In a recent post, I enumerated occasions on which I have, in some way, contested the inaccessibility and ableism of the American Philosophical Association (APA) and indicated how the APA has responded to such interventions. I pointed out, for instance, that in an email exchange that took place a couple of weeks ago, an exchange in which I asked if microphones would be available for the symposium on my book and in all other sessions at the upcoming Pacific APA, the Executive Director of the APA claimed that the association cannot afford to provide microphones in all of the sessions that take place at its conferences due to its “limited budget.” As the CEO of the APA explained, furthermore, the association provides microphones at its meetings only for sessions in rooms that hold more than 100 people.
This stipulation probably seems reasonable to many, perhaps most, members of the APA. After all, resources are finite and most philosophy professors have developed the skill of projecting their voices to the back of lecture halls, haven’t they? What’s the big deal about microphones anyway? Isn’t it an unnecessary expense to provide microphones in most of the rooms in which sessions at APA conferences take place? Some of which rooms are not even large enough to turn around if one uses a wheelchair?
The question of whose requirements and what requirements are considered “basic” and whose requirements and what requirements are considered an “added (and gratuitous) expense” notwithstanding, the stipulation that microphones need be used only in rooms of a certain size and capacity misunderstands what accessibility requires.
If the APA is to become more inclusive of disabled philosophers, the people who occupy positions of decision making and leadership in the association must become better informed about accessibility, ableism, and the distinct forms of hostility, bias, and exclusion that disabled people in general and disabled philosophers and other disabled academics in particular confront. Diversity work that ignores these variables, relies on outdated resources, refuses to entertain critical feedback, and so on in order to present a semblance of inclusivity is surely counterproductive, if not futile. Perhaps the staff of the APA and the divisional officers should take part in an accessibility training course run by community leaders or organize skill-building sessions at upcoming conferences in order to become educated about these issues (among others).
In the meantime, I have copied below links to a video and an article that provide valuable information for conference and workshop organizers, department chairs, and others who want to learn more about why it is important to provide microphones for a variety of events, regardless of who is speaking and in what space.
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