On Wednesday, September 14, SEI held an online Community Forum on Accessibility for community members to gather virtually and discuss ideas and concerns. With over 150 people registered, it was clear this topic had great importance to the SE community and leadership was eager to hear their feedback.
Michele Solloway, SEI board chair, welcomed attendees and the two ASL interpreters that joined us for the event. Marv Tuttle, SEI executive director, introduced himself in ASL. A child of deaf parents, accessibility has always been something he has paid close attention to. Following introductions, community members went into four breakout rooms while SEI board, staff, and faculty had a separate room, so that everyone felt comfortable sharing openly. Thank you to Sarit Rogers, Alex Iantaffi, Andrea Gage, and Rhonda Kelloway for providing expert facilitation of the breakout rooms.
In the breakouts, community members were asked to reflect on a few key questions:
- Defining a vision: What do you expect from an organization like SEI when it comes to accessibility? What would you want to see or experience that would indicate to you that this organization cares about all types of bodies and nervous systems?
- Setting priorities: If you could change just one thing about the way SEI operates, its trainings, SE in general, or something else related to this organization in order to make it more accessible to you, what would that be? What are the biggest challenges you face?
- Seeking repair: What do you need SEI, its leaders, or its faculty to know? What do you need to make right any harm, barrier, frustration, etc. you’ve experienced in your interactions with them?
Many themes arose from these conversations, including challenges with training costs, locations, and structures; a desire for more online trainings; and the need to accommodate varied learning styles, neurodivergence, and disabilities. There was also important discussion about integration of these and other equity and diversity topics into the training curriculum. There was a desire for more information and for everyone at SEI to continue to learn and grow.
There was also much discussion about the idea of a healthy nervous system, and what SE says about variation in nervous systems. Community members shared concerns about the word “normal” and how disability symptoms or neurodivergence expressions can be erased, dismissed, or othered. It was said that inclusion is not the same as belonging, and that SEI’s values and principles must be lived out in the training environment and by organizational leadership.
Many recommendations were made, from making ongoing invitations throughout trainings and events to share needs, to having more questions on application forms to identify and support access. Now SEI leadership will take this feedback and work to prioritize changes that can be implemented in the coming months. As part of this process, SEI will launch an Accessibility Subcommittee of the DEI Committee. Anyone who is interested in joining should fill out the Subcommittee Application Form by October 7. If you were unable to attend but have feedback to share, please email email@example.com.
SEI is grateful to all those who attended last week or has shared their feedback on these issues over the last several months. Staff, board, and faculty are eager to incorporate the great ideas and address the concerns that were shared. Stay tuned for what’s ahead!