Roundup: On Accessible & Inclusive Conferences & Meetings


Accessible? Twist handle, then pull

I just returned from the annual meeting for the Medical Library Association, where multiple discussions arose around what would it look like to expand what is done to make the conference both accessible and inclusive. [Yes, the image at the head of this post is an actual photo from the actual meeting.] Just a couple weeks before that I was privileged to attend “Cripping” the Comic Con 2019 which was, by FAR, a truly exemplary model for how to create an inclusive event. (I’m hoping to write a second post about what blew my mind so much about CripCon!) Pretty much the same topic also arose in one of my Facebook groups, Teaching Disability Studies, where several of the resources mentioned here where shared.

Since my organization (UofM) has done some work in creating resources around this, and since I was on the original committee that created our resource, I volunteered to share that resource with MLA and put together a collection of selected resources related to this topic. The resources collected here are organized alphabetically within section (resources, readings) by either the author or providing organization. Organizations represented in the post include:
– ABA (American Bar Association)
– ACM SIGACCESS
– ADA National Network
– ASAN (Autism Self Advocacy Network)
– New York State
– Ohio State University
– Syracuse University
– University of Arizona
– University of British Columbia
– University of Michigan
– Vera Institute of Justice

RESOURCES

ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. Planning Accessible Meetings and Events, a Toolkit https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/Accessible_Meetings_Toolkit.authcheckdam.pdf

You want to know what the lawyers think about what you should do? Well, start here. This 22 page PDF provides a number of thoughtful strategies to promote accessibility and inclusion in events, from working with attendees and presenters in an interactive way to plan the best possible event to post-event surveys designed to elicit information on accessibility improvements needed for future events. I’ve been working in disability spaces and communities most of my life, and they had suggestions that were new to me. I have some more work to do. This one is a must read.

ACM SIGACCESS. Accessible Conference Guide. https://www.sigaccess.org/welcome-to-sigaccess/resources/accessible-conference-guide/

It’s a bit amazing to me how each of these guides has something wonderful and necessary that I missed seeing or which wasn’t included in the other guides. This one includes discussions around making events safe for people with migraines, having drinking straws available, and where can a service dog relieve themselves with causing problems for the event. They point out that simply asking for a sign language translator doesn’t tell you which version of sign language the viewer needs, since there are regional and country variations which can be quite significant. They include example draft language for eliciting accommodation requests from attendees, registration, formatting your promotion material PDFs accessibly, and having a triage plan in case problems arise. This document is updated regularly, and this newest version was just updated a few weeks ago (April 2019). Note that they also have an Accessible Writing Guide and an Accessible Presentation Guide. Must read.

ADA National Network. A Planning Guide for Making Temporary Events Accessible to People With Disabilities. https://adata.org/publication/temporary-events-guide

Okay, this thing has chapters. I mean, CHAPTERS. That tells you something. In some ways, it’s almost too detailed. However, it also focuses almost exclusively on physical factors (venue, parking, toilets) and has very little on the interaction or experience. While this is highly detailed, the intended audience seems to be focused on government or community event planners, and not for professional events or conferences. This is more of a basic introduction to what is involved, and is intended for broad audiences. Also available as a 61 page PDF and a 119 page large print PDF.

ASAN: Planning Accessible and Inclusive Organizing Trainings: Strategies for Decreasing Barriers to Participation for People with I/DD https://autisticadvocacy.org/resources/accessibility/ PDF: https://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/White-Paper-Planning-Accessible-and-Inclusive-Organizing-Trainings.pdf

While several of the other resources listed here focus primarily on physical barriers to inclusion, this document is absolutely essential for those with sensory integration concerns or learning disabilities. It explains and describes the impacts of such factors as loud or unpredictable noise, motion, and other stimuli; unpredictable events; abstract or overly-complex language; speaking spontaneously (or putting people in situations where they are expected to improvise their reactions); body language; touch; and much more. It includes information on scheduling that describes the need for breaks, use of plain language content, color communication badges, and the risks to the audience of some popular presentation engagement strategies. This is the only of the resources listed here to richly describe the role of support persons in events. I doubt it would be possible to plan an inclusive event sensitive to any of these issues without, at a minimum, reading a document like this one, or being close to someone who shares these issues and concerns. A must read.

New York State, Department of Health: People First: How To Plan Events Everyone Can Attend https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/0956/

This is a lovely document which includes both high level thinking around accessible events as well as fairly detailed specifics. This is one of few of these types of resources that spends time on the importance of developing a formal policy with specifications for events, and has suggestions for approaching the development of a policy if your organization lacks one. It includes nitty-gritty suggestions, such as “Plan for 30% more meeting space when 10% or more of the participants will use mobility aids,” having ramps to the stages, and how to look for tripping hazards. Absolutely a must read. Also available as a 13-page PDF.

Ohio State University: Composing Access, An invitation to creating accessible events https://u.osu.edu/composingaccess/

Includes information on making accessible presentations, including live-streaming and handouts (when, why, and how), as well as the expected accessibility thoughts and practices for conference organizers. Includes resources; ways to encourage attendees to act as advocates for accessibility and inclusion; descriptions and videos for creative practices like interaction badges, quiet rooms, “crip time,” and more.

Syracuse University: A Guide to Planning Inclusive Events, Seminars, and Activities at Syracuse University http://sudcc.syr.edu/resources/event-guide.html

Available only as a 27 page accessible PDF. This exceptionally detailed resource is far too rich a resource to do justice to in a brief description. Syracuse is the home of Cripping the Comic Con, and it is clear that they have really put considerable time and thought into not only conceptualizing accessible events, but putting this into practice, seeking feedback, and learning from experience. It has four appendices, of which the most essential, to my mind, is Diane Wiener’s example introduction in Appendix B. In addition to the usual content (planning, venue, promotion, and presentation) this guide includes prudent practices for inclusive use of language, use of images and media, the role of environment (fragrance, sound/noise, lights, color), and much more. This is my own preferred go-to guide for starting with this. I guess that means I should mark it a must read, too.

University of Arizona: A Guide to Planning Accessible and Inclusive Events https://drc.arizona.edu/planning-events/guide-planning-accessible-and-inclusive-events

A short example of how to write a resource like this for a campus community. Includes a brief but helpful section on how to train event support staff.

University of British Columbia: Checklist for Accessible Event Planning https://equity.ok.ubc.ca/resources/checklist-for-accessible-event-planning/

Exactly what it says — a collection of terse reminders of what should be remembered. Includes roughly 60 entries in 7 categories (planning, marketing, transportation, space, programming, catering, final). Available as a 9 page PDF download.

University of Michigan: Ten Tips for Inclusive Meetings https://hr.umich.edu/working-u-m/workplace-improvement/office-institutional-equity/americans-disabilities-act-information/ten-tips-inclusive-meetings

This information in this resource is presented in a layered fashion for ease of access, action, and remembering, similar to the UBC checklist. The ten tips are very short, focusing on major areas to consider, but include links to richer information for those willing to explore more deeply. The design stresses retention and adoption of the concepts by making them easy to access and simple to remember. Main areas included are scheduling, accessible presentations, promotion, restrooms, food and drink, personal assistance, offsite participation, representation, transportation and navigation, and options for help for event planning and management.

Vera Institute for Justice: Designing Accessible Events for People with Disabilities and Deaf Individuals https://www.vera.org/publications/designing-accessible-events-for-people-with-disabilities-and-deaf-individuals

This isn’t a guide or a checklist. This is a toolkit, and boy, does it have a lot of different tools. They have several different tip sheets focusing on special aspects of meetings and events, from registration to budgeting, and including venues and how the meeting itself is handled. They even have a tip sheet for working with Sign Language Interpreters, and how to develop successful contracts with hotel management (which sounds worth its weight in gold). These aren’t one page tip sheets, though. The tip sheet for designing accessible registration is 7 page long. That’s a lot of tips. These are so well done that countless other disability organizations host copies on their own websites and recommend them for their own audiences and clients. These are another must read.

Additional resources & examples

ACS-ALA, Accessibility and Libraries, October 4, 2017. Rough edited CART copy (Webinar transcript). https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JIVc5-QcvBb74AitQXrnFfHReYk6nnKez3gR33llHvU/edit

ALA Annual: Accessibility https://2019.alaannual.org/general-information/accessibility

Inclusion BC: How-to Make Your Event More Inclusive https://inclusionbc.org/our-resources/how-to-make-your-event-more-inclusive-2/ PDF: https://inclusionbc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Makeyoureventinclusive.pdf

NCCSD Clearinghouse and Resource Library: Inclusive Event Planning https://www.nccsdclearinghouse.org/inclusive-event-planning.html

WorldCon 76: https://www.worldcon76.org/member-services/accessibility

TO READ

This is a twitter thread from a few weeks back that “won Twitter,” as in it went viral, with 144 replies, 294 Retweets, and 1,562 Likes. It began with Alex Haagaard’s mention of their own accommodation requests at conferences, and resulted in a highly educational thread of accommodations people need or wish they could request at conferences. I recommend reading this thread for any conference planners or organizers.

MORE

“If part of what we train our students to do is enter into scholarly conversations, how we go about that conversation in our own professional settings matters.”
Accessibility at ASECS and Beyond: A Guest Post by Dr. Jason Farr and Dr. Travis Chi Wing Lau https://asecsgradcaucus.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/accessibility-at-asecs-and-beyond-a-guest-post-by-dr-jason-farr-and-dr-travis-chi-wing-lau/
Includes: “Toward a More Accessible Conference Presentation” https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xzGyfVlMRUwZMjuZ6mef87OXCIfN3uiW/view

“Use the microphone: this gets repeated dozens of times on Twitter every conference for at least the last five years. I guess I’ll just say: yes, abled people, using a microphone indicates that you are considerate of D/deaf and hard-of-hearing folks, and suggesting that others do is beneficial to the audience.”
S. Bryce Kozla. Accessibility and Conference Presentations https://brycekozlablog.blogspot.com/2018/01/accessibility-and-conference.html

“But I believe that losing my hearing was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. You see, I get to experience the world in a unique way. And I believe that these unique experiences that people with disabilities have is what’s going to help us make and design a better world for everyone — both for people with and without disabilities. … I stumbled upon a solution that I believe may be an even more powerful tool to solve some of the world’s greatest problems, disability or not. And that tool is called design thinking.”
When we design for disability, we all benefit | Elise Roy https://www.ted.com/talks/elise_roy_when_we_design_for_disability_we_all_benefit?language=en

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