Making conferences more accessible
Now that I have attended several conferences, I feel that I want to share some information I've been thinking about as to how to make conferences/events more accessible to academics who are neurodivergent. I imagine some of my ideas will be useful to others as well, and I think overall any conference/event could benefit from them. I will also add here and there some things I've thought of in terms of general accessibility but this is not my main focus here and there's people much more qualified than me talking about this already.
My friend Naomi Jacobs for example is writing about neuroqueering academia and will touch upon accessibility in several ways.
On Goldsmiths and being vulnerable
Last Friday I made my way to Goldsmiths (in London) for a conference about passing. More specifically, I was to speak about disability. Even more specifically, I was to speak about being autistic yet being able to pass/being viewed as neurotypical.
Doing a talk like this… means having to prepare yourself to be somewhat vulnerable in front of people. Fortunately this is kind of expected at such an event. I was also extremely worried about making myself visible.
This was the second event I have been to that involved that kind of rawness, and I am growing quite fond of it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the times I have received most comments/compliments about my talk have been these two. Not because my style of delivery had changed, or the passion I have for what I was talking about had changed, but rather because I feel people at such events make more of a conscious effort to let you know that what you said touched them in some way.
Travelling to the US for a conference
This week I was at the AAG in Chicago. AAG stands for "Association of American Geographers" (which I totally messed up at customs when I was asked where I was going, but I still managed to get into the US without trouble). The conference was from Tuesday to Saturday.
I was lucky and arrived on Sunday. I also did not get jetlagged thanks to a cunning plan that involved not sleeping the night before (and by "plan", I mean I was frantically running around the house).
I found the conference quite overwhelming: first of all, 8k people (or 7k, or 9k, according to whom I was reading, but you get the idea: that's a lot of people, which is noise-inducing). Second of all: no natural light during the sessions I attended. In that respect, I found the RGS-IBG in London last August (the first conference I ever attended) a lot more "human-sized" - at the AAG, there was so much going on at any given time that I found it difficult to chose where to go (what if something more awesome is happening at the same time?!), whereas at the RGS-IBG there was a lot going on, but at a level that avoided fear of missing out and other culprits.
French Deaf people sparkle discussions by reacting against a full hearing cast playing Children of a Lesser God
I posted a few days ago about the fact that Les Enfants du Silence (Children of a Lesser God) was being produced by the Comédie-Française with a hearing actress in the role of Sarah, which sparkled a protest on the day of the premiere.
I won't talk again about my opinion on hearing actors/actresses playing d/Deaf/HOH roles, because I've done that lots with the movie La Famille Bélier (in a nutshell: I think it's not okay at all). Instead, I am trying to share a little bit about what is happening in France, since something similar is happening in the US with the #DeafTalent movement. I am grateful for Sourds.net which aggregates news all-day long and really helps me in following what is happening.
Children of a Lesser God to be played with hearing actors only at the Comédie-Française
A couple of months ago I talked about hearing actors playing Deaf characters, and the #DeafTalent/#POCDeafTalent movement it sparkled in the United States.
This was particularly interesting to me because just a few weeks before the movement started, the movie La Famille Bélier came out in France and while there were negative opinions about it, I didn't notice any particular protests on social media or elsewhere.
This has just changed!
The issue at hand
The Comédie-Française has decided to showcase Les Enfants du Silence (French title of Children of a Lesser God) from the 15th of April to the 17th of May... and congratulate themselves that it is the first time the play will only have hearing actors!
Presenting on my work for the first time(s)!
I feel so pumped while also needing to crash and sleep for about 24 hours straight!
These past few days were pretty busy and eventful for me. On Saturday, I gave my first paper at a conference. It was the 20th postgraduate conference in Religion and Theology at my own university which I knew to be a supportive environment. It was stressful but it was at home so I knew several people, which definitely helped.
My paper was well-received by the audience (...I hope! I did have two friendly objective faces in there and they said they enjoyed it). I received some good questions and managed to answer them although I need to get better at that so I don't ramble on, forgetting to press the "stop" button!
I also had a good time watching other people presenting. When I don't have a clue what they're talking about (which is bound to happen when you attend a conference that isn't remotely your specialty) I enjoy observing their style and the public.