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.

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.

Conference attendance from a user perspective

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.When academics organise a conference on health and wellbeing, the people being discussed are likely to be in the audience and on the speaking program. But how many academic conference organisers think about this? Not many it seems.

Sarah Gordon has written a very readable article about her experience as a conference speaker, attendee and user of the health system. Conferences with disability related content are generally considerate of the “nothing about us without us” approach. But when it comes to conferences on mental health, these delegates are given little if any consideration.

While the focus is on mental health in this paper, the comments can be applied more generally. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is referenced throughout and this makes it a long read. Conferences are part of the right to life-long learning and education, and the right to give and receive information. The application of universal design principles are discussed as a way to create greater inclusion for conferences. The paper is titled, What makes a ‘good’ conference from a service user perspective? by Sarah Gordon and Kris Gledhill, in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (2017).