Date: Monday, June 21, 2021
Category: Member News
Dear RESNA Members,
With our biggest event of the year just around the corner, I want to focus this letter on a topic that is top-of-mind for me and for the RESNA board – inclusion, and what it means for the RESNA community.
As assistive technology professionals, it can be easy to assume that we have inclusion and accessibility covered. After all, our work is all about empowering people with disabilities by giving them more ways to navigate the world. We are well versed in “people first” language by now. Although we approach our work with the goal to include everyone regardless of ability, race, education, background, or specialty, we must bring these same values to everything we do.
As a conference, this includes budgeting for closed captioning of sessions and lower registration fees for attendees from less-resourced countries. It also includes access to conference recordings, which allows attendees to watch sessions again or watch them at a time convenient for them.
As an association, we are focusing on diversity and inclusion that goes beyond events and projects to make a real change in our communities. We are examining our language, our practices, and our values to ensure we are removing bias and creating an inclusive professional experience.
For example, at a recent Board of Directors meeting, we discussed how we as assistive technology professionals relate to our clients and technology end-users. In order to deliver top-notch care and technological innovation, we need to watch for internalized ableism. Our use of phrases we learned in school like “burden of care” implies that caregivers have a negative weight associated with their caregiving. In addition, the term “difficulty” is often associated with disability, but many do not consider their disability to be a “difficulty,” and this is offensive to them.
These ideas also relate to the inclusivity of our profession. We must identify those who would be one of us and creating an environment that welcomes all who would share our vision and mission.
I welcome your thoughts on this topic. There is so much work to do in this area and so much to learn. RESNA is committed to facilitating these conversations and improving our practices to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment. Your ideas are critical to this effort.