It’s not that hard

We’ve had a lot of discussion here about accessibility at conferences – what it looks like, how to make it happen, and barriers to achieving it. Organizing an accessible conference can seem intimidating. How can you figure out what to do? How can you anticipate the myriad accessibility requirements you might encounter? How do you even know where to start?

But as we’ve emphasized here before, often times the most important thing about organizing an accessible conference isn’t making sure that you accommodate, in advance, the accessibility requirements of anyone who might attend your conference. (This is at best very difficult and at worst impossible – since it can sometimes be the case that the accessibility requirements of different disabilities conflict.) Rather, what can often matter the most is that you indicate – publicly and clearly – that you want your conference to be accessible, that you are aware that there are issues about conference accessibility, and that you want to do the best you can to make you conference disability-friendly. Then you invite your participants to tell you about how the conference might be made more accessible for them, and you go from there.

So I was delighted to see this page on the 2013 Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference website. The conference organizers say:

The BSPC is committed to accommodating people with disabilities. (This is one reason for the relatively physically-undemanding schedule involving just three paper sessions per day.) We don’t have it all figured out yet, but are eager to learn and adapt in this regard. If you have concerns about being able to attend the conference, please email Ned Markosian at bspc2013@gmail.comto discuss possible accommodations. (For example, if it turns out that you are unable to attend the conference physically, there is the possibility of Skyping in to the conference.)

Something as simple as this – clearly publicized on the conference website – can make a huge difference for disabled academics thinking about whether and how they might attend such a conference.