October 28, 2020

Bringing Inclusion Practices Into Planning for Academic Conferences

The practice of requiring everyone to be included is commonplace in elementary through high school, but once you’re in higher education, it starts to become ‘your role’ to ensure your needs are met. Moving that into academic conferences is an even more difficult task, but the idea of bringing inclusion into the planning for these meetings is not only ethical, it’s also legally required.

The world is full of diversity, and at a young age, we’re taught to begin including people into our circles and accepting them regardless of our differences. Especially in the United States, this diversity is drilled into us as early as preschool and elementary school. Teachers must follow laws, procedures, and regulations on how to bring inclusion practices into their classrooms and ensure they are not discriminating against anyone based on things like race, sex, ethnicity, or disabilities.

Once students begin to reach the levels of higher education, the onus seems to fall more on them to make sure their needs are met. Although the rules and laws still apply, the enforcers step back and let the individual seek out their own way to ensure their needs are being looked after by those who are supposed to be in charge. This is visible in higher institutions in things such as academic conferences. Holding an academic conference is a requirement for many students to obtain their graduate courses, but bringing inclusion into the planning is not only ethically correct, it can become a matter of legal issues if you’re not careful.

What is Inclusion In General?

The idea and practice of an inclusive education give all students the right to be fully accepted as part of their schools and community equally. Their education settings and surroundings should be the same as those who have no disabilities when it’s appropriate for it to be so. This philosophy has been around for more than three decades, turning inclusive schools from the minority to the majority and making sure inclusion is one of the main foundations of every school and classroom.

Even with federal legislation and guidelines, though, this practice is still ambiguous in places. Because “inclusion” itself isn’t wholly understood by everyone, it can keep students from being able to make progress, prevent families from aiding their loved one in further success, and cause obstacles for the educators who are trying to, or supposed to be trying to, help them.

Legal Measures to Enforce Inclusion in Academics

Educators are familiar with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), signed into law in 2002. This law brought into the classroom the principles in which inclusion took off from, such as holding schools and teachers accountable for the results of their students, emphasizing using practices that work rather than scientific research, and bringing in greater parental involvement and opportunities for them to learn how to help their children. The goals of NCLB were to raise the academic achievement of every student, work on closing achievement gaps between those groups that traditionally performed low and their higher-achieving counterparts, and these lower-performing groups often include those with disabilities.

Moving beyond NCLB, the IDEA Act, or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, takes this even further by working to ensure that every school, district, and state offer appropriate free public education to those with disabilities. Any child with a recognized disability has the right to an individualized education program (IEP) that outlines a framework of how to help the child participate in the same classroom and curriculum as all non-disabled children. This act is where the term ‘least restrictive environment’ stemmed from and is the source educators and experts turn to for explanations of how to understand and put into practice these guidelines, as well as the legal interpretations of them when questions and misunderstandings arise.

Tips to Bring Inclusion Into Your Academic Conference Planning

It is these two main legal documents that you must be sure you’re referring to when you plan your academic conferences. Even though you are not the instructor, it falls to you to ensure everyone is included and gets the same information from your conference.

To help you do so, follow these tips:

●      Plan a site that is accessible to those with disabilities.

●      Choose dates that don’t overlap holidays, including those celebrated by minority groups.

●      Ensure your speakers and presentation include representation of a diverse group of people.

●      Use multiple mediums and formats to ensure you are including a wide range of potential concerns, such as hard-of-hearing or visually impaired attendees.

Incidents of discriminatory behavior may happen, no matter how hard to plan to avoid them. If they do, clearly state how you will address the issue and that you do not support discriminatory actions or attitudes.

Tags Academic Conference Academics Researchers
Jason Collins
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.

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