Accessible conference design

AGOSCI National Conference 2019

Key facts

Event: AGOSCI National Conference 2019

Dates: 28-31 August 2019

Venue: Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre

Attendees: 401

Background:

1.2 million people in Australia live with a communication difficulty. AGOSCI, formerly known as Australian Group on Severe Communication Impairment, has a vision to support those people by helping “people with complex communication needs participate fully in all aspects of life”. The 14th biennial AGOSCI National Conference welcomed members including people with complex communication needs, family members and carers, teachers, speech pathologists and more.

Challenges:

In order to fulfil AGOSCI’s vision, the Conference had to be completely accessible for people of all abilities. This would require an understanding of the delegate requirements and challenges, as well as a complete redesign of the traditional conference format.

Solutions:

Designing a conference without limitations required two things; one, a true understanding of the challenges for people with disabilities and two, a revolution of the traditional conference format. As appointed PCO, Arinex, together with staff from Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre (PCEC) and AV Partners, undertook Communications Access Training by SCOPE to ensure appropriate communication channels were in place for people of all needs. That included translating key documents into Easy English, production of conversation cards and having trained Arinex and PCEC staff wear identifiable badges bearing the communication access icon. To break down access barriers so delegates could attend the Conference, we looked closely at every design element and identified potential challenges before creating   solutions. Sweeping changes were made to the Conference format and floorplan, including lower height tables; wider aisles for wheelchair use; specially designated quiet rooms and change rooms for stretching and time out; food blending stations at catering breaks and more.

Outcomes:

All delegates, including 20 people with complex needs (17 wheelchair users), were able to attend the Conference without limitations. This included keynote speaker 19-year-old Joey Harrall who has cerebral palsy and spoke through an AAC system.  Arinex and PCEC staff’s compassion and attention-to-detail resulted in a 97% satisfaction rating from delegates and led to our re-appointment as PCO for the following Conference in Hobart. The exhibition was oversold many times over, achieving a new sponsorship target never before seen in an AGOSCI Conference.

This was the most emotionally rewarding conference we have delivered. We walked away inspired by the people who face such challenges yet are so happy and intelligent (and humorous). It is not hard to have a conversation with someone who has a communication disability, you just need to give it a go. We learned a lot and we are better people for it.”

Kellee Butterworth

Project Manager, Arinex

I just want to say a big thanks to Arinex for all your work with the AGOSCI Conference. But mostly, thank you for your willingness to learn about what AGOSCI is all about and our people with complex communication needs. The time you took to listen, do things differently, attend a couple of sessions and chat to delegates didn’t go unnoticed. So many delegates and exhibitors commented on how welcoming the Conference felt, so thanks again.”

Amy Litton

Link Assisstive, Exhibitor and AGOSCI 2019 Committee Member