13 December 2022 - Experiencing UCISA events your way
This was my fourth UCISA conference since I joined the Higher Education sector. I haven’t always managed to get as much out of the events as I’d have liked. That’s because the events weren’t all that inclusive. I’ve previously had to rely on colleagues to assist and guide me. That means a poorer experience for them as well as for me. Because I have no sight at all and opt not to take my guide dog to multi-day events, these types of events can prove challenging, both from a navigation and a participation standpoint. This time though was a very different experience.
I reached out to the UCISA events team before attending to notify them of my needs. This was prompted by an email confirmation of the hotel booking where I noticed that there was no mention of accessibility needs in the details. I had no idea when I made contact that my conference experience was about to change so dramatically.
Here’s just some of what was put in place by the UCISA team to enable me to benefit from everything that was on offer:
- A preliminary chat to discuss my needs,
- The UCISA team undertook sighted guide training provided online by Guide Dogs – a fantastic experience for me,
- The facilitation to identify and network with key individuals I had on my list to meet,
- The chance to actively participate in session activities, knowing that I had someone to explain what was taking place so that I achieved maximum benefit,
- Having slide packs in advance to ensure that I could get the most from every session,
- A reserved table in noisy open spaces where it was quiet enough to hold conversations and feel safe,
- Presenters prepared to describe slides and videos where there was no narrative
This all resulted in an accessible, inclusive, and very enjoyable conference.
In summary, it was an enjoyable, fruitful, empowering, and inclusive experience. The team are fantastic and are always willing to listen and learn how best to make the event work for those needing adjustments. If you’re wanting to attend and need adaptations, they’re extremely supportive, friendly and thoughtful. With grateful thanks to the team for making me feel so welcome and at ease, and for the refreshingly brisk beach walks and fantastic descriptions each day.