“Anything else you want to tell us?” is not a valid substitute for “do you need an accommodation?”

Stop using conference registration forms, submission portals, and platforms that discriminate against people with disabilities.

Person sitting at table filling out form on laptop
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Accommodations requests for conferences are important.

Without them, the people making the requests have zero chance of equal participation in the event. People want to know whether their disability needs can be accommodated before they commit to spending time or money on a conference registration that might be difficult to get a refund for.

  • Advanced copies of accessible presentation materials for people with vision loss or reading disabilities
  • In-person event (we will have those again someday, right?) accommodations including food, hotel, service animal, and assistant-related requests.

Conference registration “Anything else?” requests are difficult to convert into action.

Because “anything else” is a catch-all, it will include things ranging from accommodations to “will the recordings be posted” or “my favorite color is red.” A human has to read ALL of these comments and figure out which ones need action. Also, if you don’t have a specific section in your registration on disability-related accommodations, chances are you don’t have an individual in charge of disability-related accommodations. That is a problem, given that 18 % of the US population has a disability.

Conference registration “anything else?” requests are difficult to turn into analytics.

Because of the reasons above (“anything else?” can be used for literally ANYTHING), it is challenging to derive any actionable data intelligence about your participants with disabilities.

  1. Do you need an accommodation for your disability?
  2. What accommodation are you requesting?
  • Use people-first language. Don’t have a check box that says, “I am hearing impaired.” Have a checkbox that says, “I am a person with hearing loss.”

Next Steps

If the person on the receiving end of the accommodations request doesn’t know what to do:

  1. They should continue to engage with the person making the accommodations request.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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