- Postgraduate researchers
- Premia- resources for disabled researchers
- Practicalities of completing a doctorate
- In the middle
- Attending conferences
- Enabling conference attendance
Enabling conference attendance
Here is what one postgraduate researcher said about her experience:
‘While my fellow postgraduates write a paper and jump on a train or aeroplane, I have to: arrange funding for and find a non-medical helper willing to come; find and book accessible, often expensive, accommodation; find and arrange an accessible way to get there and ensure that the conference itself will be accessible. Underlying all that is an increasing and rising feeling of dread. At any point something could step in my way and the effort of the previous weeks could pour themselves down the drain.’Postgraduate researcher with a mobility impairment
You will need to prepare carefully. Firstly, you should find out what the various media are for presentations - is it a poster presentation, a workshop or a formal presentation? Secondly, you will usually need to prepare a proposal for the conference organisers and send it to them for evaluation. Thirdly, if your proposal is accepted, then you need to prepare the poster, workshop or presentation. These may well have been covered in your research skills development programme, but you may also need professional advice from, for example, your institution's IT service or AV unit. You should identify and address in good time any disability-related matters so that you can seek funding and confidently negotiate any barriers.
Addressing the issues
For some postgraduate researchers conference attendance presents other barriers. If you think it may be problematic for you, look at the practicalities and the funding together. If you explore in advance what requirements you have and/or what support would enable you to attend a conference, then you can apply for funding under the DSA.
What are the issues?
- Work out what you will require to make it possible for you to attend and participate fully in conferences
- The conference organisers are responsible for making the presentations, workshops, meals and venues accessible to you. Let them know your requirements in advance
- If you are giving a presentation and will require assistance in set or delivering the presentation (e.g. assistive software installed on the PC you will be using, someone to operate the remote control for a PowerPoint presentation, furniture laid out to enable you to lip read questions) inform the organisers so they can ensure this is arranged
- Look at your requirements relating to travel, accommodation and personal assistance
- Talk with your disability adviser and your supervisor(s) about barriers that you have identified and seek support in making attendance possible.
If you have disability-related costs to meet in attending conferences, contact either your research council or the local education authority - whichever provides your DSA. If your initial assessment of requirements has already identified conference attendance, then the funding agency will have advance notice. If you are asking for funding for a conference and that was not covered in your assessment report, you will need to justify costs. Your supervisor or university may be able to provide a letter of support to assist with this.
Benefits of attending conferences
At the beginning of this section, a postgraduate researcher talked about the effort involved in arranging attendance at a conference. However, this did not stop them, the researcher went to attend a number of different conferences and made the follow comment:
‘Attending conferences certainly was a challenge worth all the effort...for two different reasons. The first conference I attended was in Philadelphia - getting the chance to see a bit of the world I'd not seen before and receiving an international perspective on my work was great fun and very rewarding. The second conference was a topic-specific conference and it was the first time I had the chance to listen to and converse with a collected group of people who were all working/interested in my particular area of research. It was a fascinating and inspirational few days.’Postgraduate researcher with physical-mobility impairment (2005)
Meeting the challenges
Most researchers are apprehensive about giving presentations to an international conference audience. GRADschools enable you to look at these barriers and address them. You will find this information in the GRADschool programme.