An excellent blog post by Pesky People, has been pointed out to me by a colleague and I felt the urge to flag it up as it provides a very sad account of a profoundly deaf delegate’s experience at Hello Digital Conference this week. It really is a ‘no beating around the bush’, blow by blow account of their day at the conference and it gives you a heart on the sleeve insight into just how awful their experience at the event really was.
As an event organiser, I am greatly moved by this blog post which was a big slap in the face – awakening me to the plights of deaf people when attending conferences and events. In my 9 years of organising events I have never actually organised an event which has required a sign language interpreter. Having read this blog post I now find myself thinking, why should deaf people have to request an interpreter and single themselves out? Perhaps the reason I have not organised an event where an intepreter was required, is because we didn’t have them as standard, and deaf delegates who might have attended if their needs were being met without having to ask, did not want to go through the rigmarole of registering and then organising it all themselves (basically telling the event organisers what to do). It must be hugely frustrating.
As social media is becoming an important part of conferences and events, including Twitter (incidentally providing a lifeline to the Pesky People blogger), livestreaming, liveblogging etc, we the event organisers should be making sure that going digital does not exclude our deaf and disabled colleagues. We should be making every effort to ensure our events are accessible in every way, as standard. Deaf and disabled people should not have to fight for their access needs to be met at our events. It’s time for event planners to start putting as much effort into this aspect of planning as we do in to making our events as green as possible.
Event planners could do worse than check out the guide produced by JISC TechDis called ‘Accessible Events: A good practice guide for staff organising events in HE‘. A great document to help you make sure you are doing everything you should be doing to make events a much more pleasant experience for delegates with disabilities.