Disability, Occupational Therapy

Reflecting on Royal College of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference 2022 – Blog 1 The Online Platform.

Acknowledgment –  This blog post is a personal opinion piece of initial thoughts after attending conference, with an aim of being a critical friend, often just asking questions I have yet to determine the answer, if indeed there is an answer. This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled Accessibility menu that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessible needs. This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Firstly I want to reflect on the platform itself, I did not attend last years conference so I’m unsure how it compares.  This year RCOT conference was held on line over 2 days 14th & 15th June 2022. At a cost of £99 to members less for students. Also regional committees, specialist sections and those in steering groups had access to a small number of free tickets to use as they saw fit. I accessed a free ticket via my region, which was agreed as I was co facilitating a round table event.

Having access before and for 6 months after is great.  Being able to go back at recall a thought – you can’t do that face to face. I was able to familiarise myself with the platform and there was videos to explain how to use everything which was useful.  The headings were clear and I found the site easy to navigate.  

I loved the chat features, being able to see the audiences response as the presentation was happening adds so much richness,  and is something you don’t get in a face to face conference.  I especially loved the green hearts and ability to ask questions throughout the presentations, lest daunting than putting your hand up in a pact room?

Accessibility was thought about, although there is always room for improvement. The ability to have captions really helps me focus on what is being said.

Chat rooms were useful but I wanted the ability to either ask for a subject to be added or create one,  The RCOT hub could have been more interactive to help networking opportunities, as Chair for RCOT North and Yorkshire Committee I would have liked a easy way to connect with any OT’s in the region.  

There is so much a I miss about meeting face to face, the networking, very much the social element of conference as been the reason I have gone back year on year. The ability to focus solely on conference, rather than the distractions of your home or work environment.

But perhaps what is best for the membership to get access to this rich resource, and lets face it in the 40 plus years conference has ran, it has been only been accessed by the same privileged few in positions of power with access to money and time to get away from home and work. I acknowledge here that is not the case for all, and there are many that have attended because of there love for the profession and there for priorities the cost for them. I include myself in this, over the years I have self funded, being funded by my employer or by the college when I have been involved in regional groups.

Someone said to me they would never attend conference, when I asked why, although this person is a practising OT, they did not see this as a place they belonged. I may have been blunt in my description of the usual suspect that often attended year on year, White, middle class women, in leadership roles within the profession or working within academia. (I may have also said with their twin set of pearls)

I say this in the full knowledge of what you see isn’t necessarily what it seems. I know my mother will not mind me using her as an example, by the time she was attending conferences regularly she was in leadership positions with the NHS, a well educated middle class women with a home. Her background however, Born to an Irish father who she lost age 5 and a uneducated working class English mother, growing up in Paddington London in a two room flat, housing 2 children, her mother and grandmother who did not leave her bed, becoming a mother herself at a young age. It wasn’t until her late 20’s that she finial have the means and opportunity to attend university after passing an IQ test. I acknowledge that being white and from a stable family, that supported her gave her privilege.

So why does this person not believe conference is for them?

What is the point of conference?

To allow those with the means to meet up, share ideas, drink wine, enjoy the sun? Trust me for some reason the sun is always shining when its RCOT conference, wether down in Brighton, up in Scotland, near home in Harrogate, or over in Northern Ireland and even this week although on line the sun is out. Someone or thing clearly approves of Occupational Therapy?

Or is the point to make waves, use the research, practise, platform and opportunities conference gives to provide a better experiences for those accessing occupational therapy? Can we really get that from returning to a yearly event held face to face with the same people in attendance?

For me conference has never been accessible for the membership, and why not?

Does a future using online opportunities give us the most inclusive, powerful way to enhance and equipped occupational therapist with the right tools to make change and a difference to those using our services?

A challenge perhaps can this be free to the membership, can you imagine what impact that might have?

I am yet to make my mind up and would love to hear from others.

I have more refections to come and will post them as I finish them. I would also recommend checking out RCOT Highlighted of conference here . Also remember for your continuing professional development its important to evidence your learning. One way to does this is to use RCOT’s 5 min reflection tool or even the Equity, Diversity and Belonging reflection tool