Building an Accessible Conference and Community
Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot when it comes to working from home. Technology has enabled us to stay connected with friends and co-workers. It has also revealed how it can be utilized to improve accessibility and inclusion without the typical barriers experienced by many with disabilities when attending meetings in-person (i.e., will there be parking? Will I be able to enter the building? Etc.).
Although we are spending less time “physically” in our communities, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still champions out there who are constantly moving the needle when it comes to improving access to the places we live, work, play and learn. So, how can we highlight the best practices of both the in-person and online worlds? Through the #APN2021 Conference of course!
A Conference for Everyone
The APN (Accessibility Professionals Network) Conference is an opportunity to bring together some of the biggest champions who are working in the Accessibility Industry from across Canada and beyond – or as I like to call it “a rock concert for accessibility changemakers.” I had the pleasure of emceeing the event live in Toronto back in 2019, but this year, given all of the changes we’ve experienced, #APN2021 is going completely virtual on March 11th and 12th 2021. This year’s theme is dedicated to Accelerating Access for people of all abilities. The Rick Hansen Foundation certainly plans on doing just that, as this conference will include a plethora of accessibility considerations including:
- ASL translators at all sessions
- Live open captions
- Considerations around colour contrast and symbol usage
- An accessible web platform
Building on the success of their last conference, #APN2021 once again brings together thought-leaders, researchers and industry leaders in accessibility and the built environment to share ideas and collaborate on solutions that accelerate us towards improved accessibility. But don’t think that just because the event is virtual, there won’t be a lot to take in. There’s an exciting line up of national and international panelists, providing attendees with an opportunity to participate in meaningful conversations with accessibility professionals from around the globe - all from the comfort of home!
Accessibility from Coast to Coast
I’m happy to return this year as moderator for the Municipalities Panel which has an incredible line-up of speakers, many of whom I’ve worked with, including Tara Cleave, Support Services and Accessibility Manager at the City of Surrey. Joining Tara and me in this session are Darren Young (Manager of Building Infrastructure for the Halifax Regional Municipality), Dave Slater (Coordinator of Community Wellbeing & Inclusion with City of Regina), and Teresa Olsen (Deputy Clerk overseeing Administrative Services and Elections with City of Brampton).
In addition to having incredibly cool job titles, the panelists represent one coast to the other which will give us insightful conversation around the complex needs and diversity of our communities depending on where they are located in the country. This session is extremely important to me because not only do I love my city, but I value meaningful conversations with people who are doing great work in their communities and who are willing to share that knowledge. Too often organizations operate in silos, feeling as though the improvements they’ve made are theirs and theirs alone. However, I believe if we are truly going to change the conversation and bring more people on board with building universally designed communities, we have to be willing to share our best practices and be open to discussion and, most importantly, change.
#APN2021 is not intended to be a one-sided conversation. We want attendees to have a voice. Although these sessions will be chock-full of ideas and successes experienced by our speakers, it goes much deeper. We want you to contribute to the movement of accelerating access by removing barriers in the built environment. Connect with these like-minded industry professionals and share how you are making an impact and being an active part of the conversation on a range of accessibility topics and industry sector panels.
Thanks to technology, not only are we able to bring the conversation right to your doorstep, we may even be able to build a ramp to get you there. If you want to learn more about #APN2021 and how you can join us, visit rickhansen.com/apn2021.
I look forward to seeing you there!