I happen to be one of the hundreds of millions of human beings on Earth who have disabilities. I created this web page to help event organizers at university, public, and private venues accommodate me without any hiccups, embarrassments, or dramas. I hope you find it suitably informative.
If you are an event organizer, please read the section
How to accommodate me below. My disabilities are not curable, so the information provided here has no expiry date.
If you are curious to know more about the nature of my disabilities, you may read this. Please do not abuse the trust I have placed in you by sharing this information here. Thank you.
If you would like to learn more about how to be consistently welcoming to people with disabilities, I recommend the terrific pamphlet on Disability Etiquette by the United Spinal Association of America. You might also be interested to read Hidden Disability and an Academic Career by Elaine M. Beretz and an editorial I wrote on disability in academia for the APS CSWP/COM Gazette, Spring 2012.
Getting chairs, food, and accessibility right makes all the difference between me being able to participate and not being able to participate in your event.
At a physics/university event, I need (1) a reserved top-quality chair, (2) digestible food, and (3) barrier-free accessibility. At a multi-day physics/university event, I also need (4) a decent bed at a relatively quiet hotel which can receive shipped luggage and maps showing barrier-free entrances. At a local party with friends, I just need a high-backed chair with soft surfaces and some advice beforehand about likely food and drinks so I can plan ahead. Please see below for specifics. Thanks!
Most chairs are not comfortable enough for me to sit on them for more than a few minutes, even on a good pain day. At a professional event, I need to sit on a high-backed adjustable ergonomic office chair with all of the following six properties. At a local party with friends, the first two are usually sufficient. In order of importance, the six requirements are:-
If your institution/organization/group/company does not have a chair that satisfies all of the above six requirements, please contact me by email with pictures and specifications of the best high-quality ergonomic office chairs you do have, so that I can evaluate suitability. It is imperative that this be done well in advance of the event, because organizing a special ergonomic chair on short notice typically produces poor results.
Note: Access to an electrical power outlet is also helpful, as it allows running a small medical heating blanket, significantly enhancing my ability to sit for extended periods. If this is not possible, alert me so I can bring one-use heat wraps instead.
Most caterers are not experienced at cooking for folks with functional gut disorders like IBS (e.g. they have rarely heard of a low-FODMAP diet). I have faced epic hassles trying to negotiate food logistics with organizers of work-related events, and have got to the point where the social exclusion outweighs the pleasure I get from eating. If you would like to be more welcoming to my gut, here are some guidelines for food and drinks.
Because my shoulders have limited power, heavy doors into and within buildings should have electric push-button door openers. For the same reason, I do not carry a backpack or satchel but instead use a rolling briefcase. Therefore, all venues should be
wheelchair accessible - with user-driven door and elevator access - and without interference from snow or ice in winter. This is especially important for accommodation locations, because moving luggage around is exquisitely painful for me.
Please note: in over 50% of recent business trips, I have ended up stranded outside the event building unable to enter on the first day, because accessible entrances were not checked to ensure that they were working and barrier-free as advertised. It can take maintenance departments several weeks to fix disabled accessible entrance machinery, so it is important to check several weeks ahead.
If your event is multi-day, it is important that your organizer allocates me accommodation with a decent bed. Even if the bed is decent, I still have to bring my own special pillow and mattress pad. Mattress pads are bulky and awkward, so I mail one to the location ahead of arrival and junk it afterwards. I also mail my luggage. Please get your organizer person to give me the mailing address for the hotel months before the event.
Please also provide me with detailed maps ahead of time showing designated accessible entrances with push-button door openers -- to all buildings, meeting rooms, and food venues.
Never assume that you know what life as a person with disabilities is like. The truth is, you probably have no idea. If you are unsure about my constraints or needs, then please ask me (contact details here). Please do take the time to read this entire page first, though.
Thank you for your attention.