Towards Accessible Conferences: A Conversation

February, 2021

The scholarly publishing community underwent significant transformations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with remote work replacing office setups and virtual events substituting in-person conferences. In a discussion hosted by Publishing Enabled, industry experts delved into the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities in navigating both traditional and online conferences. The panel, featuring Ruth Wells, Katy Alexander, Simon Holt, Erin Osborne-Martin, Mark Carden, and Violaine Iglesias, explored the accessibility hurdles tied to logistics, networking, and conference sessions in physical gatherings. Meanwhile, online conferences presented distinct challenges related to attendee names, chat functionality, and content interaction. 

The conversation emphasized the need for incremental improvements rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, advocating for diverse approaches to meet individual needs. Suggestions for improvement included advance planning, asking attendees about special requirements, providing contact information for assistance, and enhancing networking functionalities. Looking toward the future, the experts envisioned a hybrid conference landscape, combining in-person and online elements, with innovations like AI-based networking and virtual avatars.