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Accessibility, Inclusivity, and Belonging: 8 + Things We Loved About NTEN’s NTC Conference

Melanie and Sarah from the Clear Language Lab here! We were fortunate to be able to attend and present at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in Portland, Oregon last week. We learned so much from everyone there and loved the way that values around accessibility, inclusivity, and belonging were lived out. 

Melanie and Sarah pose under the conference arch that says, "Welcome to the 2024 Nonprofit Technology Conference." Melanie has short curly hair and is holding a bag that says "Literacy is a basic human right." Sarah has short brown hair and wears glasses.
Melanie and Sarah under the arch

Here are 8+ things we wanted to shout out (list not exhaustive):

  1. The seating arrangements: 4 words - universal design in action. We loved that each session room had tables with chairs, chairs alone, high-top standing tables, and exercise ball seats. So many choices for whatever someone might need to best learn in that moment!

  2. The keynote speakers: Each of the days began with a powerful talk from someone leading in the tech space that truly spoke to the values of the conference - and we even got a singalong to “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman on day 2. Amazing!

  3. The lunch menu: For in-person attendees, the lunch menu for the whole conference was online including ingredients and noting vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. Not only was the food on point, but we loved the way they outlined the choices in advance so that folx could know what to expect (hello, trauma-informed practices in action) without having to ask.

  4. The excellent presentations: Not only was there careful consideration by the NTC committee in planning the call for sessions, but the NTEN community could also participate by voting for the sessions they wanted to have at the conference. The sessions that we attended were interesting, relevant, and helpful.

  5. The extracurricular activities: Whether it was creating toys and blankets for shelter animals, a pickleball competition, or the curated seating areas, the conference organizers gave people lots of ways to interact and get to know each other. We never thought we would say that we got to talk about plain language with other professionals while making cat toys, but here we are!

  6. Thoughtful reflection spaces: Not only were there affinity spaces for people of color and LGBTQIA+ folx to decompress, there was also a prayer room, lactation room, and quiet room for people to use as needed. 

  7. How the conference centered accessibility: From a committee of folx with lived experience offering feedback on presentations to the disability access tour of the convention center to the live captioning, we were excited to see the ways these elements were seamlessly integrated into the conference.

  8. Hybrid and virtual sessions: Community members who couldn't make it to Portland for whatever reason could still take part in learning and community building through the stellar sessions and activities online.

Some additional things that really made the experience special: 

  • The Birds of a Feather lunch tables that created genuine opportunities for meaningful (or fun, depending on your mood!) discussions.

  • Daily physical activity breaks, including yoga and lunchtime walks.

  • Complementary tram passes that made it so easy to explore Portland by public transportation (in case you were wondering - yes, we made it to several delicious local restaurants, the Japanese Gardens, and the famous Powell's Books).

To be in community with so many others working toward a more just world was inspiring and gratifying. We hope to continue to explore the questions raised over the next year. No matter what our work, technology is woven into all of our lives, personally and professionally. 

NTC was a great example of what is possible when we center people in experiences. And who knows? Maybe we will catch you at NTC in the future!



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