to remain on the panel, I can no longer continue to do this advisory work for [redacted] when it is not monetarily remunerated.

Whilst I appreciate the position of [redacted], it is my belief that panels that are providing expert advice (regarding accessibility in our case, and various other cultural considerations in other instances – eg. First Nations expertise, etc) need to be paid for their time and knowledge-sharing, in the same way that any other external consultant contracted by [redacted] would be (eg. an Access Consultant).

In 2022, the general stance of the disabled community is that unpaid access work is no longer culturally-appropriate, and so I implore [redacted] to seek philanthropic support to change this practice in its next year (and also with regard to its other panels).

[redacted], I would appreciate it if you could connect me via email with the Director, [redacted], so that we may have some closing discussion as I end my tenure on the panel.

Looking forward to that email, and wishing yourself and all the rest of the panel and [redacted] contacts a wonderful 2022 [redacted] and beyond. I will be there in the audience.

Warmest wishes,




I’m still waiting on a response.

Breathe in,
Breathe out.
Press your fingers to your temples,
Rub in gentle, small circles.

How do I convey that ~Radical Accessibility~ isn’t actually about a big fuss, or a song and dance?

That the most radical thing we can do around access might be not to treat it as Radical at all?

To treat the facilitation of access as something completely expected, par for the course.

And something that applies to us all.

We all have bodies, and all these bodies have access needs.

It feels important to note though, that some bodies do have particular skills around facilitating particular kinds of access.

Wheelchair-using bodies would be better placed than most to facilitate access for other wheelchair-using bodies.

Trans bodies would have a deeper understanding of how to create space for other trans bodies.

Black bodies would have a greater sense of what is needed by other black bodies.

Our bodies have lived and breathed things around access that cannot easily be summed up in textbooks or 20-minute TedTalks.

Being on the receiving end of the photographer’s micro-aggressions.

Or on the ground when your colleague is denied entry to a workshop because of the way they communicate.

Or missing the event altogether because the lift needs a key and it’s gone missing.

These are things that are so far from some people’s experiences.

And felt in the bones of others.

You open your inbox and find an email from a person you met at an arts event with expensive bubbly.

Expensive bubbly, and one of those grazing tables with mounds of butter, and cheeses and ham and artistically-arranged bunches of dazzling perfumed flowers that cost triple figures and will absolutely get thrown in the bin at the end of this unless one of the staff rescues them.

One of those arts events with a string-quartet playing Adele covers, with exposed-brick chic and high tables with black clothes draped over them, where no one sits down but everyone secretly wants to.

You open your inbox and find an email from a person you met at that arts event, who in between mouthfuls of gouda told you they were interested in working in ‘arts and disability’.

So it’s a genre now? You think to yourself, Do we capitalise it?!

They say they’d love to get your insights on how to break into the industry.

And be put in contact with some places that might have roles needing to be filled.

They say they are prepared to do volunteer work in the lead up to paid work.

You read and re-read the email.

You have to laugh really, because the funny part is that you’ve been doing this work as a volunteer for years, and the end seems nowhere in sight.

It’s funny because if this person was in an interview, going up against a disabled applicant, you know deep down that in most instances, this person – with their refreshing lack of experience – would be the one to get the job.

It’s all very funny because you can’t even imagine what it must be like to have the distance that would allow you to view arts and disability as ‘an industry’.

And it’s all very tiring, because this person is ostensibly lovely and well-meaning, but also clueless, and now you need to craft a very delicate email that tries to encourage them to realise, firstly, that this ‘arts and disability’ business is actually not something that can be picked up through a bit of volunteer work – that it requires significant, nuanced and complex engagement – and secondly, that perhaps they’re not the best person for the job, whilst not scaring them off because they are lovely and well-meaning after all, and also fundamentally we all need to be allied in this; it cannot just be disabled people doing all the heavy lifting.

It’s all very tiring – and you’re not getting paid to do any of this work.

Roll your shoulders back,

Lift your hands to your face,
And rub,
Palms against cheeks.

Tap, tap, tap:

You type
And type
And re-type again.

Hi [X],

Wonderful to hear from you, and nice to see you in person the other day!


I am not sure whether you identify with disability yourself (and you totally don’t have to disclose that to me whatsoever), but speaking as someone who does, I thought I would be good to just begin by sharing a list of things that you might consider doing as someone wishing to engage in advocacy around access for disabled people…


The last thing I would just flag – and again, I don’t know whether you identify with disability, so sorry if this isn’t relevant haha – is that if you don’t identify with disability, it is worth considering whether you would be prepared to step aside in the future, to make space for a disabled person to continue the work you may have been doing.

Just as we wouldn’t accept, for example, a non-Aboriginal person making decisions or leading projects that concern Aboriginal people, there are also many in the community who take issue with non-disabled people leading programs/companies/festivals that are for disabled people; who feel that a disabled person should be at the helm of them.


Obviously, we don’t know where your work will take you, but I guess I just mention this so you are aware of the opinions of the community, and can start to work out where you stand on these things.


Wishing you all the best with your future endeavours,


On being radical (not ~Radical~) – A Checklist:

– Do not get so far,
From yourself,
That you can’t see what you need to access a space.

There are always things,
That will make it
More comfortable

A soft place to sit
A private room in which to make calls
All-gender bathrooms
A change to increase the days you work from home

Try to recognise what you need
And how it is quite ordinary
And common
And others will need those things too
For the same or other reasons.

– Know that there will always need to be

These shifts might vary in size, but they are not anything
They are new petals on a flower
New blooms on a stem.
Cycles of growth.

– Perhaps being radical is about rooting down
Into what you know.
In your bones.
About your body.
About the body.

Perhaps it is less about ~huge change~ and more about getting back to core human truths.

Tuning into who we are,
Going back to grassroots
To the non-negotiables.

Our shared beliefs that aren’t tied to certain states of being.
That aren’t siloed, or categorised. That aren’t tied to ‘ability’, or ‘race’, or ‘sex’, or ‘gender’

What do we want for ourselves, for each other?
Why do we care, and how?
What are we trying to say to each other, through the spaces we create?

This essay was commissioned as part of a joint SRB-UtP project titled Radical Accessibility.