7 questions to ask to make your wedding more accessible for your disabled guests

June 13 2019 | Guest post by Martha Harris
Try and stop the tears from flowing at this sweet and emotional backyard wedding in Tennessee
Sasha & Brant's amazing wedding
Photos by T&K Photography

I was never the woman who had her wedding planned since I was a little girl, but since I'm getting married in seven months, it's been on my mind. What kind of dress do I want? I'm looking at dresses made with organic materials from Etsy, eco-friendly and supporting small business at the same time. How many people do we want to invite, and who should be in the wedding party? These typical questions and many more came to mind in the early stages of planning, but one of the major ones on my mind from the beginning is how do we make it accessible for everyone? And not just for mobility issues, but for social anxiety, food intolerances, varied budgets, and more. Here are the questions I asked to make my own wedding accessible for myself and my guests…

Why is accessibility important to me?

I work at a software company helping businesses, schools, retailers, and others ensure their websites are accessible for all disabled people. Even before that, I cared about accessibility; I've attended events where I had trouble accessing information, or was entirely excluded, because of my blindness, auditory processing disorder, or food intolerances. I want to ensure our friends and family are included and accommodated in the ways that work for them.

The venue and food

The most important piece for this is where are we going to get married. We needed somewhere inexpensive that we could prepare and bring in our own food instead of using a catering service. I have a gluten intolerance, and we have guests who have Celiac disease, are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, and can't eat pork for religious reasons. My fiancé Quinn and I aren't fancy food people, so we are having a build your own burrito bowl bar. People can choose chips, chicken, or vegetables, cheese, sour cream, or salsa, guacamole, etc. We'll also have gluten free cookies, fruit salad, and other allergy-friendly sides and desserts.

Is the venue physically accessible?

There is a ramp leading inside, an elevator, and a restroom with a wheelchair accessible stall. This is always an important check because sometimes places will say it is accessible, but it is located behind a step to enter the main restroom space or locked until someone requests a key.

Can people's voices and music be heard?

Luckily, a microphone and sound system were included in our venue price. This will be helpful for anyone who is hard-of-hearing or has auditory processing disorder, so they won't have to strain to hear and understand what is happening.

Are there multiple spaces to be?

I and some of our friends have anxiety and get overwhelmed after a while by people and noise. There is a dressing room area as well as a patio near a fountain for people who need a quieter space or somewhere to take upset children for a break from the festivities.

Can people easily get to the venue?

It is across the street from a bus stop, so it will be inexpensive for people who don't drive to attend. If they want a car, there is Uber and Lyft, which will only be a few dollars per person, especially if they share the ride. The wedding and reception are in the same building, so there is no additional travel cost.

Can people access our information?

We made a Facebook group, and we'll send out print and braille paper invitations for those who need or want them.

Other things we will consider

  • I will braille out my vows, so I can read them and won't forget what to say.
  • We might buy braille wedding rings.
  • We'll request people to be fragrance free to not trigger people who get migraines, have chemical sensitivity, or just don't like strong scents.
  • We'll hopefully keep the music at a comfortable volume, enough to enjoy and understand the songs but not so loud we have to shouts at the person sitting next to us.
  • We posted asking people to privately send any accommodations they need that aren't already listed.

It's easier to build accessibility in from the beginning than to think about it later, like putting the chocolate chips in the cookie dough before baking instead of decorating with them after the cookie comes out of the oven. I'm excited to get married; as I told my partner Quinn, this is one of the only times, besides a funeral, where many of the people we love come together. I hope our wedding will be fun, memorable, and easy to access for all who attend.

  1. I'd love to suggest signing up for Aira if you are a blind or low vision guest. The service does visual interpretation very discreetly and those with visual disabilities can experience the celebration with an added layer of description.

  2. And please don’t forget to give due consideration to people with terminal illness. Sometimes this type of illness cause some decline that require pre-planning, especially diseases like ALS and brain tumours.

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