Accessibility Update

May 24, 2017

Dear community,

We have some very exciting news. Many of you, especially disabled organizers, have written in, called, posted, and talked with us about the fact that we are not wheelchair accessible. 

The Democracy Center, founded in 2001 has been a focal point of non-profit social justice meeting space in Cambridge and the Greater Boston area. It has remained however, inaccessible to those with physical, intellectual, developmental, neurological and psychiatric disabilities for a variety of reasons. Our inaccessibility is and has been a pervasive and inexcusable example of ableism within progressive spaces.

Since January, a team of four (4) disabled consultants, representing a variety of disabilities has joined the DC to assist in bringing down those barriers. The first of these actions has been to ensure an access ramp is built.

We are overjoyed to announce that by the end of July, we will add a code-compliant wheelchair access ramp to the DeWolfe St side of the building, using the door into the Nelson Mandela room. We will also remove that rickety deck from the 3rd story. 

The variable in timing right now is acquiring the necessary permits (which is being handled by our contractor); the application was submitted May 19. Cambridge has 30 days to approve the permit, though we expect it to be approved sooner. Deck demolition begins the week after the permit is approved, and after that ramp construction begins. 

As always with construction projects, it is possible that delays we cannot foresee will arise - we will keep you updated. We also always welcome your encouragement and suggestions!

The ramp will provide access to the Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Cesar Chavez rooms which are all connected by wide sets of double doors. The Malala Yousafzai Library door is 30 inches wide. The internal hallways vary between 27-35 inches wide. We will purchase small, portable ramps to cover the half-steps between the older side of the building and the main meeting rooms.

Our bathroom will remain inaccessible, though we are working on options for creating accessible facilities on a separate timeline, and to provide alternatives for handwashing, toilets, and drinking water in the interim. The current bathroom door is 29 inches wide, the toilet is about 6 feet from the door. We will keep you all updated on those plans as they unfold.

Our next moves include bathroom accessibility, event organizer outreach and education when booking space, and other concerns as brought up by the consultants’ team. Event organizers will be required to maintain an accessible path through their events, and put details of our accessibility in all publicity. If you have questions or would like to suggest a need the team could look into further, please email info@democracycenter.org

Further, we are using this journey of improving our physical accessibility to figure out ways we can further dismantle ableism within organizing communities, radical/DIY spaces, and more. If you have ideas about how that could take shape, please be in touch. info@democracycenter.org