I just booked my first flight to present interstate face to face.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my input has been virtual. In fact, whilst I have missed the engagement that seems to take place when I am working face to face with people, I’ve loved the flexibility of presenting in my daggy ugg boots.

Now, in the covid ‘normal’ presenting face to face seems to be the only option! The event organisers want me in flesh! Lockdowns are no more and borders are open! At the moment I can do it, However, I am not sure how much longer this will be possible. It is a lot more physically, emotionally and financially taxing.

I definitely preference engaging live audiences too, so after much deliberating, have decided to take the risk. For me, presenting face to face enables me to mingle again and voice what many other people with a disability may be experiencing. I can ensure that one’s lived experience is included and hopefully forefront in the discussion.

However, I worry that by accepting these invitations, I am endorsing many event organiser’s view that being physically present is the only option to participate, the only means that I can contribute my lived experience.

“Am I in fact excluding those that can’t participate in this capacity?”

I know many people with a disability who can’t accept these face to face opportunities. In fact, they express that they were only able to contribute when the pandemic forced us universally to connect remotely. But now, as we enter the new covid climate, many people who can’t travel or attend face to face events, understandably are feeling jibbed and excluded. Others (myself included) are torn – forgoing their own needs, choosing to face the endless covid, access and disability-related barriers,  in order to participate.

I confess, a big fear of mine, is that invitations will stop (or will exclude any virtual participation) and that I won’t be given the opportunity to advocate.

We have finally enabled so many people who can’t attend face to face events to contribute remotely, so why can’t we continue to use this technology and ensure their participation? Why can’t hybrid participation take place where you can choose how best you can contribute?

Advocacy is so reliant on flexibility and inclusivity!

Perhaps when you plan an event, consider whom you want to include, how you can navigate (or even mitigate) the barriers that may exist for them.

Make their input possible!