1. General Principles
1.1. Why should your events be inclusive?
Philosophy is for everyone. Philosophical method and practice is not the exclusive realm of any person(s) or group(s). Particularly in the context of professional academic conferences and events in philosophy, no-one with an interest or expertise in the area of an event should be excluded. But there are invisible walls around our events; structural barriers that work to exclude some from speaking or attending. These walls are rarely built or maintained intentionally within the modern academy. Some behavioural norms and traditional methods of event organising lay the bricks. Even with the best intentions, an organiser may not know where to look to improve the inclusiveness of their events, because most members of our community simply do not see or experience these walls. You only experience a structural barrier when it impedes your progress; when it stops you, slows your movement, changes your direction. As Sara Ahmed (2012: 174) put it:
To those that do not come up against it, the wall does not appear – the institution is lived and experienced as being open, committed, and diverse.
This is why it’s important to consider the experiences of others in designing our events. It’s important to design events whilst paying careful attention to how your actions as organisers (intentional or not) may lessen accessibility,
and to consider alternative ways of organising.
Designing an event to be inclusive is to design an event to be equally accessible to all. It is not about providing favourable conditions for any member(s) of any group(s). It is not about recreating the walls so that they affect other people. Rather it is about providing equal footing for all members of our community by bypassing or mitigating the structural barriers (e.g., implicit bias, poorly accessible venues etc.) that routinely act against members of some groups. It is about carefully dismantling the walls that exist, brick by brick. With fairness in mind, the existence of these barriers is reason enough to change how we approach event organising, to try and tackle these problems.
If the organisation of inclusive events becomes habitual, this is one step on the road to making our discipline more accessible to all, and in so doing improving the diversity of our profession.
These are our events. This is our community. Let’s make a better future together.
1.2. The role of these guidelines
This guide is intended to show organisers of academic philosophy events some concrete steps they can take to make their events more inclusive to all potential speakers and attendees. The second section contains detailed examination of the potential strategies and structures that may be deployed for this purpose. This is followed by sections that offer further resources, and appendices including draft calls for abstracts, papers, and registration carefully worded for inclusivity.
Unfortunately, it is never possible for a static resource to be fully exhaustive over time, nor is it possible to model a perfect conference in these pages. It may also not be easy (nor possible in some circumstances) to meet every one of these recommendations. But our intention is to demonstrate that working with inclusivity in mind and incorporating these recommendations into ordinary practice will make events better for all members of our philosophical community.
So, we encourage event organisers to be creative in looking for solutions to any issues which undermine inclusivity, and to aim to surpass, rather than just meet, these recommendations. If you find yourself consistently unable to meet any of these recommendations, you might consider looking at your departmental processes and/or provisions at a higher level, so that future organisers are able to do so.
We would also like to add to, and improve this guide as time goes on. If you (whether you’re an event organiser, a person faced by accessibility difficulties, or both) have any ideas for how to improve this resource, then please share them with us by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1.3 Recurring themes
These guidelines give a lot of detail regarding the measures you might take to increase inclusivity in your event, and why you might take them. There are seven themes that clearly run through all of our recommendations. You can use these broad themes to guide you in moving beyond the recommendations in these guidelines, or as a quick reminder of the things you could do to improve your event(s).
Give more time
e.g., allow for flexibility in scheduling; more time to consider questions; regular rest breaks; more time to review event materials before, during and after the event;
Give more space
e.g., provide a quiet room; ensure proportionate speaking slots; create an online ‘space’ to view and comment on sessions;
Maximise resource access
e.g., provide more formats of literature as standard (for example, online and large-print versions); ensure you have the capacity to incorporate additional formats (for example, braille); provide links to online content on physical literature (QR codes);
e.g., give all information to potential participants as soon as possible (including accessibility information); provide information in multiple venues and formats; maximise the data you have on venues and capacities to provide resources;
Budget for accessibility
e.g., consider incorporating costs for childcare, public transport, participant expenses, requested literature formats and personalised accommodations into your overall budget;
e.g., book early to ensure accessible venues and secure ready availability of accessibility information
Incorporate inclusivity into your standard processes
e.g., reconsider any aspect of your organising you consider ‘automatic’ or ‘habitual’; consider revising your process for reviewing submissions and finalising the schedule; invite more people from marginalised groups to be speakers and highly value their commitment to your event; be proactive in incorporating inclusivity into your decision-making;
We hope that these guidelines act as a good primer for how to increase the inclusivity of your event. And we hope our recommendations are helpful in organising your event.