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Festival of Learning 2020 – Accessible & Inclusive

We’re only a few months away from the 2020 Festival of Learning, the largest conference about learning and teaching in higher education in B.C. This year, we are exploring the theme of disruption and transformation, and to ensure the event is accessible, we have partnered with the Disability Resource Network of B.C. (DRNBC).

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

At BCcampus, a primary focus has long been supporting B.C. post-secondary institutions in providing better experiences for students. A big part of that is ensuring learning is accessible through initiatives like our award-winning open textbook accessibility toolkit, supporting research efforts to improve accessibility, or hosting events with built-in inclusive activities.

Universal Access

Our goal for #FoL2020 is to make the event accessible and welcoming for presenters and participants of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, abilities, cultures, sexual orientations, genders, languages, ages, as well as those identifying as neurodivergent.

Disability Network of B.C. for Post-Secondary Education

Brianna Higgins, Department Head of Disability Services at Vancouver Community College (VCC); Deloris “Piper” Piper, Coordinator of the Post-Secondary Communication Access Services (PCAS) at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT); and Lucy Hawkins, BCIT Accessibility Services, are our partners at the DRNBC. They’ve been working with our event team to identify opportunities to improve accessibility with and for us, as well as assisting us with addressing specific needs identified by presenters and attendees.

“By implementing Universal Design practices into the model and delivery of #FoL2020, we can promote equal participation, access, and inclusion where possible,” said Brianna. “Where accommodation is still required, our group has collaborated with the BCcampus team to arrange individual services, such as transcription and ASL interpreting.”

“Accommodation is not just to ensure an individual can understand, participate, and access the content and people; it also provides the other participants access to that person,” shared Piper. “For example, an ASL interpreter ensures the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind can benefit from a presentation, but they also enable them to be understood and add their voice to the conversation, too. It’s a two-way street for accessibility to be fully realized.”

“Through this partnership with BCcampus, we’re being an active voice in the conversation and taking a practical role in the systemwide change of building a more inclusive structure for students,” explained Lucy. “We’re developing resources to help the presenters at #FoL2020, providing input to guide the coordinators, and building a strategy to help us continue to improve in future events.”

Accessibility and Inclusion in Action

Some things you can expect at #FoL2020 include:

  • Live captioning of keynotes
  • Pronouns integrated into nametags
  • Accessible and universal washrooms
  • Free Childcare
  • Funding for educators through the Learning Access Program for Educators (LAP-E)
  • Dedicated quiet room for all participants to take time out of the busy conference environment with sensory bags that include items like a weighted blanket, noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and colouring books
  • “Ready room” for presenters to gather their thoughts and prepare for their sessions

“We will be documenting the entire event to track what was done, what obstacles we faced, and how we can overcome or prevent them in future events and activities,” shared Brianna. “We don’t expect any event to be perfect, but we can learn from what works, and analyze and overcome what didn’t.”

Another effort to support inclusion comes in the form of a  presenter toolkit, which provides practical tips and guidelines for all presenters at the Festival to design their session materials and activities with inclusion in mind, for example:

  • Design for accessibility — make sure slides, materials, and activities are created to ensure access (including screen readability), and consider using live automatic captioning if there are no other supports (e.g., live transcribers or interpreters) present
  • Share in advance — make slides and handouts available online a week or more prior to the event to allow participants to preview materials
  • Use inclusive language, and  consider offering trigger or content warnings
  • Pacing — consciously slow down, and don’t pack too much content into a single presentation
  • Describe the slide — say what’s on the slide to include people with low/no vision
  • Always use a microphone!

Meet the DRNBC

There will be opportunities to learn more about the DRNBC, such as meeting the members, joining one of the DRNBC Committees, or participating in their Annual General Meeting (AGM) at #FoL2020.

“Each year, we recognize the outstanding contributions of educators and service providers in our field and employers that support our students,” shared Brianna. “To nominate someone, please check the links on our website or connect with Rita Dilek at VCC.”

Registration for #FoL2020 is now open — so be sure to grab your tickets today.

Notable quote:

“This will be an epic event where we can work and learn together, thinking of all aspects of universal accessibility in truly significant ways. Through this substantial collaboration, we can make this possible.”

Deloris “Piper” Piper, Coordinator, Post-Secondary Communication Access Services, BCIT

“We’re aiming to develop a standard for equity inclusion, embracing and delivering accessibility for all.”

Brianna Higgins, Department Head, Disability Services, Vancouver Community College

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