Do As I Say Not as I Do: Not the Right Attitude for a Rehab Conference
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
I would have considered this unacceptable under any circumstances, but what made it even more repugnant was that it occurred at a meeting where one might expect greater sensitivity to accessibility issues: an assembly of 1,400 researchers and rehabilitation professionals whose work is devoted to improving the health and function of people with disabilities. None of the other conference attendees seemed to notice the irony of this situation. The popular boat is one of the major attractions in this country, but even in a place where disability rights and activism are years (if not decades) away, the conference organizers should have made accessibility the centerpiece of planning. What good is it to rehabilitate someone only to have her return to a society that does not facilitate her full participation?
The "Nothing About Us Without Us" mantra of the disability community must be adopted by rehabilitation professionals around the world. People with disabilities must be involved in all conference planning activities so that their input and expertise will ensure a fully accessible meeting. In the future, before accepting any conference invitations, I will make sure that all events, including the social ones, are fully accessible. Dan Wilkins, poet, graphic designer, and motivational speaker, said it best: A community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all. Rehabilitation professionals, scientists, researchers, and practitioners who earn their living from working with people with disabilities must make people with disabilities their first priority. This begins with accessibility.