In this year’s disability lecture, Dr Jessica Boland shared her journey from aspiring ballerina to Senior Lecturer in Functional Materials and Devices at Manchester University in a lecture with the intriguing title of 'Terahertz, Topology and Telecoil Loops: Going beyond standards’. Dr Boland brought together insights from her research in nanomaterials and her lived experience of being a deaf person to highlight some of the changes that have taken place in technology and society. However, there are many barriers to the inclusion of disabled people still in place. Dr Boland explored the support available and shared her thoughts on how progress can be accelerated.
The lecture was organised by Oxford University’s Disability Advisory Group (DAG), with support from the EDU.
Dr Catherine Walter, Chair of the DAG, commented, ‘It was a delight to learn something about nanomaterials and how they can be visualised, from someone with a real gift for making complex ideas understandable to a lay audience. It was also fascinating to learn about Dr Boland’s career path as a deaf person, and her reflections on equity and inclusion in academia. One aspect of the presentation that I also found impressive was the skill with which, in an almost offhand way, Dr Boland made it clear what was on each slide: audience members who could see the slides may not have noticed this, but it made the lecture accessible to blind and visually impaired attendees. As well as being packed with interesting information and food for thought, this lecture was a model of accessible communication.’
You can catch up on this engaging and insightful lecture, in our new podcast episode here:
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
The making of an accessible lecture
To ensure everyone had the opportunity to enjoy and learn from Dr Boland’s lecture, accessibility was a priority.
- Registration included a space to indicate what support audience members needed.
- The venue, (Headley Lecture Theatre at the Ashmolean Museum) welcomed the local audience to a hall with level access, accessible toilets and other accessibility features.
- Online participants joined through Zoom, voted by disabled groups as the most accessible online platform.
- On the night, British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation by members of the Interpreters of Colour Network was available for in person and online audiences.
- Live captioning by 121 Captioning ensured that d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees were included.
This may have been the first lecture at the University of Oxford that has combined a hybrid format, BSL interpretation, and live captioning. The DAG hopes it will be the first of many.
The Ashmolean Events team, the GLAM IT/AV office, and University IT Services all worked hard to make this innovative format work, and to produce a multi-media podcast of the event.
Colleagues who want to make their public events more inclusive and accessible are welcome to contact DAG colleagues for a chat. Email the DAG chair at email@example.com.