Attending a climate march as a disabled person
By Ellie Amos, Digital Content Creator and Photographer
I had never attended a march before, as for a disabled person like me (I'm someone on the autism spectrum), marches are an overwhelming experience. However, for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march in Bristol, I felt inspired to at least try, as the climate crisis is something that I can’t ignore… even though attending was going to be challenge, as the thought of going into a big crowd of people is terrifying for me.
‘My inexperience of going to a climate march showed’
Getting to the march was a challenge in itself. I don't drive, so I heavily rely on public transportation to get me around places within Bristol and the Southwest. My inexperience of going to a climate march showed - people carrying massive placards and huddling into groups, at points made me feel like a needle in the haystack. Luckily, this is where having my camera came in use, as it took away the awkwardness that I feel during social interactions.
‘Without my plan, I would've been terrified’
To be sure that I avoided the crowds of people, I asked the local community police officers about the routes that the protesters were taking. This gave me a much clearer idea of where to walk, get photos, and where to duck out so I could have time to reflect and make my way home if needed. This was vital for my comfortability, not only when taking photographs but also as an act of self-care.
All this preparing, really came in handy on the day, as without my plan, I would've been terrified and refused to have gone. This is why accessibility in climate marches is so important. Most people are unaware of the challenges of attending a march if you are a person with a physical or hidden disability.
‘A different side to the climate march’
I wanted to photograph this moment to show the public a different side to the climate march. Most people notice the placards and photograph that first without noticing that the buses have become stuck due to the climate march. The effects the march has on ordinary people is significant, for disabled people more so.
I hope the photographs I took during the march, show that anyone can take part and that everyone can come together for an important cause. For me, it’s not every day that you see another disabled person at the same climate march as yourself.
‘Often disabled people are an afterthought’
Saying the climate march was “unpleasant” is an understatement. For many disabled people like me, it’s not anything new. Often disabled people are an afterthought, not thought about until it’s too late. Whilst it is not an experience I'll rush to do again; it is still worthwhile of my time. I learnt so much with this experience about the bigger issues around accessibility within the climate justice movement.
Even though I mostly understood the topic of climate change and the climate crisis, there were times when I felt lost. Both physically and emotionally - within the topic and the climate march itself.
For disabled people to become a part of the climate justice movement, we need to totally rethink how events, like climate marches are managed. If we truly want to be accessible, we’ve got to take all the surroundings into account. Not all disabled people have the privilege to physically go to a climate change march; we can adapt as best we can though.
‘Disabled people want to be involved in climate justice’
I think the key message here is that disabled people want to be involved in climate justice and the good news is through organisations like the Bristol Disability Equality Forum, awareness is being raised. For example, I recently found out that they are working with disabled people to create a climate action plan for the disabled community and are trying to make sure that the city’s climate plans are fair and good for disabled people. Find out more on Bristol Disability Equality Forum's website.
This content was produced by our Digital Content Creator, Ellie Amos, as part of a placement funded by the West of England Combined Authority Creative Business Grant.
Thank you to everyone who had their photograph taken. Huge thanks also to Creative Tuition for their mentorship and support.