Inclusive online conference poster sessions

Screen view of Padlet app for inclusive online conference poster presentations.Looks like hybrid conferences are here to stay. That means conference organisers are finding new ways of working, and maximising digital capabilities. Conferences with a high academic content usually have poster sessions. Posters are a good way for emerging academics to present and discuss their work. But how to make online conference poster sessions inclusive?

Getting the best from digital presentations is based on both process and technology. Using the most suitable digital platform is part of the story. In their article on inclusive and virtual poster sessions, the authors discuss real time and on-demand presentations. Having both options allows for time zone differences especially for international conferences. 

The title of the paper is, A Guide to implementing Inclusive and Accessible Virtual Poster Sessions. There is a separate section in this paper on virtual poster sessions in the undergraduate classroom.

Suggestions for virtual poster sessions

      • Use combined real-time and on-demand options for sessions
      • Use short video or audio introductions
      • Utilise Zoom for breakout rooms for real-time sessions
      • Provide demonstrations on how to use the poster platform and how to view posters and access Zoom rooms
      • Give more time between notification and the presentation date to give more time to prepare and submit before the conference

The advantage of online posters is the amount and depth of feedback received by presenters. The disadvantage is the lack of opportunity to network.

People who feel uncomfortable in crowds or noisy environments will appreciate this mode of delivery. The cost of paper and print are avoided and the poster can be stored digitally.  Virtual sessions allow for captioning, and Auslan interpreters. The authors list several benefits of virtual poster sessions and provide guidance for conference organisers. 

From the abstract

Poster sessions are an integral part of conferences. They facilitate networking opportunities and provide a platform for researchers at every career stage to present and get feedback on their work.

In Spring 2020, we designed and implemented a no-cost and accessible, asynchronous, and synchronous virtual poster session. Here, we outline our goals for hosting an inclusive virtual poster session (VPS). We also demonstrate a “backward design” approach and our rationale for using the Padlet and Zoom platforms. At the 2021 Conference we shared lessons learned to help future poster session organisers to be accessible and inclusive. 

Virtual poster sessions have great potential to improve collaborations and science communication experiences at scientific conferences and in undergraduate classrooms.

Audio Describing for TV and Movies

Cinema packs of popcorn. Audio describing is good for everyone.The art of audio describing has improved considerably since it was first trialled some sixteen or so years ago. Australian produced television programs signal when a program is audio described with a distinct sound. And more movies and stage shows are offering this option. Audio describing (AD) is designed for people with vision impairment, but could sighted people benefit too? 

A group of researchers looked at two questions – the quality of the AD, and the additional benefit to people who are sighted. Currently, the AD process sits outside the creative process. It’s added later in a similar way to captions and subtitles. However, lack of integration can cause misunderstandings about the plot and the characters. 

The research group carried out an experiment with people with vision impairment and sighted people. A short film was shown with enhanced sound effects. For example, bed spring sounds for someone sitting on a bed. Their article explains in more detail and applies the seven principles of universal design to their method. 

In conclusion, the study showed that sound design – that is, non-verbal cues – can replace verbal cues in some films. The enhanced audio description was accepted by both vision impaired and sighted audiences. One sighted participant said that because the AD was integrated into the film it didn’t feel like they were listening to AD. 

It’s universal design!

The article shows the potential for everyone to have an enhanced experience at the cinema and in their lounge rooms. It indicates a strong case for considering AD in the creative process and not leaving it as an afterthought. Integration of AD into the design process is another example of universal design. 

The tile of the article is, Enhancing Audio Description: Inclusive Cinematic Experiences Through Sound Design. The introductory page has both and abstract and a lay summary. Be prepared for a long but easy read. 

Lay summary

Audio Description (AD) is a third person commentary added to film and television productions to make them accessible for visually impaired audiences. Traditionally, AD is added to productions after they have been completed, meaning that the creative and accessibility teams do not work together to produce the accessible version of the production.

This paper explores an alternative to traditional AD, called Enhanced Audio Description (EAD), whose methods are integrated to filmmaking workflows. EAD moves away from a focus on verbal descriptions and instead focuses on sound design strategies. In EAD the traditional third person commentary is replaced by the combination of three techniques.

The first is the addition of sound effects to provide information on actions, convey abstract scenes as well as indicate time, place, and the presence of characters. The second is the use of binaural audio (3D audio over headphones) to convey the position of characters and objects portrayed on the screen. Finally, first-person narration is used to portray feelings, gestures, colours as well as certain actions.

The application of EAD methods results in a form of accessibility that can cater for both visually impaired and sighted audiences, championing inclusive cinematic experiences. Focus groups with audiences of visually impaired and sighted people demonstrated the potential of the format to be widely enjoyed, and to be offered alongside traditional Audio Description (AD) in order to provide accessible experiences which cater for different aesthetic preferences.

 

Guides for inclusive and accessible events

People standing watching a band on stage. There are fireworks in the background. Inclusive and accessible events.We’ve emerged from the COVID lockdowns and the event and conference industry is off and running. This is a good time for venue owners and event managers to find ways to be more inclusive. And that doesn’t mean asking speakers or attendees to nominate their individual requirements. So here are some guides for inclusive and accessible events. 

Front cover of Zero Conference Accessibility Guidelines.The Zero Project guidelines are based on real experience of running conferences. The guide is comprehensive and detailed, and explains the development of the guidelines. 

The New South Wales Government has an Event Starter Guide webpage which includes a section on accessibility. The guide covers transportation, parking, signage, and communicating access features, and more. There is also a Toolkit for accessible and inclusive events that has a checklist and accessibility symbols. 

Front cover of City of Sydney guidelines.The City of Sydney Inclusive and accessible event guidelines include information on why events should be inclusive. It has information on the different types of disability people experience. It has four sections covering indoor and outdoor events and a set of checklists:

    1. Accessible venues and spaces
    2. Opportunities for inclusive participation
    3. Accessible materials and information
    4. Staff awareness and attitudes

The Victorian Government has an accessible event guideline and checklist which is downloadable in Word. However this is looking a little dated. The Brisbane City Council has a webpage with basic information which is a good place to start. 

There are more posts on meetings, events and festivals in the Inclusive Events and Conferences section of this website. 

Can everybody hear me? Protocol for meetings and events

Front cover of the protocol for meetings and events.
Protocol for meetings and events

People who can’t hear well at meetings tend to avoid them. They also avoid events at restaurants and even family gatherings because it’s frustrating and tiring trying to concentrate on listening all the time. People with hearing loss tend not to disclose at meetings, which makes matters worse. When speakers announce, “Can everybody hear me?” few, if any will respond. Besides, without a microphone, nothing improves. The Ideas for Ears Protocol for meetings and events has some great tips.

Unless people with hearing loss are catered for, their voices will be left out of focus groups and community consultations. Their exclusion then becomes self-perpetuating. People with hearing loss should be able to participate in civic events and activities on the same basis as others. 

Ideas for Ears in the UK actively advocates for people with hearing loss and has developed the Hearing Access Protocol for meetings and events. It provides guidance on how to run meetings so people with any hearing ability can hear and follow them. The Protocol was developed by people with hearing loss and it comes in PDF version and a short online Hearing Access booklet. 

Also see the related post, “I don’t need a microphone”. But yes, you do.  

Designing healthy health facilities

A slide from the presentation showing a cafe area with large glass windows looking out to a garden.Hospital design is evolving. We have moved from the Florence Nightingale era focused on regimes and hygiene to one of patient healing. And not just in a medical sense. Knowing that building design impacts our sense of wellbeing, we have entered the era of designing healthy health facilities. This was the topic of Michael Walker’s presentation at UD2021 Conference. 

Michael’s presentation took a biophilic approach to designing health facilities. Biophilia is about increasing connection to the natural environment. This is achieved through the choice of building materials and/or direct connection to nature. He gave several examples of the design features that matter: 

“Natural shapes and forms – the use of botanical and animal motifs, natural forms such as shells and spirals, egg, oval and tubular forms and shapes that generally resist straight lines and right angles.

Light and space – the use of natural, filtered or diffused light, the incorporation of shadows, warm light, spatial variability, spaciousness and the connection of inside and outside spaces.”

Other factors to consider in hospital design are:

      • Wayfinding: Most people can be easily overwhelmed when trying to find their way in unfamiliar surroundings.
      • Entrances: Arriving at a healthcare facility can be challenging for people and their carers. If arriving by car, there will be concerns about safety and wayfinding.
      • Reception: Areas should be clearly identified and provide people the opportunity to identify that they may need help in navigating the engagement process. 

The presentation slides have more information on this aspect of designing healthy health facilities. Michael’s presentation is titled, Design Matters to Make Well Spaces, and  linked closely with Stefano Scalzo’s keynote address on universal design. 

Mapping how something gets built

Virginia Richardson ran a workshop at the UD 2021 on mapping how something gets built. Although local government is not the designer, it has many responsibilities for the project from start to finish. The question for the workshop was, how can we embed universal design in the process? 

Virginia began with a graphic showing an example of the number of stakeholders involved in house building. A line of complex manufacturing machinery used to show the complex process and number of stakeholders involved in mass market housing.

This concept was developed further in the workshop. It showed how many people get involved in a building project from a local government perspective. 

A linear machine picture has lots of coloured post it notes on it depicting all the people involved in building a park project.
Slide from the workshop

Virginia’s slides include the Draft Universal Design Policy and associated documents for the Mornington Peninsular Shire Council. 

There are more presentation slides and published papers on the UD2021 Universal Design Conference page . 

 

 

Construction code changes and home modifications

Front of a new house with 12 steps to the front door showing why construction code changes are needed..
New home with 12 unfinished steps abutting the boundary.

The ATSA Independent Living Expo was held alongside the UD2021 Conference in Melbourne. I used this opportunity to discuss the upcoming construction code changes and home modifications. My presentation explained the history behind the changes and what it means for the future.

State and territory Building Ministers agreed in April 2021 to amend the National Construction Code to include basic access features in new homes. This is meaningful social change for Australia, and time to re-think regular practice.

Major housing industry associations fought these amendments, but industry stands to gain longer term. With more suitable designs on the market, older people will be encouraged to move to a new home. Families with a disabled family member will likely be in the market as well.  

The supply of home care packages will increase and established homes will need modifications. Currently the government subsidises home modifications for this group, but modifications are not the same as renovations. 

Modifications vs Renovations

Occupational therapists assess clients and decide on functional modifications as part of a home care package. They are often done in haste and have little aesthetic value due to funding constraints. Clients often refuse these modifications because of poor aesthetics and concern about devaluing their home. On the other hand, renovations usually have a designer involved. Recent research by Monash University commissioned by the Human Rights Commission, indicates that design-led modifications will gradually increase.

With basic access features already in place, modifications and renovations will become easier. Homeowners will be more willing to have modifications because it will minimise major works, and concern over the value of the home will be reduced. The NCC changes provide an opportunity for smaller builders to capitalise on this market. The Building Designers Association Australia is already on board, and has training courses to bring designers up to speed. 

If you want to check out the specifications for changes to the code, see the Livable Housing Design Guidelines Silver level.

Jane Bringolf, Editor

The picture above shows a very poorly sited home where the distance from the front porch to the property boundary was not quite sufficient to put 12 or more steps. 

 

Including mobility scooters in planning

A woman in a powered wheelchair and a man in a mobility scooter enjoy the pathway.Powered mobility devices, such as mobility scooters, are forms of transportation, but are they considered in city planning? Little is known about these devices and their users so the likely answer is, no. Climate change is another issue. Transportation systems are turning to renewable power and there is a risk these devices will be left out due to a lack of understanding how they are used. As more electrified devices take their place in our streets, we must be sure we are including mobility scooters in planning as well.

Theresa Harada’s presentation at UD2021 Conference highlighted some of the issues scooter and powered wheelchair users face. Using some of the quotes from participants, the lessons became clear in the slides. On the one hand, mobility scooters allowed a greater freedom to get out and about. But on the other, there were times when it became difficult, such as waiting for a lift along with many others.

The presentation also showed how others perceive disability. When one participant went from a scooter to a wheelchair, she found attitudes towards her changed dramatically. 

picture of a woman on a mobility scooter trying to get under a barrier constructed to prevent vehicles and bicycles from entering the pathMass transportation is for the masses – that means it’s for everyone. With more understanding of “vulnerable” groups we need an inclusive focus within infrastructure planning. The frameworks that govern mobility have barriers to inclusion which good design will overcome. This research gave voice to those who use mobility scooters. Their voices are loud and clear in Theresa’s published paper. 

 

 

The potential of accessible tourism in Australia

Header slide on accessible tourism showing a woman in a wheelchair bending down to feed a wallaby.
Photo courtesy Travability Images. http://travabilityimages.com.au

There’s a lot of potential for accessible tourism in Australia, and everyone stands to win, both operators and travellers. The business case has been well researched over many years and in different countries.  However, the data are not convincing many tourism operators to re-think their business model. 

Nicole Healy’s presentation at UD2021 Conference covered the facts and figures. Tourism Research Australia commissioned a research project which involved Victorian and Queensland governments. Nicole listed the research objectives which included: 

      • The size of the market and drivers and barriers
      • Needs of travellers with disability and their companions
      • The best communication channels 
      • The best ways to support businesses and explore opportunities
The results

The results show the potential of accessible tourism to be in the billions of dollars representing 10% of the total domestic spend. And that’s only for those who are willing to travel. Many others say it is all too hard. 

Travellers with and without disability choose trips for the same reasons. Eating out and visiting family or friends are top of the list for both groups. Sightseeing, pubs, clubs, and shopping are all popular. Going to the beach was not high on the list for people with disability. 

Lack of awareness of what’s on offer and not knowing what to expect were barriers to travel. Attitudes of tourism operators and staff was not encouraging either. Higher costs for people with disability were an issue as well as not enough accessible rooms.

Travellers with disability want to see better staff training and more practical information. Better access to toilets, public transport and airports were also important. More detail is available in Nicole’s presentation slides and the data report. You can download the executive summary of the Victorian and Queensland report.

Victoria has a kit to help businesses, and Queensland has their own guide to inclusive tourism

A separate website, Accessible Victoria has specific information and more links. And one specifically for Melbourne also has brief information and more links. 

There is more about inclusive tourism in the travel and tourism section of this website.

Local Government and Accessible Housing

Exterior of a modern single level home.Local government rarely gets pro-active about accessible housing or Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA). But the City of Whittlesea bucked the trend. This local government area is one of the fastest growing communities in Victoria. It also has a significant population of residents with a disability, most of whom are ineligible for SDA housing. Consequently, action was needed for mainstream accessible housing.

The Disability Housing Project was established as part of Council’s commitment to inclusion. The project identified the level of demand for both accessible and SDA housing. This information was then used to inform policy and strategic action. 

The slide shows the five elements of the project.
Slide showing five elements of the housing project

Rosie Beaumont and Linda Martin-Chew tell their story of venturing into the emerging disability housing market in their presentation at the UD2021 Conference. Council wanted to explore opportunities to progress commitment to accessible and affordable housing. They involved disability advocates, housing developers, strategic and social planners and residents with disability in the project. Developers keen to get into the SDA market were not going to solve the need for accessible housing overall. This was especially the case in the rental sector. 

The end result was better industry engagement to promote housing that benefits the whole community. It is an example of joining the dots between the niche of specialist housing and mainstream housing. 

There is more detail in the published extended abstract, “From Niche to Mainstream: Local government and the specialist disability housing sector”. 

Editor’s Note: Rosie and Linda were clearly passionate about the topic in their presentation. Whittlesea was one of only four councils that joined the campaign for mandated access features in all new housing.