Your Opinions Matter

Many articles we encounter in magazines, newspapers, and books are written to inform. This article is different. Although I will provide a little background information, the purpose of this article is to ask what you think and feel about the events described below.

Background

A few months ago, organizers of the National Disability Summit in Melbourne, Australia were highly criticized after a speaker had to be carried onto and off the stage because the stage was not accessible by wheelchair. As you might expect, there were a few disability advocates at the summit who willingly shared their experiences.

Disability activist Jax Jacki Brown said the speaker was “carried on stage by two people.” She and many others questioned why there was no ramp at a disabilities summit. Brown summed up her feelings by saying, “it was appalling to see the speaker wheel herself to the steps where there was no ramp.” Brown, a wheelchair user herself, said the experience showed her there was a long way to go.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that, according to a post by Brown, the “accessible toilet was filled with chairs and used as a storage space in the week leading up to the conference,” and food
provided at the conference was inaccessible to wheelchair users because the food was on top of very high tables.

Later

I was not the only person who was offended by the horrible treatment of people in wheelchairs at a disabilities conference. News of the situation spread quickly, and one day after the event, the organizer of the event, Informa , issued an official apology statement which I pasted below.

Informa Australia apologises for the accessibility issues faced by participants with disabilities at the 2015 National Disability Summit.

We are looking into how and why such incidents could have occurred and we are committed to ensuring that this does not happen again. All procedures are currently under review.

It was our responsibility to ensure that there was ramp access to the stage. A ramp was en route and the decision to proceed without it was made in consultation with the speaker and her carer and she was escorted to the stage by her carer and a registered nurse.

According to its own website, “Informa is Australia’s largest event organiser, organising over 450 events annually. These range from niche training courses, through to high-level conferences and on to large scale exhibitions attracting thousands of attendees.”

Your Opinion Matters

If you were attending a Disability Summit:

  • Would you expect the stage to be wheelchair accessible?
  • Would you be upset if you could not access food provided at the summit because it was served higher than you could reach from a wheelchair?
  • Would you expect to access the bathroom without having to shimmy your way through a maze of stored chairs?
  • Would you expect the stage at a Disability Summit to be wheelchair accessible even if none of the speakers used a wheelchair?
  • Would you be upset if food at a Disability Summit was not accessible to people in wheelchairs even if there was no sign of a person at the Summit in a wheelchair?
  • Does the apology above make everything alright?
  • Would you answer differently if the Disability Summit were held in an area that does not require accessibility?
  • What content would you like to receive at a disabilities conference near you?
  • Which speakers would you like to hear at a disabilities conference near you?
  • How far are you willing to travel for a disabilities conference that has content you want and speakers you want to hear?

 

Please let us know your answers to as many of the questions as you want to answer.

 

We value your opinions.

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Scott Friedman
About Scott Friedman 3 Articles

Prior to his battle with brain cancer, Scott Friedman earned a B.A. degree with a focus on Political Science and Economics; worked as a purchasing manager; volunteered on a rescue squad; earned an M.B.A. degree with concentrations in Finance, Accounting, and Operations; managed projects for one of the world’s largest management consulting firms; and built a consulting firm with clients in seven states. After his brain surgeries, chemo, radiation treatments, numerous therapies, and significant recovery, Scott continued working as a consultant and volunteering. He also earned four professional certifications, and began speaking with individuals and groups about overcoming adversity. Speaking led Scott to start a blog (www.beyondinjury.com) where people can share stories about overcoming their challenges. After blogging for several months, he joined Toastmasters so he could learn to communicate more effectively and provide inspiration to others who face significant hardships. Scott plans to write and publish a book by June 2015.

  • John Todd Petit

    I too am “LIVING” w/TBI, my journey started back in ’92. I was on my way back home from filling-up my “Harley” up w/gas and I was run-down by a hit & run drunk. Well after a month in a drug induced coma, I went to several hospitals for operation’s and then it was off to rehab, I did not care for this at all but deep down inside of me I thought I’ll give this a try, (I had no choice, thanxs Dad & Mom)
    Now I’m living, in my OWN HOME, driving my OWN TRUCK, and getting the $ that I paid into SS, from my 25 years of work. So I’m living good, no wife, but I’m not worried about that..I’m only 50 so I got a few years to live…………. 😎
    6/25/15 @ 4:49PM

  • Bill Fodiak

    I remember attending a multiple sclerosis convention at a fancy hotel in Pittsburgh where they put the tables so close together that it did not allow wheelchair access. Both the organizers and the hotel were at fault.
    People without disabilities seldom think ahead unless you can bring it to their attention before the event.