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Summary

I happen to be one of the hundreds of millions of human beings on Earth who have long-term disabilities. I created this web page to help event organizers at university, public, and private venues accommodate my disabilities without any hiccups, embarrassments, or dramas. I hope you find it suitably informative.

If you are an event organizer, please skip to How to accommodate me below.

If you are curious to know more about the nature of my disabilities, you may read my disclosure page. Please do not abuse the trust I have placed in you by sharing this information here; thank you. You may also read my how to wrangle my disabilities page if you are a student, junior coworker, or colleague.

If you would like to learn more about how to be consistently welcoming to people with disabilities, I can recommend the terrific pamphlet on Disability Etiquette by the United Spinal Association of America. You might also be interested to read an article on 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.

How to accommodate me

I have (co-)organized enough conferences, workshops, and social events in my time to know how the associated workload feels. Accordingly, I never ask event organizers for unnecessary disability accommodations. The information below is a distillation of over fifteen years of hard experience. Taking it seriously will make all the difference between me being able or unable to participate fully in your event.

At a single-day professional event, I need (1) a reserved top-quality chair, and (2) barrier-free accessibility. At a multi-day professional event, I also need (3) a decent bed at a relatively quiet hotel which can receive shipped luggage, and (4) maps showing barrier-free entrances to all venues and the locations of all-gender restrooms. At a local social event with friends, I just need a high-backed chair with soft surfaces and a picture of it ahead of time so that I can plan ahead. Please see below for specifics. Thanks!

1: Chair

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:-

  1. High back: at least 26in/66cm high.
  2. No hard surfaces pressing on shoulder blades.
  3. Adjustable seat height and seat tilt.
  4. Adjustable arm rests.
  5. Adjustable lumbar support.
  6. Sturdy five-wheel base.

For reference: the chair I use in my own office is an ergoCentric tCentric Hybrid high-back model.

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 highest-quality tall-backed ergonomic office chairs that you do have, so that I can evaluate suitability. It is imperative that this be done at least a month in advance of the event, because trying to organize a special ergonomic chair on short notice typically produces poor results.

Please also let me know at least two weeks in advance whether I will be able to access an electrical outlet where I will be sitting. Power is important because it allows running a small medical heating blanket, significantly enhancing my ability to sit for extended periods. Otherwise, I will bring single-use heat wraps instead.

2: Barrier-free accessibility: doors/elevators

Because my shoulders have very limited power, I need any heavy doors into and within buildings to have electric push-button door openers. Ideally, all venues including accommodations should be wheelchair accessible, with user-driven door/elevator access, and without interference from snow or ice in winter. Please let me know whether this is the case in advance, so that I can plan my briefcase/luggage choices accordingly.

Note: accessible door and elevator mechanisms should be checked several weeks in advance of the event to ensure that they are actually working and barrier-free as advertised. It can take maintenance departments weeks rather than days to fix broken accessible entrance machinery if custom parts have to be ordered.

3: Bed

If your event is multi-day, it is important that I am allocated accommodation with a decent bed. Even if the bed is decent, I still have to bring my own special pillow and usually also a mattress pad. Mattress pads are bulky and awkward, so I mail one to the location ahead of arrival. I also ship my suitcase. If the mailing address for the hotel is not listed on the conference/workshop website, please email it to me at least six weeks in advance of the event.

4: Maps

Please provide me with detailed maps for all meeting venues, meals included, showing (a) designated accessible entrances with push-button door openers, and (b) all-gender restrooms. This information is also vital for my planning and is needed at least two weeks in advance.

Questions?

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. Thanks!

[Some Ecard humour: You've got it backwards actually - I'm faking being WELL!]

[smiley face]