Ecologist in silico: Facilitating access for chronically ill/disabled ecologists
Increasing accessibility for chronically ill/disabled scientists also improves accessibility for researchers who are unable to travel to events for other reasons (lack of funds, distance, etc.). I present recommendations to encourage ecology to become a more accessible discipline to those with chronic illnesses/disabilities, from a general perspective and on the scale of individual collaborations.
From a general perspective, one way of creating and maintaining accessibility in ecology is by providing accommodation information with a workshop, conference, or seminar announcement, including what accommodations are and are not possible for workshops, and what those accommodations might be. While integrating accessibility information into a workshop announcement is not challenging, it seems to be difficult for organizers to know what to include if they have not been exposed to these issues before. I created an accessibility statement generator to remove some of the difficulty by providing a simple tool to automatically create an accessibility statement based on a few questions, which can then be copied and pasted into an email or flier announcing the event.
On the scale of individual collaborations, using collaborative technology, such as version control, teleconferencing, and programming have been valuable tools that have allowed me to remain an active scientist.
It is possible to be an active scientist with a chronic illness/disability (physical or mental) with the willingness and support of the scientific community at large to provide accommodations (things like physical access for the mobility impaired, hearing/visual impairment access, if the talk will be broadcast or recorded for later, remote participation). Accessibility can and should also include accommodations for other situations (e.g. lactation facilities, dietary options). Thinking about accessibility requirements during the planning stages of events and making accessibility information available in event announcements without a chronically ill/disabled colleague having to request access is important in keeping events accessible and inclusionary.
First, providing information on what accommodations are possible or not possible can make the difference between someone being able to attend, and expending all of their available energy determining if it will even be possible for them to attend.
Second, it sends the message that people who have special requirements are an important part of the planning process.
Third, the use of collaborative tools removes barriers to working remotely with other ecologists, which is a benefit to chronically ill/disabled researchers as well as able-bodied scientists.