As someone who has planned her fair share of special events, conferences and parties, I recognize the effort which is required to plan and execute a large event. I have been a guest or speaker at several events and conferences which could benefit from the expertise and attention to detail of Allan and the other Rotarians who organized the Rotary District 9830 OneCare Conference in Burnie, Tasmania.
I began corresponding with Allan via email last July. He was the Rotarian in charge of speaker arrangements for the District Conference. His initial email was full of useful details which were important to help me make a decision about traveling to Tasmania. Details such as:
I know of only two accommodation places able to cater for a disabled person.
I attach photos of a different room at the caravan park, which has a bathroom (toilet & shower) directly accessible by wheelchair (no steps), but to enter the place from the outside, there is one low step. It is clearly not totally suitable for you.
Access to the building is very ‘disabled friendly’, but access to the performing stage at the front of the Theatre is not so easy to manage.
Allan sent excellent photos with his descriptions. These helped me determine what would be most comfortable and what would not be possible. Through our early emails, we quickly established a positive rapport and were able to move through the logistics involved with me speaking at the conference.
As we communicated, I learned the other keynote speakers were also people with various disabilities. We were all invited to speak on the conference theme of “No Limits.” At first, I worried this might turn into a giant weekend of inspiration porn (watch the late great Stella Young if you don’t know what I mean) but thankfully this was not the case.
Conference organizers and event planners could all take lessons from Allan when it comes to planning events everyone can attend comfortably. Allan did not dismiss my questions as difficult or silly. He was prompt with his responses. Rather than make assumptions, he asked me along the way if things would work or not be acceptable for me and my needs. More importantly, he listened to my responses and remembered my preferences.
When the conference accommodations needed to be changed just a few weeks before my trip, Allan sent me a note with more photos. I have stayed in my fair share of hotel rooms which were supposed to be accessible but fell short, so I am used to making do with whatever I need to. As long as I can get to a toilet and a bed, I can manage almost anywhere for a night or two. Allan picked a wonderful substitute for us. The cabin had one of the best bathrooms I have ever used at a hotel or rental property.
I finally met Allan when I arrived in Burnie, Tasmania for the conference last March. We hugged, and I felt like I was meeting a well-known acquaintance not having a first time encounter. Allan and I talked about winter back in the northern hemisphere. He spent time in Canada during the winter years ago, so he understood why I was so happy to be in sunshine and warmth in the middle of March, rather than snow and cold.
I observed Allan over the next thirty-six hours, quietly working behind the scenes to make sure everything was on schedule and moving according to plan. If there were problems or unexpected happenings, I never knew about them as a conference attendee. Allan’s attention to detail and eagerness to provide an inclusive atmosphere made the conference an enjoyable experience for all who attended.
Allan and all of the members of the Rotary Club of Burnie, along with the District 9830 Conference Committee, offered me the chance to fulfill a dream. They provided the opportunity to return and express my thanks to the Tasmanian Rotarians who changed my life. I will always be grateful to their commitment to including me as a part of their conference.
Thank you Allan – for your support and assistance. I was honored by the opportunity to be a small part of your event. I appreciate all you did to make me feel welcome as a guest. You were the perfect example of a gracious host, and I enjoyed my weekend in Burnie.