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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

How to organize a conference that’s open to everyone – Nature (Nic Fleming | July 2019)

Published/Released on July 24, 2019 | Posted by Admin on August 17, 2019 / , , ,
 


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Thinking about the needs of all participants is key to a successful event.

Having enjoyed their meal in a neo-Gothic, wood-panelled grand hall, most delegates were on their way to the afternoon sessions. Meanwhile, Caroline Miles had just spent 20 minutes sitting in her wheelchair looking at the back of the delivery van blocking her path to both the talk and the lunch.

The simple strategies described in this piece speak not only to respect and justice in our endeavours, failing to be inclusive can significantly limit the relevance and impact of our work.  Gary has been compiling anecdotes from the field that would make you cry with laughter, or just cry.

Miles, a solicitor turned independent-researcher specializing in legal issues relating to social care, describes her attendance at the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) annual meeting at the University of Bristol, UK, last March as “demeaning and embarrassing and just horrible”. The talks took place across two buildings, and the lifts were frequently filled with participants who could have used nearby stairs. Her access was blocked by delivery vehicles on two occasions. When this made her late, sessions had to be interrupted as tables and chairs were rearranged to fit her in. Miles was provided with a dedicated support worker by the university, but says that networking took place in standing spaces that had no chairs at her level, and that access to disabled toilets was blocked by participants having refreshments.
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As Miles waited for someone to find the driver of the delivery vehicle blocking her way into the main meeting venue for the second time, she finally gave up. “I burst into tears and said, ‘That’s it, I’m going home’.”
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