Monthly Archives: April 2014

2014 Conference FAQ

WHAT IS AACC?

The Association for Autistic Community is putting on our first conference, the Association for Autistic Community Conference (AACC).  Association for Autistic Community is a non-profit organization that has applied for 501(c)(3) status.

This conference is designed with autistic people’s needs and concerns in mind. It is not a caregiver or service provider conference. While we believe parents and care givers can enjoy and benefit from this conference, the primary audience – without compromise – is autistic people ourselves. We want a space where we can share our unique culture, experience, and interaction style.

It’s a place to:

  • Meet new friends
  • Learn about yourself
  • Listen to interesting presentations about life from an autistic point of view
  • Take a break from a world that makes no accommodation for autistic people
  • Celebrate being autistic
  • Be yourself!

There is no forced march or forced program you need to follow. Don’t want to go to a presentation? Don’t! Don’t want to socialize? Don’t! This is not a “day program”, and we’re not going to try to cure you.

The two primary activities at the conference will be the presentation program and in-person interaction. The presentations will feature a variety of speakers will talk about topics relevant to autistic adults – how to live in a neurotpycial world, how to minimize stress in your life, what is going on politically with the autistic rights movement, and other topics of interest to autistic people. There will be seriousness and humor mixed in an interesting way.

The interaction element is critical and one of the main reasons Association for Autistic Community was founded. We believe there is something wonderful about autistic people meeting other autistic people and learning not only do we have much in common, but we also have interesting diversity among each other. This isn’t a social skills program or forced socialization, but rather a chance to see what other autistic people might think or be like. It can be an amazing experience to meet someone who just “gets” things that you have to explain to others. Equally, it’s fascinating to learn how diverse autistic people are – and that we have a lot of interesting diversity in our midst.

HOW TO CONTACT US:

WHEN / WHERE?

This event will be held July 28th (starting in the late afternoon) and running through August 1 lunch time), 2014.

It will be held at the California University of Pennsylvania – http://www.calu.edu/

The name of the school is confusing. It is in the state of PENNSYLVANIA, just south of Pittsburgh.

FORMAL PROGRAM

We are still finalizing our formal program, but we are happy to announce the presentations selected for our 2014 conference – See 2014 AACC Presentations

HOW DO I REGISTER?

Registration information is available at this page.

WHEN DOES REGISTRATION CLOSE?

Registration closes on JUNE 28, 2014.

AUTISTIC SPACE

1) How are autistic sensory needs considered?

We work to minimize noise in common areas, minimize use of fluorescent lighting (unfortunately we can’t eliminate it at this venue, but presentation spaces will not use any fluorescent lighting), have policies about scented personal care products, encourage people to take care of their sensory needs (it’s okay to wear earplugs or sunglasses indoors here!), etc. Even clapping is different – you’ll see us FLAPPING, not clapping! The organizers are autistic ourselves so we share many of these concerns with you. That said, everyone is unique and if you have specific questions, please let us know.

2) How are autistic socialization differences accommodated?

We utilize the now-standard autistic-space “interaction signal badge” – where you can signal your desire to be part of an interaction, or your desire to avoid interaction with some (or all) others.

We also use name tags that make identifications of people easier for people with faceblindness.

People are not expected to make physical contact with others (shaking hands, hugging, etc) unless they want to.

But, most importantly, most attendees are well aware that typical social spaces are unpleasant for autistic people and the rules are not applicable.

3) What if I don’t want to talk?

That’s fine! It’s also fine to talk.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

1) Will support staff be available for me / my child /etc?

We do not yet have plans for a formal child care program. There is no current plan for supervised child care.

All attendees are expected to be able to manage daily living tasks at the event, either without help or through the help of someone they engage with prior to the event. We do not require that daily living tasks be able to be managed without help from others, but simply that any assistance or help required is the responsibility of the attendee. For instance, someone might attend with another person to help you at the event.

We will contact appropriate emergency medical services in the event of a medical emergency. However, we are not equipped or trained to provide emergency medical services ourselves.

If you have specific questions about what assistance may or may not be available, or you have a request for accommodation, please don’t hesitate to contact us to see what we can do. We will comply with both the letter and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

2) I don’t talk. Can I come?

YES! If the conference is of interest to you, we welcome people that communicate through means other than speech.

3) I’m blind (or have another disability). Can I come?

YES! If you will need accommodations, please contact us for any specific requirements you may have to attend, so that we can discuss how we can meet them.

SERVICE ANIMALS / ALLERGIES / SEIZURES

1) I have a service animal or emotional support animal (ESA). Can I bring my animal?

Service and therapy animals are welcome, provided you follow venue rules. We ask that animals be quiet, well-behaved, non-aggressive (both to people and other animals), able to cope with a shared living environment, and clean (we highly recommend that the animal be brushed at least daily and bathed in such a way to minimize allergens – some attendees are highly allergic to animals). You are also expected to clean up after your animal. If the animal becomes disruptive, fails to comply with local animal control laws or venue rules, or the handler does not have positive control of the animal, the attendee may be asked to leave the event.

Note that service animals & ESAs are not companion animals or pets. Service animals must fit the ADA and/or Pennsylvania laws for service animals, while ESAs should be prescribed by a professional in accordance with fair housing laws. Note that ESAs are not permitted in some spaces where service animals are permitted. If you intend to bring an ESA, please let us know so we can detail the allowed and disallowed spaces.

We also ask that you do not approach attendees that indicate that they are allergic to your type of animal and want to minimize exposure (note that we cannot eliminate exposure to service animals and ESAs). They also are expected to keep their distance from your animal –responsibilities extend to both parties.

We will ask people staying on-site if they intend to bring a service animal or ESA. We are not doing this to discriminate, but to ensure that we do not accidentally house a person with severe allergies in a small space with an animal they are allergic to.

There is no deposit required for service animals or ESAs, but property damaged by your animal will be charged to you.

2) I have allergies to something, and these allergies can be life threatening. Will you accommodate?

We will do our best to accommodate all participants. We are still finalizing our allergy policy, so the information below is not the final version of this policy.

We will have policies about strong scents (scented hair spray, perfume, cologne, etc), to minimize their use at the event by participants. Obviously-scented hygiene and cosmetic products are prohibited. We have also asked food service staff to label ingredients, however we have found that sometimes food staff fails at this (we will take remedial action with food service if this issue is brought to our attention, as it is our intent to enable people to make good decisions).

However, we are unable to guarantee an absence of allergens in our environment. Thus people who have severe allergies, particularly life-threatening allergies, will need to use the usual cautions they use when eating out, participating in group events, etc.

We are unable to ban service animals or therapy animals on the basis of allergy of another participant. However, we will work with participants to minimize exposure to the greatest possible extent.

3) I have seizures that can be triggered by certain things. Can I avoid these things?

We will do our best to accommodate all participants. We are still finalizing our seizure safety policy, so the information below is not the final version of this policy.

Flash photography is generally banned at this event. We also will minimize exposure to other known potential seizure risks, such as flashing strobes, loud music in public spaces, TVs in public spaces, etc. We may not be able to control every space that an attendee enters, but we can ensure our attendees are aware of the risks to others of their actions and enforce expectations that people minimize safety risks to others.

We cannot disable the strobes in the building fire alarm system.

We do ask that people to disclose potential triggers ahead of the event, if they feel that they could help us to accommodate them.

ACCOMMODATIONS FAQ

1) What are the accommodations like?

These accommodations are similar to a basic hotel or modern dorm room. They all have two beds and a bathroom shared by the occupants of the room (each room has its own private toilet/shower with a door, so you can change, shower, and use the toilet in privacy). Linens (unless you opt out of provided-linens) are provided at the start of your stay. There is no maid service.

Both private rooms and shared rooms are identical, other than number of occupants.

The rooms are lit with fluorescent lighting in the main part of the room. Attendees can bring their own lights or rent a light from us if fluorescent lighting is an issue. Note that tube-type halogen lights are prohibited in the dorm due to fire concerns.

2) If I choose shared accommodations, how will I be matched with a roommate?

If you know someone you would like to share a room with (like a family member or a friend), you both will be able to indicate you want to share a room with each other.

We will send you a questionnaire and ask some questions about your gender, sensory sensitivities (particularly noise) and desired interaction levels, and other similar topics. We will then try to select a roommate that selected compatible answers.

3) Is there a TV in each room?

No, there are no TVs in the dorm rooms. In addition, TVs in common areas not dedicated to TV watching (such as lounges) cannot be used due to concerns over triggering seizures and noise. With roommate permission, attendees are welcome to use personal TVs (that they bring with them) in their rooms.

4) How many people can share a room?

Generally it is limited to 2 (there are only two beds). If you have special circumstances, please contact us.

5) What about sound?

These are college dorm rooms, so sound insulation is not perfect between rooms. We will ask whether you prefer a quiet area of the floor – if you do, we will attempt to place you away from elevators, major access paths, and people who may not want to be in a quiet area. Quiet areas will not allow loud talking in the hallways, nor will they allow music or TV played loud enough to hear outside the room (which may be quieter than you are accustomed to listening to TV or music).

We recognize that sometimes it is impossible to not be heard outside of the room. However, if there are complaints, the person making noise will be expected to reduce their noise.

6) What is not allowed in the dorms?

Basically, anything that can be a risk to others or which is prohibited by the University. This includes all alcoholic beverages, firearms (and weapons generally), fireworks (and explosives generally), cooking appliances with exposed heating elements (hotplates), anything illegal (such as illegal drugs), etc. If you have specific questions contact us. We will also provide a more definite list to attendees.

7) What if I don’t get along with my roommate?

We do not anticipate this being a problem. However, should you have a shared room where we assigned a roommate, we will discuss options (such as relocation or involvement of appropriate authorities). Of course private rooms are also an option should you desire more privacy than a shared room will afford.

8) Is camping available?

No, unfortunately we cannot offer camping at this venue.

9) If I don’t pay for a room, but a friend pays for a single room, can I stay with them?

No. We are required to pay the venue on a per-person basis, not just a per-room basis. So we have to recover our costs. You cannot stay on-site if you do not pay for a room, and doing so will cause AAC to be in violation of our contract with the university.

FOOD

1) The food at some other autistic conferences is vegan. Is the food vegan?

We will be serving non-vegan items – meat and animal products (cheese, milk, etc) will be served. There will be a vegan option at each meal for people who do not want to consume meat or meat products.

2) How about GF/CF?

Not all food is GF/CF. However, there will be GF/CF choices at all meals.

3) I have a special diet need not covered here. Can I eat the food?

Please contact us so we can work with the kitchen staff to best accommodate your needs. The kitchen staff has experience serving thousands of students during the school year, many of whom have special diet requirements, so most needs should be able to be accommodated without difficulty.

4) I have an allergy to nuts. Will nuts be served?

Possibly, although we’ve asked that they be clearly labeled, separate from main dishes whenever possible, and separated to avoid cross-contamination in places like a salad bar. However, we cannot guarantee any dish won’t have nuts in it – the kitchen preparing the meals has nuts, attendees may accidentally contaminate items, etc. We will deal with problems as they occur when brought to our attention, but attendees must take appropriate precautions to protect their health, as they would do in all situations involving meals prepared or served by someone they do not know well.

5) Are there cooking facilities available?

Yes, there is a kitchen in the dormitory that is shared between all attendees and very-occasional use from university students staying over the summer. Cooking utensils are not provided. This facility includes a sink, microwave, and shared fridge. Because this fridge is shared, people other than yourself will have access to it. All food items must be labeled with your name and a date or they risk being thrown out for food safety reasons.

Access to the cafeteria kitchen is prohibited to attendees. You cannot use the cafeteria fridges, stove, etc.

Should you have special concerns (such as needing refrigeration for medication), please contact us.

FEE QUESTIONS

1) Are there scholarship options?

Thanks to some generous donations, there may be options for people who otherwise could not afford to attend AACC.  If you are unable to attend due to financial reasons, and a reduction in the cost of registration would allow you to attend, please contact aacc2014@autisticcommunity.org.

2) I have a low paying full-time job. Is there help to attend?

Yes, if you have a low paying full-time job, you may register in the “adult without full-time job” category.

3) Is there any other way to reduce costs?

If you can provide your own meals (note that you will likely need to find a way to get to a grocery store and prepare your own meals using a microwave or transport yourself to restaurants, as there are limited options on-campus), preparing your own food can bring significant benefits.

Likewise, if you can obtain low cost lodging off-site, you may be able to reduce your costs.

Some attendees at similar conferences have reduced costs by seeking out support organizations that will fund some or all of the cost of the conference. We encourage people to seek this option if it is available to them.

We hope to offer more options for conferences in future years, as we recognize the barrier that the current cost structure creates.

4) Where can I find the rates?

See our 2014 Fees.

2014 Conference Fees

For more information on the conference and AAC, see our FAQ by clicking here.

Note for All Categories:

All fees with a “key deposit” will see a $50 refund upon return of the key at the end of the event, payable by check. The key deposit is included in the rates below.

Adult:

  • Conference, Private Room, & Food: $687 (includes $50 refundable key deposit)
  • Conference, Shared Room, & Food: $647 (includes $50 refundable key deposit)
  • Conference & Shared Room Only: $447 (includes $50 refundable key deposit; No food provided)
  • Conference & Food Only: $440 (no lodging provided)
  • Conference Only: $240 (no food or lodging provided)

Adult without full-time job, full-time support person (that is, someone who is going to the conference primarily to support another attendee at the conference) OR teenagers & children 8-17:

  • Conference, Private Room, & Food: $527 (includes $50 refundable key deposit)
  • Conference, Shared Room, & Food: $487 (includes $50 refundable key deposit)
  • Conference & Shared Room Only: $287 (includes $50 refundable key deposit; No food provided)
  • Conference & Food Only: $280 (no lodging provided)
  • Conference Only: $80 (no food or lodging provided)

Children 4-7 (8th birthday must be after conference ends):

**If the child is staying at the event, and needs a room key, a $50 room key deposit will be required in addition to the above rates.

  • Conference, Shared Room (with adult), & Food: $378 (does not include a room key)
  • Conference & Shared Room (with adult) Only: $248 (does not include a room key; No food provided)
  • Conference & Food Only: $240 (no lodging provided)
  • Conference Only: $40 (no food or lodging provided)

Fee, young children through 3 (4th birthday must be after conference ends):

  • Conference, Shared Room (with adult bringing child): $148.00
  • Conference Only: $35

DAY RATES:

Fees are ¼ the above fees per day. Round up to the nearest dollar.

LINEN REDUCTION:

The rates that include lodging include linen service. Linen service includes blanket, pillow, towels, and sheets. If you want to opt out of linen service (you will thus need to bring these items yourself), cost can be reduced $25 for the conference.