Accessibility of Meetings
“The only requirement for membership is the desire for healthy and loving relationships” (Tradition Three). It’s important that all people are able to access meetings. Yet, this often does not happen due to restrictions in the physical environment. As a group, to avoid unconsciously preventing those who wish to access our meetings, but cannot, we remind ourselves of the group’s primary purpose of carrying the message to all codependents who still suffer (Tradition Five). Therefore, we seek to make our meetings as accessible as possible to members with disabilities as many people who have physical limitations may be discouraged from attending or returning to a meeting. In this section, we share experience, strength, and hope and suggestions on how meetings can support these newcomers before they enter the doors of a meeting and when they come to one.
We also seek to be responsive to the needs of individual members. Some meetings may be held in places with limited parking. If so, we might encourage those without mobility issues to park farther away. Some meetings may be regularly attended by a number of disabled members. If so, we might choose to reserve a few seats on the aisles or near the doors.
New situations arise all the time, and it may be the case that an accommodation for one type of disability interferes with another, such as on issues of parking or lighting. For example, one member may need low lights for chronic migraines, another may need bright lights for a visual impairment. We recommend that accessibility be a regularly discussed item during business meetings, especially when new needs arise.
Finally, we remember that our members, whether able-bodied or disabled, attend because they seek healthy and loving relationships. We seek to never make assumptions about the needs of others, first asking fellow members if they need assistance before offering it. It is important that we do not put our hands on people or their mobility devices without permission. Examples of actions to avoid without direct permission include taking the arm of a person with a visual disability, moving a walker, or pushing a person in a wheelchair.
When choosing a meeting location, we proactively seek spaces accessible to those with physical disabilities. As we seek to make our meetings as welcoming as possible, some of the questions we can ask include:
- Is there sufficient parking close to the building? Are there parking spaces specifically designated for accessible vehicles, such as vans for wheelchair?
- Does the entranceway present difficulties for those in wheelchairs, on crutches, or with other mobility challenges? If the entranceway is not at ground level, is there a wheelchair ramp? Is the ramp well maintained and kept clear of obstacles, snow, and ice?
- Are the entrance doors to the building and the meeting place sufficiently wide? (The ADA recommends a width of at least 32 inches). If doors do not have automated switches, who will make sure they are propped open before and after the meeting?
- Have we organized chairs so that aisles are free of obstacles and sufficiently wide that those in wheelchairs and on crutches can pass freely?
- Does the meeting place contain an accessible restroom with a wide- enough door and grab bars?
- When we list our meeting on coda.org or a regional website, have we let people know if it is wheelchair accessible, and any special instructions, such as where a ramp or elevator is found in the building?
Too many people stop going to CoDA meetings because they cannot hear what is being shared. Accommodations can be made within meetings to assist these members in understanding what is said. Some suggestions from CoDA members with hearing disabilities to other CoDA members:
- Ask for what you need: “I ask my group members to look up when they speak, if they are willing. I can read lips, but not when people’s heads are down.”
- Find accommodations that work: FM systems and headsets can amplify voices so that some people with hearing loss can hear what is being said. Members can speak into a microphone, if they are comfortable in doing so. (Some systems may be made available on request from local schools or organizations to your CoDA group, as a nonprofit organization)
- Request a volunteer to translate into sign language: Perhaps there is a volunteer in the CoDA community willing to do such a service. If it is an open meeting, there could be a volunteer from outside CoDA.
- Purchase translation software: There are applications and software that exist to translate speech to writing or sign language. If using such technology, request that members of the meeting speak clearly or into a microphone, but understand that their focus must be on themselves first.
If a member with a visual impairment comes to a meeting, there are many accommodations that may help. Asking the member about what might help them is often the best route. The Co-dependents Anonymous text is available electronically (on Kindle) and may be a good option for multiple accommodations, for those who cannot read, either for visual or other reasons, as well as for people who need large print. This is an area that we hope expands in the near future to allow for accessibility of all materials to all members, through additional electronic literature and Braille texts, for example. If you have ideas or resources to share, please go to the Submissions link or email [email protected].
Additional Meeting Options
Online or phone meetings are available for all members and may be an excellent option for members who are unable to attend a face-to-face meeting. Groups should remember that this does not take the place of the group’s responsibility to make their meeting as accessible as possible. If you know of a member who is unable to attend due to being homebound, for example, please share these options. They can be found on the Find a Meeting page, by searching for “phone” or “online” meetings at http://locator.coda.org/.
FEEDBACK & SUBMISSIONS FOR THIS PAGE: The Outreach Resource Guide (ORG) is a work in progress which depends on contributions from you, our fellowship members. Please submit suggestions and materials by going to the Submissions page for further instructions.