Guest post: It’s Not “The Taxpayer’s” Money – It Belongs to the Public
So, back in January, I attended the Westminster Higher Education Forum on disabled students with two people from the Getting Things Changed project I am a part of.
Following the event, delegates are invited to submit an article to the briefing document for the event, and I submitted a text about role models in academia.
My friend Lilit focussed on responding to a talk by Paul Williams (Deputy Director, Student Funding Policy, Department for Education), and she's allowed me to publish her text here, which you can find below.
How can I be who I don't see?
On the 26th of January, I attended the Westminster Higher Education Forum on disabled students with two people from the Getting Things Changed project I am a part of.
Following the event, delegates are invited to submit an article to the briefing document for the event. Below is my submission:
In this commentary, I would like to continue reflections which started in the sessions which were focussed on disabled students’ participation and inclusion.
Key aspects about offering equal opportunities in learning were explored with regards to providing support for students. This included promoting inclusive universal design, which benefits all students. Beyond that, the importance of having access to all aspects of the university life was highlighted – indeed disabled students can be at a disadvantage in their social life as well as academically.
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.
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.
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 packing for 6 weeks since I'm staying over in the US and Canada and 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.
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.