This autistic bride is thankful her COVID wedding happened *

This autistic bride is thankful her COVID wedding happened *

We featured Caroline & Simen’s Star Wars proposalin 2019… now you get to see their wedding and hear about the ways COVID actually made this autistic bride’s life easier!

Photos by Fotograf Kristine Ristesund

Offbeat partners: Caroline Åsgård Skulstad and Simen Åsgård Skulstad

Date and location of wedding: Old factory by the sea with a cemetery in Norway 10/17/2020

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We’re both goths, and my favorite color (besides black) is purple, so I guess that was our theme. We just went with whatever we wanted, and everything else we threw out the window. The pandemic did of course affect our wedding a lot, dwindling the guest list down from 80 to 35 people. We had to have restrictions, but it was still wonderful. I can’t imagine it any other way. We got married with family and friends there, had a cemetery photoshoot, a bunch of fun details, great music, and a lot of laughs. What more can you ask for? Oh yes, nobody got sick! SUCCESS.

As an autistic bride, I feel like I need to have control over everything and plan out every single thing I do — that’s just how I live my life. So it was the same for wedding planning too! I probably read most of Offbeat Bride’s archive (I LOVE to do research, we autistics can really get obsessed with our special interests), and the Offbeat Bride timeline checklist was a LIFESAVER. I just picked out the things we wanted and wrote them down in a notebook.

I was a little nervous about having planned for 80 guests, and just in general about the day stressing me out so much that I would be exhausted for a week afterwards. But since COVID caused the guestlist to dwindle to 35 people, it made it much more manageable, so I can’t imagine how it would have been with 80!
Thanks to my smaller guestlist thanks to COVID, I also didn’t have to hug people, shake hands, or mingle a ton, which was greatfor me. I don’t really understand or like these social norms, and I hate small talk. The pandemic has been nice to us autistic brides that way!

 

Tell us about the ceremony:
We did your typical courthouse style wedding — cause it was free (haha). Since half my family is Filipino, they couldn’t have made it to Norway pandemic or not, and since almost 50 people couldn’t make it because of the pandemic, we live-streamed the ceremony.

We were only allowed to be 10 people total in there. My sister used my phone to stream it on Facebook, and I even had some family standing outside watching! Plus friends around the world, of course. We still haven’t watched it back, but I think it’s gonna be nice to look back on.

We totally stole the show with our extravagant looks, we got so many compliments from people connected to the weddings before and after us, and the people inside the courthouse themselves!

I’ve never really understood why people think a courthouse wedding isn’t worth dressing up for. It’s still your wedding day!

Also, there are SO many wedding traditions that me as an autistic bride just react with “why” to and feel no obligation to follow. We question and see right through those things everybody does “just because that’s the way it’s done”. Which is why in local wedding groups when people ask “do I HAVE to do X?” I advocate for doing whatever the hell you want! It’s your wedding, you decide what is right for you.

Tell us about the reception:
Originally I didn’t really want a set seating chart, maybe just group certain people, and after dinner they could mingle. Buut the pandemic changed that. We got hit with the second wave the month before, and luckily there was a dip in numbers around our wedding, so we decided to go ahead with the party.

We had a sweetheart table, and seven tables with about five people at each. Families got their own tables, and friends who would see each other otherwise got to sit together, but some had to sit about a meter apart. We bought SO many bottles of hand sanitizer that we put EVERYWHERE. In our invitation, we asked people not to hug and shake hands, and keep to other restrictions we had at the time.

We had a friend as toastmaster, who did a wonderful job.

For dinner we had a taco buffet, which everybody loved.

Our cake and cupcakes matched our theme of course, and I got the topper custom-made.

Cutting the cake was much more complicated affair than I imagined! I’m so glad my sister filmed it so we can laugh again and again at the clunky logistics of it.

We are all for gender role reversal, equality and feminism, so we took some hilarious photos! We also took each other’s surnames. His family’s surname is actually his mother’s, which I think is pretty cool.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
People told me that your wedding day will never be just like you planned it to be. It definitely wasn’t. A global pandemic and other factors left us with a huge drop in guests, it rained, and yeah. It was still a wonderful day.

I was surprised at how chill I was, I didn’t feel any stress at all, even though everyone around me did!

I only have two regrets, really:

  1. Time went by so fast that I felt I didn’t take enough time to talk to every person (can you imagine if there were 80 guests?!)
  2. The playlist I had made wasn’t put on until after dessert. So I will share it with you! It’s 100 songs and about 8 hours long, and features mostly goth, post-punk etc., but also metal, electronic and pop. Mostly love themed! The entire party cheer-pressured Simen into dancing with me, so we danced to “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs. A pretty fitting song! It was just as awkward as first dances tend to be. It was mostly Simen taking super long steps and me trying to follow with my stubby legs. After a minute he stopped and said “Happy?” and I went “No wait! Dip me!” and made a dramatic pose. He did, and everyone cheered.

Vendors

 

Quiet rooms and storytelling: our accessible wedding *

Quiet rooms and storytelling: our accessible wedding *

Mel and her groom on their wedding day. Photo by Caroline Victoria Photography

We know that for many Offbeat Brides, planning a wedding around the issues like social anxieties, autism, and disabilities can create unique challenges. That in mind, here’s UK Offbeat Bride Mel telling us about how she worked with her partner to create an accessible wedding that felt safe and fun for both of them all their guests…

When we decided to get married the ‘traditional’ way with all our family and friends as witnesses, we knew we’d have to cater for a number of diverse sensory issues and physical disabilities. The groom (I’ll call him “R”) can become overstimulated easily, and his parents have similar issues with crowds. We tried to organise the day in such a way that everyone could enjoy it as much as possible without feeling overwhelmed, claustrophobic or debilitatingly anxious.

1. The Setup of The Day

We filmed the ceremony on my iPad via Facebook Live for family and friends who couldn’t make it, and so that if some guests (new parents/guests with high levels of social anxiety) needed to leave at any point, they could still watch it live from outside on their devices.

We chose to have the main reception in the church itself, where we could make use of all the rooms, including setting aside a Quiet Room with blankets, stimulation objects and books. Our “Afterparty” was at another venue but if people wanted to leave after the “main reception” they could, and not feel they had missed anything important, including the main group photos and cake-cutting.

The Afterparty took place at the wonderful (pretty haunted) Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Trelewis, where they opened up a classroom in the old stable block for free so we could have a Quiet Room there too away from the main entertainment in the Old Barn. People either hid there for the duration or used it as a decompression space for short, intermediate periods. Without that, about 8-9 guests wouldn’t have been able to attend at all, and a lot more would have felt far more uncomfortable and had to leave a lot earlier than they did.

2. Dietary Requirements

Since it was a very hot day, we bulk-bought bottles of water and handed them out at the church before the service. Extra bottles were distributed to rough sleepers locally.

Texture & taste were just as important as allergies for us, as many guests are on the autism spectrum and find strong tastes or certain textures impossible to eat. We opted for a buffet reception in the church itself as our church venue has a hall, toilets & crèche at the back of the building. A buffet reception without seating plans meant everyone could find something they wanted (or feel far less self-conscious about bringing their own!). The Afterparty at Llancaiach Fawr Manor was an informal hog roast with vegetarian/vegan options, and we were allowed to bring our own food for the few guests who needed kosher/other specific dietary needs. Again, no seating plans, so people could make full use of the courtyard and sit where they wanted! We had lots of young children too who needed somewhere to run around.

The church was Welsh nonconformist so therefore dry, but the Afterparty had a licensed bar. We had wine on the tables but also printed cheap “free drink of choice” vouchers via Vistaprint’s business card template, which included soft drinks, hot drinks (tea/coffee), beer, wine, or single spirit + mixer. That way everyone could choose what they wanted!

3. Entertainment

Photo by Caroline Victoria Photography. Bellydancer: Stephanie Gawne.

Buffets are fine when there are distractions like photographs and cake cutting, but at the Afterparty, the tables were set upon a more formal way and the lack of seating plan had its downside! We went to various bargain and Pound shops and bought cheap travel games, packs of playing cards and bubble wands, and set them up on the tables as the centrepieces with battery-powered fairy lights around them. People could play single-player card games or Connect 4 or Nine Man’s Morris or poker if they wanted, and that went down well!

We had a bellydancer (Welsh-Turkish like me the bride!) and I danced with her as a “first dance” as R doesn’t like performing in front of people! She had an hour set while everyone was eating, which gave people something to watch if they didn’t want to chat or play games!

Since R hates being the centre of attention and family life is complicated, we vetoed speeches entirely and booked a professional storyteller for the 30min after-dinner slot. He kept to time and all the adults and children were utterly spellbound for half an hour by the tale of Pwyll and Rhiannon from the Mabinogion, and he raised a toast to us at the end. This also saved a lot of anxiety and claustrophobia that can come with being unable to leave your seat for an indeterminate length of time, not knowing if the speech will strike a wrong note or go on for too long!

Finally, we booked a lady to do historical dances instead of a disco. The music was less bass-heavy than a disco and more pleasant to listen to if you weren’t up for actually dancing, and again it was more interesting to watch if you were happier not joining in. She plugged her phone into the amps and did 2hrs from the Middle Ages up to the animal dances of the early 20thC, teaching us the steps like a barn dance or ceilidh. Since no one knew how to dance them, everyone was up for giving at least one a try! The total cost for all three entertainers and the amp hire was about the same as (and in some cases, cheaper than) hiring a live band!

We had a wonderful day and R even enjoyed most of it a lot more than he expected to! Now for some serious alone time to recover after all the lovely people!

How did you accommodate the social anxieties of the folks at your wedding?

How Can You Make Your Amazing Web Content Accessible *

How Can You Make Your Amazing Web Content Accessible *

How do the Guidelines Require Accessibility for All

 

Increased scrutiny has made Web Accessibility a hot issue around the globe.  In the United States, law firms are aggressively suing businesses and institutions.  These claims say that their websites fail to satisfy both Title III of the American Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.  

WCAG 2.0 had provided guidelines, rather than laws or regulations.  In the United States, Congress failed to enact any meaningful legislation to provide firm directions on how to proceed.  In the European Union they acted and passed the General Data Protection Regulations.  The GDPR provides strong rules and regulations and tells exactly how individuals data must be handled.

 

What Does Web Accessibility Mean to the Disabled?

 

Most of us are familiar with how Accessibility applies to physical business places.  However, little thought has been given to how Accessibility applies to the Internet.  Accessibility on the World Wide Web demands that we break down barriers and open a clear path for everyone.  

This means that web pages must be designed so that those with Visual, Hearing, Motor and Cognitive disabilities have an equal opportunity to navigate and access every web page.

 

What Does WCAG 2.0 Tell Us is Important for Accessibility

 

Published in 2008, WCAG 2.0 consists of twelve guidelines that are organized under four principles.  The four WCAG principles, frequently called P.O.U.R., require that all websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.    

Each guideline also has testable success criteria.  To help web designers meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines a group of techniques were developed.  These techniques come with their own criteria to measure success. 

 

 

How do the Four Principles Make Your Content Accessible?

 

In the following sections we will take a closer look at each of the four WCAG 2.0 principles.  We will discuss how the four P.O.U.R. principles, perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust must be rooted in every aspect of our website design.

A study conducted by the University of Utah analyzed over 1,000,000,000 website home pages for web accessibility.  Their findings were a mixed bag of results, with 97.8% of home pages having WCAG 2.0 conformance failures.  The good news is that WCAG many WCAG conformance failures can be easily remedied.

Let’s take a look at each of the WCAG 2.0 principles and the guidelines reccomended for each principle.

 

Perceivable Principle

 

Your web information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways that they can perceive.

  • Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  • Guideline 1.2: Time-based media: Provide alternatives for time-based media.
  • Guideline 1.3: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  • Guideline 1.4: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

 

 

Operable Principle

 

Your web user interface components and navigation must be operable by your visitors.

  • Guideline 2.1: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Guideline 2.2: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  • Guideline 2.3: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  • Guideline 2.4: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

 

 

Understandable Principle

 

Your visitors must find your information and the operation of user your interface to be understandable.

 

 

Robust Principle

 

Your web content must be robust enough that visitors can interpret it reliably using a wide variety of user agents and assistive technologies.

  • Guideline 4.1.: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

 

 

 

You Should Act Immediately to Make Your Content Accessible

 

Place a Strong Accessibility Statement on Your Website

 

What you definitely should do first is place a strong Accessibility Statement on your website.  Then audit your site to check it’s accessibility and discover it’s shortcomings.  Next you need to decide if it’s time to redesign your site to address what you discovered during your audit.

Does your site need to be completely redesigned to embrace accessibility. If it does, find a web developer with the web accessibility knowledge required.  Then begin the redesign process.

If your site has been built using WordPress there are many options available to help you acheive web accessibility.  Look for themes or plug-ins designed to help make your site accessible.  

I chose the DIVI theme which has a robust approach to helping you make your site accessible for all.

 

Quiet rooms and storytelling: our accessible wedding *

Accessible weddings with less stress *

Photos by Heidi Michelle

Your offbeat wedding can have way more options for accessibility than a wedding with a focus on making sure everything is done in the traditional way — but having lots of creative options doesn’t mean you have to stress and strive for a new ideal of perfection. Accessible weddings don’t need to be any more stressful than any other wedding. Plan a beautiful, bold, bodacious wedding that’s just right for you. And accessible.

Accessibility isn’t a new idea

While traditional brides might choose to finesse disabilities in their wedding photos, a high percentage of weddings include people who need some accommodation. After all, weddings are one of the few events that include all generations, including elderly family members who may have limited hearing, mobility, or vision.

They’re also a major life event for more people than almost any other. More than half of all American adults get married, and you know that includes plenty of people with disabilities — not to mention all your friends and relatives. Let’s face it, all weddings should be accessible. Statistics alone tell us that most weddings will include someone with a temporary or permanent disability. Planning ahead keeps that fact from creating problems on the day.

So start with our basic information on accessible weddings:

The venue is the biggest deal

Different buildings have different challenges and advantages when it comes to accessibility. This venue has acoustics that will make it harder for hearing-impaired people, that one has no ramps, and the other is a rabbit warren of little rooms that blind guests will have trouble negotiating. Give yourself extra time to find a site that is not only charming but also truly accessible.

Disability friendly wedding venues are so hard to find. Make sure you check for where the bathrooms are  – we went to a venue we liked only to discover the bathroom was down a flight of stairs and I couldn’t get to it on my own.

Make sure you visit the venue and see for yourself how accessible it is. You’ll still sometimes find a building where they think “We’ll be happy to help you up the stairs” is a good example of accessibility.

In fact, you might have to be ready to give up some of the charm. You’ll suffer less over this if you recognize the reality ahead of time.

Newer venues may cost a bit more, but often have better disabled access. Community halls that have been recently built could be a lower cost option than a wedding reception venue.

That lovely historic chapel reached by clambering over uneven and rocky paths could be a great place for a slow day of engagement photos, even if it’s not right for your ceremony.

The disabilities are not a big deal

This is not to diminish the effects of disabilities on our lives. It’s to recognize that accommodations are normal in the lives of people who need accommodations. Nobody needs to think of accessible weddings as a problem.

As a MOB who is disabled and will need to use her cane (GASP HORRORS!) to get down the aisle, I was surprised at how many people were obsessed with how I was going to make it down the aisle. I mean, it wasn’t even my wedding! OK, I’ll be a bit slow, and not as graceful as some of the other mothers in recent weddings, but my daughter doesn’t care, she loves me, as I’d support her if she needed assistance getting down the aisle.

If you’re aware of a disability that might affect your wedding, whether it’s your own, a member of the wedding party’s or a guest’s, just make a plan and move on. That well-meaning member of the wedding party who keeps sympathizing about your limited choices of wedding dress with your wheelchair? Tell them you don’t need or want sympathy (and read about wheelchair-friendly wedding dress choices). The vendor who doesn’t get it? Replace them.

We chose a wonderful photographer who was more than happy for my walking stick (or forearm crutch as its also known) to be part of the photos of the day as it is part of me.

Build in some margin

Some weddings are meant to be perfectly choreographed performances with split-second timing. Accessible weddings really aren’t.

We had chairs during the ceremony and a pre-meeting with our celebrant, who knew that fatigue was an issue and knew the signals for when I needed to sit down.

Prioritize the really important elements of the wedding — the things that are most meaningful for you — and cut the things that don’t matter as much. That way you can have a shorter wedding, or you can include breaks. Set aside places where people can collect themselves if that’s important for you or your guests.

One of the things that we (and our guests) found really helpful was having an ‘order of the day’ instead of an order of service, so instead of just listing the readings and the music, our order showed what time the service would start, when it would end, how long a break until the photos, how long a break until the next thing, when there would be food, when there would be snacks – it listed everything. This mean that guests who had to balance resting/medication could plan much more easily. The guests with physical impairments could rest, the guests with social anxiety related issues knew what to expect and when, the guests with autism had a piece of paper they could look at to know what was coming up next.

With clear priorities and determination, accessible weddings can be as chill as any other wedding.