DEI Collective Learning Series: October 2023

Designing Accessible Events & Conferences

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The Office of DEI (ODEI) at the School of Education and Human Development culls together monthly curriculum around issues of DEI for you to read, watch/listen to, prompts upon which to reflect on the read and watch/listen materials, and to engage as a community. The series is intentionally framed this way to allow faculty and staff to build a shared understanding of topics and concepts before engaging.

October 2023: Designing Accessible Events & Conferences

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed how individuals collaborate in the workplace and in school and it saw rapid rise of virtual meetings, events, and conferences worldwide. Anyone with internet access can participate in online events from anywhere in the world, increasing access to events and information that was previously only available through in-person attendance. Online events and conferences have been lauded precisely because of this ease of access, but does online access to an event guarantee accessibility for persons living with disabilities? Are virtual events, meetings, and conferences inclusive by default? How do we enable ease of access to in-person events and meetings, regardless of whether they have an online component? What are the best practices in event accessibility in any modality?

Week 1: Read

Weekd 2: Watch/Listen

Week 3: Reflect

Reflecting on Intersectionality

  • How might the sole focus on physical disabilities in many event-planning resources inadvertently exclude or marginalize other groups?
  • Why do you think many event-planning resources primarily focus on physical disabilities, and what are the potential implications of this narrow perspective?

Reflecting on Neurodiversity

  • How can an event environment be overwhelming for individuals with sensory sensitivities, or neurodivergent individuals?
  • What specific modifications or accommodations might support those who are neurodiverse or have sensory sensitivities?

Reflecting on Socioeconomic Privilege

  • How might the costs associated with attending events (e.g., ticket prices, travel, attire) limit participation for those who may not be economically privileged?
  • What strategies or alternatives can you think of to make events more economically accessible to a broader audience?

Reflecting on Mental Health

  • How might large social events trigger or exacerbate feelings of anxiety or other mental health concerns for some attendees?
  • How can you create a supportive environment for attendees who might be managing anxiety or other mental health challenges?

Reflecting on Holistic Inclusivity

  • Given the many dimensions of diversity (e.g., age, gender, race, class, religion, etc.), how can you ensure that an event considers and respects all aspects of identity, not just disability?
  • What are some proactive steps that you can take to solicit feedback from potential attendees about their unique needs or preferences?

Personal Experiences

  • Have you attended or planned an event in the past where you felt that certain groups were unintentionally excluded? What could have been done differently?
  • How can you ensure that your approach to event planning evolves over time to stay aligned with best practices in DEI?

Collaboration and Feedback

  • How might you collaborate with diverse communities or groups to better understand their needs and preferences when planning events?
  • What systems can be put in place to collect feedback after an event, ensuring continuous improvement in accessibility and inclusivity?

Navigating Evolving DEIA Language

The field of DEIA acknowledges the rapid evolution of language and its influence on shaping perceptions. While person-first language is currently promoted as best practice, some individuals prefer identity-first language. For instance, some might prefer "autistic person" over "person with autism" due to the sentiment it conveys. Reflect on the following:

  • Why do you think the preference for identity-first language has emerged among some advocates, even when it goes against the broader trend?
  • How would you approach a situation where someone's language preference does not align with what's generally considered best practice in the field?
  • In a broader sense, how can you ensure that your approach to language in DEIA remains flexible, empathetic, and respectful of individual choices, even as best practices evolve?

Week 4: Engage | October 26, 2023 | 2:00-3:00pm | Zoom

Join our invited speaker Lisa Baer-Tsarfati (she/her), Director of Inclusion at AskHistorians and Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Guelph. Baer-Tsarfati will discuss what makes an event accessible, how can we ensure equitable access to events and conferences, and what are some of the challenges that hinder efforts to make accessible, inclusive events.

Register here.

Event Information

Event Sponsor

  • Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion