Communication Matters, the national charity which is part of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC), marks their 30th year at their Annual Conference which will be held at the University of Leeds from Sunday 11th – Tuesday 13th September 2016.
Communication Matters National AAC Conference (CM2016) is the leading annual Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) event and sees over 400 attendees come together to partake in workshops, talks and learn about advances in technology and research. The conference provides an opportunity for representatives from all disciplines associated with AAC to hear about and be part of the latest developments in the field. Platform and poster presentations will cover the areas of Best Practice Research, Clinical & Professional Experience and Personal Stories & Preferences. The conference will open with a 30th Anniversary Tea Party with music from Jive Duo, a Leeds-based Jazz duo, followed by the CM’s Got Talent Final with three competing video performances.
MEETinLEEDS, the conference office for the University of Leeds, will be providing event space for the conference, including the supplier exhibition which will be held in Parkinson Court. The University is also providing accommodation at the University’s flagship campus accommodation, Storm Jameson Court halls of residence which carries the highest possible accreditation under all categories of the National Accessible Scheme (NAS), with 20 fully accessible bedrooms (and the Gold Award for Sustainable Green Tourism).
The keynote speakers at this year’s conference are AAC user and international best-selling author of Ghost Boy, Martin Pistorius, and Dr Angharad Beckett, Associate Professor of Political Sociology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds. In addition to the educational and exhibition elements of the conference, each year the Alan Martin Award is made to an AAC user who has made a significant contribution to the Creative Arts. The Award, first presented in 2013 was established to honour and commemorate Alan Martin who worked for the inclusion of all people within the arts regardless of their disability.
The conference is now into its fourth year at the university, with the charity’s main office being based in Leeds since 2015. The charity is now looking to encourage local AAC users to become members of Communication Matters. They are also looking for interest from both the public and private sectors in the city to become involved in and support initiatives such as the ‘Communication Access for All’ project, where CM will train local businesses in appropriate interactions with AAC users.
Speaking ahead of CM2016, Ruth Mcmorran, Deputy Chair of Communication Matters said:
“Communication Matters is looking forward to holding our annual conference at the University of Leeds in September 2016 for the fourth time. The layout of the campus at Leeds is ideal for us with the residential accommodation, refectory, exhibition area, lecture theatres and seminar rooms all located close together. Many of our delegates are wheelchair users and the site is easily navigated and provides accessible routes to all buildings. The MEETinLEEDS team work extremely hard to ensure that each conference is better than the one before.”
Harriet Boatwright, Sales and Marketing Manager at University of Leeds commented:
“Working alongside Communication Matters for the last 4 years has given MEETinLEEDS the opportunity to embrace and understand the specific requirements of the conference and the delegates in attendance.
The nature of the campus and flexibility of the venues is such that each year we are able to map out a conference site that meets the needs of the event and offers an exceptional space to host the attendees of the event, who we are delighted to have as a regular visitors to the University of Leeds.“
The University’s campus is alive with visitors from far and wide during the summer months, attracted by the numerous conferences and events that are hosted by MEETinLEEDS.
“Contrary to the idea that the University is quiet from late June to mid-September, it’s an incredibly busy time for us,” says Harriet Boatwright from MEETinLEEDS. “This year, the summer conference season saw over 25,000 people attend conference and events activities on campus, and an equal number of ‘bed nights’ spent on campus and Devonshire Hall.
“MEETinLEEDS are here to help our schools and faculties attract and deliver exceptional conferences, and we can offer full facilities and expert support – whatever’s needed, we’ll do our best to make sure it happens.”
This year’s events included the British Neuro-Oncology Society conference; Crystal Growth of Organic Materials 2016; the International Kansei Engineering & Emotion Research Conference; Think Ahead – the new fast-track programme for exceptional graduates to become mental health social workers; the Communication Matters National AAC Conference (CM2016); WES – the Work, Employment and Society Conference – and, of course, the International Medieval Congress (IMC). Have a peek at the short video of the “Battle of the Vikings”, which took place as part of the IMC “Making Leeds Medieval” event. A variety of educational engagement activities and summer schools also took place.
“Some of the statistics are amazing and will give people an idea of the scale of the events we have,” continues Harriet. “During the IMC we provided 4,000 breakfasts, 1,100 lunches, 940 evening meals, and drink receptions for over 1,000 people. The Teach First event – which we hosted in partnership with Leeds Beckett University and First Direct Arena – saw over 4,300 attendees visit Leeds over two days.”
The MEETinLEEDS team has one big, final conference to organise before the academic year begins. “We’ll be welcoming 800 delegates to the British Education Research Association (BERA) conference in mid-September,” says Harriet. “BERA is a member-led charity that champions the best of educational research and aims to build momentum within and beyond the field. The three-day conference attract around 1,000 national and international delegates representing a wide range of academics, policy makers and practitioners, all with a strong interest in educational research. I’m sure that some colleagues from the University will be attending.”
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