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Originally scheduled to take place in March 2020, From Access to Inclusion, an Arts and Culture Summit pioneered by Arts & Disability Ireland in collaboration with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Office of VSA and Accessibility was rescheduled following a reconceptualisation of the initial event.
Using ingenuity, technology and collaboration, the organisers moved quickly to migrate what would have been an in person event with hundreds of attendees and participants into the online sphere. There were numerous considerations in doing so, the utmost importance being placed on ensuring that accessibility remained at the forefront of the event. Despite the event now being hosted online this was to be a celebration of the strides towards equality and inclusion for people with disabilities the world over. A celebration of success within the sector, personal achievements, and positivity.
Sile Stewart was the event manager behind the summit and was charged with realising the potential of the event within a new virtual space. She explains the background behind From Access to Inclusion, highlighting why it was important to her to find a virtual events partner which understood the specificities and complexities of the project.
Originally planned as an in person event due to take place in May 2020, we postponed the event to March 2021 and adapted the programme to become a virtual Summit. Spread across 3 weeks, the Summit featured 3 event strands including a launch, 3 day Symposium, Workshops, Evening events and a closing celebration. With over 1,193 registered across all our events, we more than doubled our original numbers and welcomed delegates from the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Canada, Romania, Mexico and beyond. All of whom added to the international conversations on access and inclusion in arts and culture.
Following extensive research into the online platforms available, particularly focusing accessibility, usability, customisation, and functionality, we selected Eventcube to provide ticketing, production, broadcasting and video on-demand services. Working closely with Eventcube, we delivered an ambitious Symposium with 27 presenters, 14 networking rooms, 5 discussion panels and 2 keynotes, a launch and a closing celebration, all of which featured integrated access services.
Watch the From Access to Inclusion Official Launch.
There were numerous technical challenges and learning opportunities for both Sile, Arts & Disability Ireland and ourselves throughout the process. Much of this came in the way in which we made the event as accessible and easy to use as possible by people of all backgrounds with varying needs. It's these sort of challenges which inspired and focussed our team to create a virtual event which was truly unique and representative of a community who have had to fight for visibility, equal opportunities and inclusion at every level. Sile explains:
Incorporating access seamlessly into each Symposium session was essential for the success of the event and we collaborated with Eventcube to identify the best way to integrate a range of access services including live speech to text (CART), Irish, British and American sign language and audio described introduction and end looping videos providing important information and acknowledgements.
The complexity of the access integration took a great deal of work and generosity from Eventcube and our other vendors as we tested various approaches to find the best possible solution with the technology available.
It presented us with the unique chance to push the boundaries of existing technologies, to challenge the current online norms and to showcase the highest possible standards of access services in a virtual environment.
Prior to the Summit, like many others, we had successfully delivered a range of webinars and online info clinic's however we had never attempted anything at this scale in an online context.
Eventcube's expertise and knowledge was critical in the development, planning, and delivery stages. We had many discussions about the ways in which we could integrate and deliver access services while ensuring a professional high quality and easy to watch experience for our delegates and presenters.
The summit took place between the 9th and 25th of March earlier this year with Arts & Disability Ireland forming and collaborating on a unique partnership with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Office of VSA and Accessibility, Washington, D.C.
Across the course of several days participants joined from around the world to watch performances, engage in panel discussions, connect with others and learn more about the advancement of new practises within the arts and culture sector. This all inclusive event emphasised and highlighted the potential of accessible technology and its power to connect audiences worldwide. Described as a completely new frontier for Arts & Disability Ireland it challenged the preconceptions of accessible live streaming and offered great hope for a more equitable and inclusive future.
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