Facilitating Access for Disabled Individuals
(To be considered during the organization of future events)
This document aims to raise an awareness of disability in the context of conferences and to guide future Encuentro and other conference and festival organizers in making their events more accessible. As accessibility issues will largely change with the location and geography of and the language(s) spoken within the specific event, it is recommended that local organizers allocate an accessibility coordinator for their event who will work in liaison with the co-conveners of PerformDis work group.
Current Accessibility Considerations for the Organizers
- Including accessibility information about the conference venue on the conference website (the task of the local accessibility coordinator)
Testing the accessibility of conference venues. Questions to consider:
- Which conference venues have wheelchair access, which ones do not?
- Can portable ramps be provided for inaccessible venues?
- Are there any elevators in the buildings? Are they wide enough for a standard wheelchair to fit in?
- Are the doors wide enough for standard wheelchair to enter?
- Are there any push-button door openers?
- Are the bathrooms in the buildings accessible?
- Are there any handrails at the stairs or grab bars (for people with crutches or with other mobility-related impairments)?
(Suggestion: If you are having difficulties with how to assess accessibility, you may ask a student or a staff member with mobility-related impairments to do assessment visits to the conference venues with you).
Suggesting accessible accommodations (around the conference location provide wheelchair access)
Finding out the accessibility of transportation to and from the conference venue. Questions to consider:
- Are there any elevators at the metro and train stations?
- Do train carriages have ramps and space for wheelchairs?
- Do buses have ramps and wheelchair space?
- Are there any taxi stations providing accessible cars?
(Suggestion: You may call the city, municipality or tourism office. They might already have this information at hand.)
Finding out accessible restaurants nearby the conference venue.
(Suggestion: First identify closeby restaurants, cafes, markets, etc. Then call them and ask about access. Create a google map and mark accessible restaurants on the map and share the map on the conference site.
If you know any restaurant that is accessible but requires transportation, then still mark them on the map by noting the distance from the conference venue).
- Making Presentation Formats Accessible
Extra presentation time for presenters with speech impairments
- Presenters who have speech impairments should be given the time they require to present their papers. (Here the word limit can be taken as the basis. A 20-minute presentation tends to equal to 3000-word paper. So the presenter with speech difficulty can be given the time needed to present a max. 3000-word paper).
Suggestion: Conference organizers may identify presenters requiring extra speaking time during online registration period (by asking if the presenter has any special needs or extra time for his/her presentation due to speech difficulties).
- Making Keynotes and Presentations Accessible
Sign interpretation for deaf delegates
- Generally, universities provide sign interpreters to deaf students. But when it comes to academic conferences, it is often deaf delegates themselves, not the conference organizers, who are expected to provide sign interpreters. This, quite expectedly, poses a huge financial burden on deaf scholars and artists, at times, preventing them from participating in these events.
In order to make a gesture towards making conferences more accessible for deaf delegates, sign language interpreters should be provided for all the conference events and presentations.
Giving print-outs of presentations for deaf delegates
- Each conference delegate (when registering) can be asked to bring a few hardcopies of their papers at their sessions. They may add their names and a disclaimer on the top of these printouts saying, “Intended for conference delegates only. Please do not distribute without prior consent of the author”. Then at the beginning of each session, the panel chair can make an announcement to the room and ask if there are any delegates who might have difficulty hearing or following the presentations. If so, these hard copies can be distributed to them.
- In Question and Answer part: Some deaf people are raised in oralist cultures and can lip-read. If there is any deaf audience in the room who can also lip-read, then paper presenters can come to closer to the audience and answer questions that way.
Vocalizing the Visuals of a Presentation for blind delegates
Where there is a blind member among the audience, the presenter must give audio descriptions of any visuals (or performances) that are incorporated into her presentation. In the cases where the presenter cannot simultaneously vocalize her presentation, someone (allocated by the accessibility coordinator) shall whisper audio descriptions to the blind delegate.