Accessible Conferences and Lectures

The British Philosophical Association (BPA), together with the Society for Women in Philosophy, UK (SWiP UK), have created guidelines for making philosophy conferences and lectures more accessible to people with disabilities.

The guidelines are in two documents: Guidelines for Accessible Conferences and Guidelines for Accessible Public Lectures. The former sets out the general ideas behind the guidelines and more generally being thoughtful and proactive about the accessibility of events you may have a role in planning:

Ideally, making a conference accessible means making it accessible for as many disabled people as possible—both delegates and speakers—without their having to disclose their accessibility needs to you, so that they can attend without applying to you for treatment as a special case. In some cases, of course, this is not feasible; it is not financially or practically feasible to provide a BSL interpreter or all conference materials in braille just in case there is a need for it, for example. But for the majority of people with disabilities, it is possible to provide in advance the kind of information that will enable them to attend—and, importantly, be confident in advance that their disabilities will be accommodated—without having to disclose their needs.

Merely asking relevant individuals to volunteer their needs can signal that they are not welcome and/or cause unnecessary embarrassment; it also imposes additional workload on them. Do your best to prevent this by volunteering concrete accessibility details— and for those disabilities that cannot feasibly be automatically accommodated, signal a willingness to do your best to accommodate them. 

Bear in mind that disabilities come in diverse forms, and that disabled people are not only wheelchair users and those with sensory impairments, but also those with “invisible” disabilities that may be less obvious, such as fluctuating energy levels, mental health issues or dyslexia.

The documents contain specific pieces advice for various aspects of event planning and execution, as well as links to further information.

photo of “1000 Doors” installation by Choi Jeong-Hwa

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