I spent most of last week at a conference in Westminster, Colorado. I recently have taken on some new responsibilities at my job having to do with making our university and library resources accessible to students with various disabilities. As such it was suggested that I attend this conference that was all about accessibility in higher education. Since I am very new to all of this I thought it would probably be useful for me since I have a lot to learn. It was a much smaller conference than I’m used to attending. There are smaller library conferences, and I have attended some but because of my involvement with committees within the American Library Association I’ve been obligated to attend their 2 conferences every year, which are huge. Thus instead of attending a conference that was 10.000-20,000 people this one was probably 400-500 people. It was really nice to just have the conference in the hotel and not have to schlep back and forth between various hotels and the convention center like I have to do with the ALA conferences. I could easily run back to my room on my breaks, which I really liked.
Most of the people who attend the conference work in disability support services at their institutions, so most of the sessions were aimed at people in that role although there are other people from other areas like IT and libraries in attendance. I did learn a lot. Most of the sessions were interesting even if only a small fraction of the sessions applied directly to my day-to-day job. It definitely opened my eyes to some things that we should be thinking about while reinforcing some of the things we’re already implementing and letting me know we’re on the right track. I also brought back information that I will pass along to be people in our disability support services because even though they aren’t relevant to me I think they will probably be helpful to them.
One thing I found highly amusing about the conference was that I swear if you replaced the word accessibility with the word library you could have been listening to a session at a library conference much of the time. I heard people talking about a lot of the same issues regarding accessibility as I do at library conferences particularly in trying to get support from the institution, budgets, getting faculty on board, etc. The fact that accessibility issues have the force of the law behind them and they’re still dealing with this kind of stuff makes me think libraries will always be fighting an uphill battle, but I guess it’s good to know.
I unfortunately didn’t really get to do anything while I was in Colorado. Westminster is about halfway between Boulder and Denver and without a car it wasn’t like I could easily get to either of those cities to check them out. Not that I would have had much time for that anyway, but at least when you’re right downtown in a city for a conference you can usually find time to duck out for a couple of hours to see some sights. Not so with this conference location. I did get to meet up with some friends while I was out there though, which was great fun. My friends Gary and Claire moved out to Denver from Baltimore earlier this year. It was great to catch up with them over dinner and hear about how life in Colorado is treating them. I also had dinner with my friends Amy and Dakota and their two kids. They moved to Boulder almost 2 years ago. At the time their kids were 1 and 2 and a half. Now they’re 3 and 4 and half. They are super cuties and it was fun to see how big they’ve gotten. It seems like they all are loving their lives in Colorado, which is good since they all picked up and left Baltimore for Colorado for no other reason than that they decided they wanted to live there. I miss having them all in Baltimore, but I’m glad that they are loving the lives that they’ve made for themselves out west. Now don’t any of my other friends get any ideas. None of the rest of you are allowed to leave me.
It was a good trip and I’m glad I went. I don’t know that I’ll choose to go back to the conference any time in the near future, but it was nice to get out of the library world for a little while and check out some of the issues that are affecting other areas of higher education and to see how they’re related to what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis.