If you’re not fat, then you may think of chairs as simply inanimate objects that you rest on, and not barriers to everything from entry to comfort. Below are some situations where people choose chairs without thinking about how they might make a space horribly uncomfortable if not completely inaccessible to fat people. This is (usually) not intentional, and it’s not my goal to make people feel badly, but rather to help them think about how to include fat people.
If you are a fat person who finds yourself at odds with chairs, this is just a reminder that it’s not you, it’s them. If a chair doesn’t work for you the problem is the chair, it’s not you. People of all sizes have a right to exist and be accommodated at the size they are. If a chair doesn’t work for you – then you need a better chair!
These chairs are hella flimsy, the seats are tiny (and made smaller by the fact that the angle of the legs makes the back part of the seat completely inaccessible to those whose hips and ass are wider than the seat.) It also makes it almost impossible to use two chairs to be comfortable. So fat people end up spending the wedding perched one the end of the chairs, trying to do a half hover squat so they don’t break the chair. Congratulations on your special day.
Wedding More Wonderful
These chairs are still a bit flimsy (especially on uneven ground) but at least someone can sit all the way back and could use two of them if necessary.
Doctor’s Office Disappointment
Every chair here has arms so those whose butt/hips are wider than the arms won’t be able to sit down (not an ideal situation at the doctor’s office and happens surprisingly often.) They are also jammed together so if you have broad shoulders and the waiting room is busy you may not have enough room, and even if you bring your own chair (something my partner and I often do) there’s no place to put it.
Doctor’s Office Done Right
This is so much better. There are still some chairs with arms (that’s important because some people need/prefer chairs with arms.) But there are also big chairs without arms and people could use more than one of them if they need to.
Conference Room Carelessness
Arms on every chair make this a nightmare for the wide of hip, and chairs like this that balance over a base (instead of having four legs) can feel less stable.
Conference Room Corrected
Ideally I’d like there to be a little more space between the chairs, and for some of the chairs to have arms for those who need/prefer them. But these chairs are more stable, and no arms means they are suitable for a better range of sizes and shapes.
What these chairs say to me: “Fuck basically everyone.”
As a short person I have to climb up into these bad boys like some kind of mountain goat, and once I get up there my feet don’t reach the foot rest. As a fat person, the seats are much smaller than my ass so the edges dig in very uncomfortably and there is no way to take the pressure off because my feet are just dangling helplessly.
People who use wheelchairs can’t see above the table and end up with a very awkward view. People with mobility challenges/disabilities often can’t get into these chairs at all.
If a restaurant has only tables and chairs like this, I would recommend that you go somewhere else (and feel free to let them know that it’s because they’ve created a space that is unwelcoming to you and/or your friends and/or other humans whose comfort you care about, even if it’s not an issue for you.)
There are so many ways to correct this. One option is mixed seating that includes booths, tables with armless chairs and, if you must, high top bar tables and chairs. But this kind of setup requires a host/hostess who is good enough at their job to know what tables and chairs are appropriate for which guests.
Again, if you are someone who fits in chairs and never has to worry about whether or not a chair will support you, then you may never have thought of this before. But you can think about it from now on.
REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!
This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers. This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016
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