Universally Designed Conferences

People sitting either side of an aisle listening to a speaker. Often forgotten both here and in the USA is the idea that conferences should be universally designed. Most  conference organisers target a workforce audience and they assume people with disability don’t have jobs. This is chicken and egg. If you don’t see someone at a conference with a disability it’s easy to assume they aren’t around. If the conference is not inclusive, they won’t come. 

A new article on universal design and accessible conferences joins the dots between all the aspects of a conference. It needs a holistic approach because it is much more than ensuring there is an accessible toilet. The article applies the principles of universal design as a way of thinking about access and inclusion. It covers:

      • online booking
      • transport and parking
      • registration
      • seating
      • catering
      • wayfinding
      • accommodation
      • communication aids
      • access to the podium. 

The research questions for the literature review were:

    • What strategies can be used to encourage and facilitate access and inclusion for conference participants with a disability?

    • How can the principles of Universal Design be used to support the inclusion of participants with disabilities to conferences?

The title of the article is, Increasing participation: Using the principles of universal design to create accessible conferences. It is an open access article. 

Abstract:  The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) mandates the inclusion of individuals with disabilities to a broad range of facilities and public buildings. One overlooked area is access to conferences. Conferences are held in a range of buildings, including purpose-built venues, hotels, and stadia. Often, the focus is on access for people with mobility limitations, but access for people with other disabilities, such as vision or hearing loss, or mental ill-health, can be overlooked. This is a significant oversight since around 19% of the population experience a disability (Brault, 2012): it makes sound business sense, as well as a sense of social justice, to ensure more people can access conferences. This article uses a literature review methodology to highlight key considerations to make conferences more accessible to a broad range of people with disabilities. A theoretical framework of Universal Design is proposed to support the ideas. A holistic approach is taken to inclusion, including online booking, transport, and parking, since, without these being accessible, the event becomes inaccessible. Other aspects considered include registration, seating, restrooms, catering, and communication aids. Creating accessible conferences can help promote equity and inclusion and bring people with diverse perspectives together to enrich a conference.

Editor’s Note: Of course, when the topic of the conference involves disability, event organisers are often on a steep learning curve to make sure it is accessible and inclusive. However, they don’t apply these principles to their other conferences.

Save the Date UD2020 (v2)

Two screens on a desk. One is showing pictures of several people on a video conference. The other is displaying a regular web page.In lieu of our postponed UD2020 conference we are pleased to be offering a half day virtual event 13 October 2020. The topic is People and Transport. It will run from 10 am to midday Sydney time (AEDT) with a short break in the middle. The program has four speakers and there will be plenty of time for questions.

Lee Steel, Assistant Secretary, Australian Department of Infrastructure, will bring us up to date with the review of the Disability Transport Standards and how we can get involved in the consultation process.

Penny Galbraith, Access Consultant, will take us on her personal journey from home in Queensland to Sydney. Her picture show will illustrate the “Good, Bad and Ugly”.

Michael Walker, Principal Advisor Universal Design at Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority will discuss how to establish the principles that direct designers of train stations.

John Evernden, Civil Engineer and Access Consultant, will use his experience to show, in pictures, how thoughtful design makes a big difference to pedestrians.

Griffith University is sponsoring the publication of papers from the original UD2020 program. Dr Faith Valencia-Forrester, Director Service Learning, will launch the papers just before the break.

At midday, everyone is welcome to join CUDA’s Annual General Meeting.

The event is free to everyone who registered for the original UD2020 conference. You will automatically receive the link to join the event. It’s also free to CUDA members who will also get the link sent to them. Otherwise you can register for a small fee on the conference website.   

The original UD2020 has morphed into UD2021 and is now scheduled for 17-18 May in Melbourne.

Conferences and calls for papers

An external view of the venue showing level entry. 4th Australian Universal Design Conference

Update 14 September: Due to the current COVID-19 situation in Melbourne we are postponing yet again to 17-18 May 2021 in Melbourne. It will become UD2021.

SAVE THE DATE: In lieu of our postponed UD2020 conference we are pleased to be offering a half day virtual event 13 October 2020. The topic is People and Transport. It will run from 10 am to midday Sydney time (AEDT) with a short break in the middle. The program has four speakers and there will be plenty of time for questions.

NEW TO THE LIST

International Conference on Computers and Accessibility. Online 26-28 October 2020. Earlybird registration 30 September. This is a major event. Diversity and Inclusion scholarships are available. There is a list of technical papers on the website, but the program is yet to come.

National Sports Convention Forum. “Our Communities Future – Targeting Specific Communities to Encourage an Inclusive Approach” Three dates with COVID-safe conditions. Sydney 9 November 2020, Melbourne 11 November, Brisbane 13 November. The NSC 2020 Forums will be focusing on Shaping Our Future, post COVID-19. Forums are offered both for onsite delegates to attend and virtually for those who cannot attend in person. The program for each forum covers a wide range of interests.

M-Enabling Summit Conference 2021,  This is a new date, 21 June 2021. Washington . This event is dedicated to promoting accessible and assistive technology for all. It is an annual meeting place for all who implement digital accessibility strategies or develop enabling ICT products, services for workplaces, learning environments or consumer markets. NEW! Online leadership briefing 15 September 2020.

International Ergonomics Association 21st Triennial Congress. 13-18 June 2021, Vancouver. Special Sessions – Ergonomics and Design for All Track call for submissions closes 25 September 2020. Three main tracks of interest: Session 19 Different approaches for inclusive design; Session 20 Accessibility and usability for all; Session 68 Opportunities and challenges of digital technologies for inclusion. There are instructions for submitting a proposal. They have also added information about this being a hybrid event

Other conferences and events:  Where conference websites have been updated, new dates are shown below. There might be additional calls for papers. Check with conference organisers.

Care in the Age of Outrage International Dementia Conference 21-22 September 2020. Streamed live and on demand. The program includes international speakers and twelve themes

Inclusive Africa Conference 2020 on Digital Accessibility, 3-4 November, Nairobi, Kenya. Call for video submissions close 1 October 2020. Submit online. The conference web page has a “webinar” tab. There are two past and one future webinar on offer.

Australian Placemaking Summit 2020, Melbourne, New dates 24-25 March 2021. The placemaking movement is gaining momentum in Australia. Includes rapid talks as well as a long list of speakers including from San Francisco, New Zealand, and Denmark.

Access Israel conference postponed from May 2020 to a date to be advised.

Liveable Cities Conference, postponed until 2021. Perth, Western Australia. In lieu of this year’s conference there is a webinar series.  2021 conference Program Themes include transport and mobility, circular economy, community engagement, affordability and employment. The concept of inclusion is under the Community Engagement and Culture theme. 

Dementia Australia National Symposium 2020, morphed into a virtual event over six weeks. Includes the Dawn Booker Masterclass is cancelled. Speakers include Ita Buttrose and Janet Anderson. You can sign up for live event or check it out later. It is now free. 

Designing Cities 2020: Will be held virtually.  “The NACTO Designing Cities Conference brings together 900 officials, planners, and practitioners to advance the state of transportation in cities.”  This will be held as a virtual summit

From Access to Inclusion 2020; an Arts and Culture Summit: Postponed until 22-25 March 2021. Dublin, Ireland.  An international gathering of access professionals and advocates exploring how to provide seamless, person-centred experiences in arts and culture.

Not to be confused with the 4th Australian Universal Design Conference, there is another one in Finland 9-11 June 2021this is a revised date. This follows the four previous conferences in Scandinavia, UK and Ireland. This one will be Dipoli, Aalto University, Espoo.

Liveable Cities Conference, postponed until 2021. Perth, Western Australia. In lieu of this year’s conference there is a June webinar series.  2021 conference Program Themes include transport and mobility, circular economy, community engagement, affordability and employment. The concept of inclusion is under the Community Engagement and Culture theme. 

M-Enabling Summit Conference 2021,  This is a new date, 21 June 2021. Washington . This event is dedicated to promoting accessible and assistive technology for all. It is an annual meeting place for all who implement digital accessibility strategies or develop enabling ICT products, services for workplaces, learning environments or consumer markets. NEW! Online leadership briefing 15 September 2020.

The Disability Innovation Summit Postponed until August 2021 – date to be announced along with the Olympic Games. Priority will be given to submissions with: a passion to collaborate globally; products and ideas that are ready to go to market; or have the ability to be scaled; and tangible solutions that can impact lives around the world.

Designing Cities 2020: Boston 14-17 September 2020. “The NACTO Designing Cities Conference brings together 900 officials, planners, and practitioners to advance the state of transportation in cities.”  This will be held as a virtual summit

International Council on Active Aging Conference, Summit & Expo. 26-29 October, 2020. Now virtual. Theme: Aging well: the great disruptor. 

National Parks and Recreation Annual Conference 27- 29 October 2020, Orlando, Florida.  (There is no mention of a date change due to COVID-19.)

Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting (GSA2020), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4-8 November 2020. Theme: Turning 75: Why Age Matters. The 2020 theme was selected as a celebration of GSA’s 75th Anniversary. We’re celebrating the collective accomplishments of members that have strengthened the field of aging and the mission of GSA. Presentations, programs, and activities will reflect the theme of the 75th year which is “honor the past and enrich the future.” 

2020 International Urban Design Conference, Canberra, 25-28 November 2020. Postponed to a new date to be advised in 2021.

Universal Design Competition, 6-14 March 2021, Munich, Germany is part of Munich Creative Business Week – a design event. It’s focus is on design for social, cultural and economic impact. Covers, digital applications, architecture, products, and service design. Talks, workshops and more are part of this event. 

International Ergonomics Association Triennial Congress, IEA2021, 13-18 June 2021, Vancouver, Canada. They have a separate web page for the technical program. There is also a Practitioner Invitation Leaflet

Liveable Cities Conference, postponed to 2021. Perth, Western Australia. Program Themes include transport and mobility, circular economy, community engagement, affordability and employment. The concept of inclusion is under the Community Engagement and Culture theme. 

Universal Design Competition, 6-14 March 2021, Munich, Germany is part of Munich Creative Business Week – a design event. It’s focus is on design for social, cultural and economic impact. Covers, digital applications, architecture, products, and service design. Talks, workshops and more are part of this event. Website language also available in German.

From Access to Inclusion 2020; an Arts and Culture Summit: Postponed until 22-25 March 2021. Dublin, Ireland.  An international gathering of access professionals and advocates exploring how to provide seamless, person-centred experiences in arts and culture.

From Access to Inclusion 2020; an Arts and Culture Summit: Postponed to 22-25 March 2021. Dublin, Ireland.  An international gathering of access professionals and advocates exploring how to provide seamless, person-centred experiences in arts and culture.

Universal Design Summit 7: Inclusion Fusion, 12-14 May 2021, St Louis University. Call for presentations closes 30 September 2020.  Four themes: Housing, Public Places and Spaces, Community Access, and Digital Spaces. Virtual presentations will be considered.

5th Universal Design Conference, Finland 9-11 June 2021 – this is a revised date. This follows the four previous conferences in Scandinavia, UK and Ireland. This one will be Dipoli, Aalto University, Espoo.

International Ergonomics Association 21st Triennial Congress. 13-18 June, Vancouver. Special Sessions – Ergonomics and Design for All Track call for submissions closes 25 September 2020. Three main tracks of interest: Session 19 Different approaches for inclusive design; Session 20 Accessibility and usability for all; Session 68 Opportunities and challenges of digital technologies for inclusion. There are instructions for submitting a proposal.

The Disability Innovation Summit Postponed to August 2021 – date to be announced along with the Olympic Games. Priority will be given to submissions with: a passion to collaborate globally; products and ideas that are ready to go to market; or have the ability to be scaled; and tangible solutions that can impact lives around the world.

Destinations for All 2021 Summit  19-21 September 2021, Miami, Florida. This follows from the one held in Belgium in 2018. Updates to follow on a dedicated website. 

Liveable Cities Conference, postponed until 2021. Perth, Western Australia. In lieu of this year’s conference there is a June webinar series.  2021 conference Program Themes include transport and mobility, circular economy, community engagement, affordability and employment. The concept of inclusion is under the Community Engagement and Culture theme. 

Is your professional association inclusive?

logo of American Sociological Society - blue on white backgroundThe American Sociological Association has developed a comprehensive policy to ensure the highest level of inclusion for all members. They have 15 recommendations that could be a model for others to follow.

While the focus is on conferences, seminars and other events they hold, the list also includes: how to file a disability complaint regarding the association, processes for membership renewal to the association, orientation to conference venue or meeting site, and web content accessibility rules. The article is in the Association’s publication, Footnotes, and is titledImplementing Professional Curb Cuts: Recommendations of the Status Committee on Persons with Disabilities.

ASA has on ongoing commitment to using universal design principles to make ASA events truly welcoming to all members. 

The Status Committee’s 15 recommendations are: 

    1. Continue to support the Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
    2. Continue to collect disability related data during membership renewal process.
    3. Fully institute a system for recording disability concerns and their resolution.
    4. Provide accessible electronic copies of the Annual Meeting program upon request as a standard accessibility feature.
    5. Establish as standard ASA policy and practice the distribution of a letter regarding disability services to members who check the box requesting information during their membership renewal.
    6. As part of standard meeting policy, the hotel should complete an accessibility checklist, preferably before contracting or at least a year before the meeting, to enable the identification of accessibility problems. Based on this checklist, ASA staff can identify potential problems and negotiate their resolution. Completed checklists should be recorded and saved, and made available to the committee to the extent appropriate, along with reports on changes made to properties in response to them.
    7. As part of standard meeting policy, the ASA should conduct an on-site inspection following receipt of the checklist.
    8. Provide an orientation/walk-through of the Annual Meeting site upon request as a standard accessibility service (to be conducted by members of the Committee or members of the Section on Disabilities).
    9. Provide a gender-neutral restroom as a standard accessibility service.
    10. Provide captioning for all plenary sessions as standard practice (not simply upon request).
    11. Insert accessibility features/concerns onto the Annual Meeting program maps.
    12. Materials related to the Annual Meeting site more broadly should offer relevant accessibility information (e.g., the restaurant guide, tour descriptions, and location transportation information).
    13. A brief mention of disability services and how to file a concern/complaint should be in the Annual Meeting program, on the website, and emailed to any member who has requested information on these services when they renewed their membership.
    14. As a matter of policy, include a link to the 2008 Footnotes articles on universal design and accessible presentations in acceptance notices for Annual Meeting presentations.
    15. Provide continued support needed to gain a “Double-A Conformance to Web Content Accessibility” sticker for the ASA web site, awarded by the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI). 

4th Australian Universal Design Conference

Conference logo. Universal Design Conference 2020COVID-19   Update 10 August 2020: Due to the current COVID-19 situation in Melbourne we are postponing yet again to 17-18 May 2021 in Melbourne. A half day virtual event will be held 13 October, the second day of the previous date. More details to come. Our thanks to delegates and speakers for their patience. 

Here is a brief overview of the original content. There might be some changes depending on availability of speakers. We will keep you updated.

It’s promising to be a great conference! The conference website has the program with links to abstracts, and the list of speakers. Highlights include keynotes from James Thurston from G3ict, Philip Taylor from Federation University, and Paul Harpur live video from New York.

The inclusive tourism panel will have Martin Heng, Lonely Planet, Nicole Healy, Victorian Government, and Sarah Seddon, formerly from Destination Melbourne. The final panel session will discuss the role of government in promoting and implementing universal design: James Thurston, G3ict, Michael Walker, Victorian Government, and Fiona Morrison, NSW Government will give their views. With a lunchtime walking tour, Table Topic discussions, workshops and posters there’s something for everyone! 

Time to think about sponsoring – what about the coffee cart at $3500?  See the prospectus for more opportunities or email Tannia Garces

The conference will be held in the brand new Victoria Pavilion, Melbourne Showgrounds. It’s close to the city and the airport. 

Front entrance of Victoria Pavilion, the conference venue

Keep it Simple for Inclusion

A group of language dictionaries are laid out on a table.First there was closed captioning and then live captioning. Audio describing came along soon afterwards. Now we have the possibility of “simultaneous simplification”. Two researchers wanted to ensure people with various cognitive conditions could participate in a conference. Using audio transcribing facilities, interpreters simplified the language of the speakers in real time.  

After the conference they interviewed participants and found people with significant cognitive conditions were able to fully participate in a professional conference. Participants also retained the information a few weeks later. Of course, people who don’t speak the language of the speaker also benefit. The title of the short paper is, Simultaneous Simplification: Stretching the Boundaries of UDL.

Editor’s note: I’d like to see academics writing for the general population instead of writing in academic code for the benefit of other academics. Useful knowledge on many things would become more readily available to everyone. It’s time to have universally designed academic papers. 

“I don’t need a microphone.” But yes, you do

Picture of an ear with sound wavesThere are three types of hearing augmentation systems – but which one to use? The system preferred by most users is a “hearing loop”. It is connected to the sound system in a meeting room or auditorium. People wearing a hearing device with a telecoil, have the sound sent directly to the device. It screens out all the background noise and gives definition to the speech. However, a microphone must be used all the time. So no more “I’ve got a loud voice, I don’t need a microphone” because it won’t be transmitted.

Hearing Connections website gives an explanation of this system, FM and Infra-red systems. A system with an ambient microphone that picks up all the sound in the room amplifies all the sounds – so background noise is included with the speech. It can defeat the object. Also, the system should be turned on automatically – no-one should need to ask for it – that’s the point. Building designers, owners and managers have a legal obligation to incorporate the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Editor’s comment: I’ve been given lots of different reasons why the hearing system isn’t working. I’ve been told that permission is needed from  security to turn it on, as well as being told it can’t be switched on because people outside the room might hear confidential information. Clearly, having the system installed and connected is one thing, and training people about its use and purpose is another. 

Making conferences more accessible

A student lab showing a man with a cochlear implant talking to a womanAn academic paper titled Making Academia More Accessible chooses to start the topic with accessible conferences and events. A case study is used to to demonstrate how it is possible to overcome “Ableism in Academia”. An interesting and easy read for anyone staging events of any size. Each of the features are listed including; quiet room, catering, live captioning, sign language, PowerPoint presentations, staging, microphone use, ticketing and toilets. The concluding reflections discuss the feedback they received and the ongoing impact of this work. The paper also discusses how academia has to consider the diversity of its workforce as well as its student body and others. The case study comes from University College London and University of Kent. There is a link to a one page summary of the strategies at the end of the article.

Editor’s comment: While there were extra costs involved, especially live captioning and signing, there was no extra budget assigned – it was achieved by volunteer effort and sponsorship. The argument for the economic value of inclusion is therefore lost and will continue to be lost until it is realised the extra cost is actually an investment. It is not ‘lost’ money.

Universal design and accessible meetings

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.Even conferences about inclusion, universal design and accessibility can fail to meet the first requirement of their own content – to make the conference and venue accessible and inclusive. So how will conference organisers learn about access and inclusion?  New research aims to promote awareness among meeting organisers and the conference supplier companies about the need to remove barriers to meetings and conventions. This includes the whole issue of destinations and visitor experience for the surrounding area. The report, Universal Accessibility in Meetings, was produced by BestCities Global Alliance, Gaining Edge, and RI International. 12 cities are featured in case studies, including Melbourne, and there is a 15 point checklist for meeting organisers. Final step will be to get presenters to universally design their PowerPoint presentations.  A quick review can be found on the Conference and Incentive Travel website.

It was a great conference!

With more than 120 attendees, five countries present and five Australian states represented, it was a very successful Australian Universal Design Conference. The atmosphere was abuzz with like-minded colleagues catching up and new friendships forming. We were welcomed by Meaghan Scanlon, Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development, and Neroli Holmes, Acting Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The conference opened with Nicki Hutley, who gave us the benefit of her years of research and declared that everyone benefits from inclusion both economically and socially. Lots to think about when it comes to self driving cars and Amy Child covered some of the many aspects to consider. Here are some of the slides from concurrent session speakers on day one – more to come next newsletter:

Thea Kurdi from Canada –  Living in Place:Who are we designing for?

Lorraine Guthrie from New Zealand – Accessibility Charter for Canterbury: Collaborating to go beyone compliance

Michael Small – Developing the conditions to support a universal design approach

Emily Steel – Universal Design in social policy: Addressing the paradox of equality

Tom Bevan – Case Study: Accessible beaches for all.

Elise Copeland from New Zealand – A universal design tool for mixed use buildings. Slideshow was too big to upload but the transcript is provided plus the video below. You can go to the Auckland website to see the UD Design Tool.