How to make a STEM event more accessible

How do we make sure to include everyone in science and make them feel like they are welcomed? This isn’t an easy task because the world is progressing very quickly and society and science really didn’t keep up with the pace. I decided to put together this guide, which is by no means a complete manual, on how to make a science event such as a business meeting, conference or a congress accessible to everyone.

 

I am pleased that the UK totally embraces the idea of making things accessible to everyone. Considering the multicultural society, institutions put a lot of afford to make sure to meet everyone’s need.

There is a lot that the world can learn from the way instutions deal with this matter in the UK.

Let’s start with the most obvious way of making stuff more inclusive. Is the location you chose for the event accessible to people with physical disabilities? Is there a way for folks in a wheelchair to access the event room, for example? Most public buildings have to meet such requirement by law, but those facilities might not be present in historical buildings, for example.

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photo credit: stopgap.ca

Poor acoustic is another big problem for most business events. Either you sit a the very back and you can’t hear or very often people forget that for many of us English isn’t our first language. In more serious circumstances, some folks have a disability and can’t hear very well or at all.  Speak louder or using a microphone is an option. Alternatively, you can use Google Slide. You can create the slide online or get Google Cloud Connect, a plug-in for Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 that automatically stores and synchronizes any PowerPoint presentation to Google Slides. Why am I advertising Google Slides? Trust me that Google didn’t give me a penny to do that! Google Slides has recently introduced a toolbar that enables the microphone on the presenting computer to transcribe in real-time what you’re saying alongside each slide. If you don’t believe me look at the following video

 

Make sure that the event is accessible to folks with disabilities

Gender equality. Science doesn’t define gender, society does. Biology defines a person with some characteristic such as breast, utero etc as a female, and someone with prostate, testicles etc as a male. Gender is the way a person feels about themselves and this might be different from their sex. When filling into the registration form, introduce different options about genders such as the traditional male or female and the less more traditional prefer not to say, others etc. Additionally ask which gender pronouns they prefer to be addressed with, she/her, he/him, they/them.

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photo credit: theconversation.com

Don’t assume that someone is a woman/man because they look like one.

Food and drinks. Again, sounds obvious but it is really not. Outside the usual dietary requirements such as vegan, vegetarian, lactose or gluten intolerant, some religions forbid eating certain types of meat and drink alcohol. In the UK, I have always been given chicken or lamb, and during the wine receptions, there is always some soft drink along with the booze. Muslim folks don’t drink alcohol and eat pork whereas Indians don’t eat beef due to their religions. If you do have this in your menu, just write down the ingredients besides the dish so that everyone can make their own choices.

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photo credit: Food’s Delights

Finally, there is a lot you can do to make everyone feel welcomed. A business event is an occasion to network and socialise with new people. It is easy to stick with your friends, but what about making new ones?

More about accessibility in STEM can be found on Samantha Yammine’s website