The Inclusive Conference

Sometimes I get excited about people tweeting about this great upcoming conference, usually in another country than where I live. I head over to the conference website, check the great list of speakers and then slowly, my excitement dies down.

Not because of the ticket price, plus travel expenses and hotel stay. I can always try for a diversity ticket if they offer one. But because nowhere on the site is there a visible page containing all accessibility accommodations.
So, I have to send out an email, feeling like I’m begging and ask if the talks are captioned so that I, as a deaf person, can attend.

Spoiler alert: there are no captions.

My biggest pet peeve is when a company that, according to themselves, are passionate about accessibility, organize a conference about accessibility but then don’t provide captions. When I tweeted them to ask about it, I was told they would be live-tweeting the conference.

Animated photo of Leslie Jones pulling a "what the heck?" face.

Make your conference inclusive, step 1

Just like your conference website menu contains among others: “Speakers”, “Schedule” and “Location”, it should also contain “Accessibility Info”
On the Accessibility Info page, you can expand on what is possible. Special diets for lunch, such as vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free or other. Is the location wheelchair accessible, including the bathroom? (a detail often overlooked.) Are guide dogs welcome? Are the talks captioned? Is there a quiet room for people who need a moment to decompress from over-stimulation?

Don’t leave the burden of finding these things out to your possible conference visitors. People shouldn’t have to email to ask if they can attend a conference. If you don’t offer these things, then say so. Don’t assume people should know if your conference is accessible or not. Don’t leave things like captions for the last minute. It should be clear from the start.
Of course, the better thing would be that your conference is as inclusive as possible. And it starts on day one when you set up your budget and look for sponsors.

Step 2, the money issue

I don’t know about others, but when I attend conferences, stickers are enough swag for me. I don’t need a t-shirt, pen, water bottle, tote bag, and any more shit. The lanyard with my conference badge and stickers are enough.
There you go, extra money towards a location that is wheelchair accessible, or the catering that can handle different diets while keeping the food delicious or for captioning the talks.

You also need sponsors. All conferences are made possible thanks to wonderful sponsors. Without sponsors, no conference. When looking for sponsors, think about companies with a warm heart towards accessibility and inclusiveness.

Step 3, captions and subtitling videos

Captions for the talks and cost money. Look for sponsors that are active with accessibility and inclusiveness. Ask them specifically if they want to sponsor these things. It’s great exposure and it actually helps more people being able to attend your conference. After all, captions are not only for the hard of hearing and the deaf. Think about people for whom English is not their primary language or speakers with heavy accents.

The price for remote captioning can average 1874 euros for a full-day conference. That price is not set in stone, email the captioning company and ask what their prices are. Obviously, a remote service will be less expensive than having on-site captioners.

I attended tech and non-tech conference that provided captions. It was easy to follow, plus they provide a link so I can see the captions on my smartphone or laptop, which makes it possible to sit anywhere in the room. I felt more included as a conference attendee. After the conference, I can check the subtitled video’s if I forgot something or missed a talk and enjoy the full conference experience just like any abled person.

A good company for captioning is White Coat Captioning. They can caption remotely, and they are also specialized in technical talks. not an ad, #nospon
You can start there with looking for a caption provider.


For 2020 hopefully more conferences will be inclusive so that more people with a disability can attend without having to beg ask for accessibility accommodations.

• Include as many people as possible, make it a priority
• Make it clear on the website what is being provided and what isn’t
• People > Swag

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