KMb & Accessibility

What is this?

I created, but never got to present, this paper and presentation. It is about event planning and accessibility, thought I created it specifically with a knowledge mobilization (KMb) audience in mind.

You can see why KMb audience is the focus in this blog post called “Accessibility Responsibility”

Written Draft of Presentation

Hey everyone!  Today I’m going to challenge everyone, including myself, to think about how lack of accessibility might be affecting KMb projects or events.

I am work from disability studies and activism—a space that has thrived because of the ongoing relationships between community and researchers – perspective. But there are other concerns that fall under accessibility, like finances or language barriers that we don’t want to forget.

As a disability activist and researcher I’ve learned a lot about the variety of accessibility needs. I’ve learned about ASL interpreters, I’ve learned about allergy free food, I’ve learned to do accessibility assessments for spaces.

The more important thing I learned was that there needs to be a commitment to ensuring spaces are accessible.  Without this commitment, barriers are created for already marginalized folks. These barriers then discourage marginalized folks from engaging with a project, event, or organization.

I worked on is an university/community conference that aims to be fully accessible. This conference has been successful in transforming a space that usual excludes certain folks into a forum for building connections. Because of this success I want to talk about how we reconsider the planning process to prioritize accessibility.

In the next few minutes I’m going to sharing my experience in helping to organize the university/community conference.  I’m going to briefly tell you about the top five things I’ve learned.  I’ll then present some questions for people to think about.

What I learned?

There are five things I learned while helping to plan for a fully accessibility event.  They are: planning, budgeting, clear communication, conflicting needs, and flexibility.

Planning:

By planning to be as accessible as possible we had to be active in learning what that meant. We realized that we had to thinking very differently about accessibility. It could not be something we thought about later in the planning process when people made requests.  We had to figure out what we could and could not afford to do. This meant that accessibility was brought into the budget and became a priority.

Thinking about accessibility from that start had a lot of great results. One of the best things to come out of this situation was that we could be up front with people about the accommodations. As a result, we got feedback on what the most important accessibility needs were. This let us identify where the funds for accessibility were best spent.

Finally, thinking about accessibility from the beginning let us plan, find, and organize service providers (like ASL interpreters) that can be difficult to book. It is important to note that many accessibility service providers have good cancellation policies, so booking up to a year in advance is a great idea to ensure you have the services providers needed!

Budget:

Accessibility was a part of the budget from the beginning. Which let us raise funds for accessibility. This meant we could afford ASL interpreters, CART services, and support workers.  These were our biggest expenses and couldn’t have been provided without thinking about expenses from the beginning.

Conflicting Needs & Clear Communication:

Once someone contacted us about an accessibility need we kept in regular contact with them.  This was important once we had people needing different accommodation to make to space accessible. Our most difficult conflicting need was lighting levels. Low lighting was needed for light sensitive people vs. bright lighting for people who are visually impaired.  Thought the open communication  we worked with all parties to manage conflicting needs.

Also, make sure to address low-cost accommodation needs in your documentation about the event. Identifying quite spaces, like stairwells, and accessible/gender neutral washrooms. These accommodations cost little or nothing, but improve the space of the event for all people attending.

Flexibility:

Even with all our planning for accessibility we encountered a number of issues on the day of the event.  We had to find solutions for accessibility concerns we hadn’t planned for or that didn’t work out.

Thats all …

I know its not quite finished, but it gives you an idea of some accommodations that I was going to talk about.  Maybe I’ll get to expand this into a full workshop sometime in the future!

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