© Cesar Coriolano

Statement on the accessibility issue at IETM Porto

We take full responsibility for the situation of stress and miscommunication with our local partners and IETM Porto participants regarding the closing party’s location, which was inaccessible for wheelchair users, and the alternative offered. IETM Porto team have done all we could think of to host our plenary meeting under the best conditions available. 

Since a few years, it has been our priority to make our meetings more accessible. This time, due to limited manpower, time and budget, both the IETM Secretariat and the IETM Porto local team worked beyond the possible to accommodate the different needs of our participants. Although we fought to find alternatives, we did not manage to ensure all meeting venues were accessible for wheelchair users, for which we deeply apologise. We admit we have failed in a timely communication with the IETM Porto team on how to implement accessibility in all its aspects. 

IETM Porto has happened thanks to the fact that our members in Porto, with the support of the Porto Municipality and the Ministry of Culture of Portugal, accepted to take the challenge to organise the meeting within a limited timeframe and budget. Both our teams did our best to make it a quality meeting, while knowing there were only few venues available. We are grateful to all partners who offered their venues to us. The only venue available to host IETM Porto closing party was, unfortunately, not accessible for wheelchair users because of a staircase at its entrance. Therefore, we offered an alternative, accessible space - Café Rivoli, which was exceptionally open until 2 am that night, but did not have the capacity to host a real closing party, with music and a bar open until late. 

After the public appeal made by some members and non-member participants at the General Assembly, IETM’s communication from the stage led to a situation which didn’t give the local organisers the opportunity to find a better solution. In the end, a large part of IETM crowd stood in solidarity with participants in wheelchairs and celebrated the closing of the Plenary at the accessible Café Rivoli (with the acknowledged overflow and damaging impact for the local partners).

No matter how much we are committed to embracing diversity as a DNA of IETM, the colliding realities - a network eager to be more inclusive and the increasing precarity of the sector, as well as the structural peculiarities of the different cities that generously offer to host the IETM community - do not always allow for an easy way to make our meetings fully accessible. Nevertheless, we are convinced that we will do better in the future. All the more so, we have learned a lot from the IETM Porto incident.   

IETM Porto has revealed the hardship of the thorny path of change, but also taught us the membership is fully supporting it, which reassures us that, as a community, we can make IETM accessible at heart and in practice.