Disability / How to organise a protest / Protest
How to organise a more accessible protest
How can non-disabled people be allies to disabled protesters? How can we make it easier for disabled people to protest?
This page is part of a series on Disabled people’s rights, developed with Disability Rights UK (DRUK). See their website for a summary. There are also downloadable versions: a shorter pdf version, as well as small cards that you can print or save on your phone.
Disclaimer: the information on this website is for general information in England and Wales. It’s not intended to be used as legal advice. For information on how to get legal advice, please see our page here.
Include disabled people from the start
- Assume that disabled people want to protest. This can mean we think creatively about ways to protest that allow as many people as possible to participate. You could think about getting training or advice from Disabled and Deaf people’s organisations.
- Don’t assume Disabled people will have help. Many disabled people do have personal assistants and carers, but it’s important not to assume this. Places are more accessible if disabled people can navigate that area by themselves. For example, don’t assume that a wheelchair user can be helped up steps by staff or someone who is with them.
1. Places and routes: things to consider
Getting to the protest
- Public transport: see where the nearest train, tube or bus stops are. Check whether these are accessible. TFL has a step-free station guide for London.
- Parking: see whether this is available, where it is, and if there are any disabled parking spots.
- Timing: it can take some people a while to get ready to go outside. It can also take people longer to travel. Think about avoiding very early or late protests as this could be difficult for some people.
Getting around during the protest
- Getting around: look at how high the kerbs are, and if there are any dropped kerbs. Also, look at the surface of the roads and pavements. It can be difficult to get around on uneven paving, grass, gravel or potholes.
- How long the route is: not everyone can stand or walk for long periods of time. Wheelchair users and people using mobility scooters cannot cover very long distances, and will need energy to get back home after.
- Resting: check if there are any benches, seats, or rest areas. Some people find it hard to stand or walk. You could bring portable seating.
- Quiet zones: some people need quiet places to regulate themselves. Many of us can feel overwhelmed in crowds and where there are loud noises. It’s not always possible, but it’s something to consider.
- Charging places: some people use battery powered assistive equipment. It can help people protest if they’re able to charge their devices when out and about.
Not having toilets can be a barrier for disabled people to participate. You could check if there are any toilets, and if they are accessible and gender neutral, and in good condition. You can also check if people will need to bring a radar key, or ask a staff member to unlock them.
Information and letting people know things
Access information is information about how accessible places, events and routes are. It’s important to give full, accurate and up to date access information about these things. Disabled people need to have a full picture on how accessible a place is. This helps people plan for the day.
You can help by making an accessibility or transparency statement. This should include key information on accessibility, like places, routes and facilities (see above).
You might want to ask people ahead of the march what their access needs are as well.
Letting people know what to expect
As well as access information above, there are other things it’s important to communicate.
Before the protest:
- where and when the protest is taking place
- how many people you think will show up
- how to keep yourself safe
- whether you will provide masks to reduce risk to vulnerable or immunocompromised people and their families.
During a protest:
- any instructions from the police
- changes in the direction of the march
- any other relevant information.
Communicating with people
Communicating in different ways can help as many people as possible know what’s going on.
Before the protest
Think of different ways to convey information, including any accessibility statement you put out. You could do this by writing, recording someone speaking, or a combination of words and pictures. You can also think of different ways that will allow people to communicate with organisers, ask questions, and tell organisers their needs.
During the protest
You might want to think about
- whether there are hearing/induction loops for people who use hearing aids
- whether there will be sign language interpretation or transcripts for any speeches.
Sometimes we can’t meet everyone’s access needs, or provide full and accurate access information. Sometimes our information from venues might be inaccurate or out of date. However, it’s always good to be up front and honest about this, and let people know. This way, people can decide ahead of time what they want to do.
During the protest: including everyone
1. Inclusive tactics
As well as being aware of the law, we should also be as inclusive in our tactics.
- Noises can trigger symptoms for people who are sensitive to noise, and people who get chronic migraines
- Bright lights can trigger symptoms for people with epilepsy or who are sensitive to light.
- Smoke can make it difficult for people with low vision to see, and for people who rely on sight to communicate.
- Strong smells can trigger symptoms for people with chemical sensitivities.
If you’re planning to use these tactics during a protest, you might want to limit their use to certain area or times and tell people about it in advance. You could also consider alternatives.
2. Think about how fast you’re moving
Some people need to go slower. Walking too fast puts these people at risk of being separated from the march and being more vulnerable to negative interactions with the police. If you can, try to match your walking speed to the needs of the person who has to go slowest.
3. Inclusive language
We are all free to describe ourselves and our conditions how we want. However, in general, it’s good to avoid using language that describes disabilities negatively. For example avoid insults about mental health or learning disabilities as a shortcut to say someone is acting inappropriately.
Be considerate of the disabled people who are protesting with you, and how such language might make them feel unwelcome.
4. Be mindful of people with less visible conditions
Not all disabilities are visible or obvious to non-disabled people. Some people wear sunflower lanyards. These help people communicate that that they have a disability and may have differing needs. Some people also wear medical alert bracelets, which help healthcare workers identify key information about them in an emergency.
It could be good to make everyone aware of this.
Know the law
1. Know equality law and disabled people’s rights
Disabled people often face discrimination, including discrimination from the police. While many disabled people do know their rights, it shouldn’t be their responsibility alone. More people who can identify what is discrimination and unlawful behaviour means that more people can challenge it.
Disabled people should not face discrimination when they are protesting because of being disabled. In some circumstances, they have the right to reasonable adjustments. This is when a service provider or a public authority must change their policy to make things less difficult for disabled people.
You can read up on Disabled people’s rights here.
However, disabled people who attend your protest are often at greater risk of police violence than non-disabled people. You might want to think about the risks and benefits of giving specific information to the police regarding disabled people who might be at your protest.
2. Know your rights
- the law allows this, and
- they have a good reason, and
- they’ve only limited your right as far as they need to in order to achieve that good reason.
Keep up to date with developments on the law:
- The Policing (PCSC) Act 2022 changed some rules on when the police can limit “noisy” or “disruptive” protests, amongst other things.
- The Public Order Act 2023 made many changes to the law – including it easier for the police to limit protests that cause “serious disruption to the life of the community”.
3. Know your obligations
In some situations, the law says organisers must notify the police about protests. Read our page on organising a protest for more information.
Other pages you might be interested in
Our website has more information on
- how to organise a protest
- what happens if you’re arrested at a protest
- protest bust cards (with translations)
- practical protest tips
- Filming the police at a protest
- a guide to kettling
- how the Policing (PCSC) Act 2023 affects your protest rights
- how the Public Order Act 2023 affects your rights
What are my rights on this?
Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them
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