‘Enter the RESNA universe’

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Friday, June 26, 2020

WASHINGTON – RESNA officials say there’s both “excitement and trepidation” around hosting their first virtual conference in September.

The organization and its leadership decided to move forward with a virtual conference because they knew not having a conference at all would leave a gaping hole for assistive technology professionals.

“The people who go to this conference—it holds a special place in their hearts,” said Andrea Van Hook, interim executive director of RESNA. “It’s for all the folks working in assistive technology. It’s the only conference not dedicated to just seating and mobility or to augmentative communications or to home modifications. It’s the mothership, as Mary Ellen Buning (president of RESNA) likes to say.”

RESNA had to cancel its in-person conference scheduled for July 7-10 at the Hyatt Regency in Arlington, Va., due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year also marks the 40th year of RESNA’s annual conference, a milestone officials thought it was too important not to commemorate.

“To be hit with (the pandemic) right when we have this streak going—this pretty amazing streak—we had some pretty emotional and difficult conversations,” Van Hook said.

To host the virtual conference, Sept. 23 and 24 from noon to 6 p.m., RESNA will use a platform that will allow for interactions between attendees and exhibitors, including at a virtual exhibit hall.

“The exhibit hall is going to be different—that’s the first thing we’re telling everyone,” Van Hook said. “But what exhibitors will be able to get from a virtual exhibit hall is data on who visits their booth, because it’s a digital click. They’ll also be able to communicate directly with the folks who visit their booth—they’ll be able to send messages and schedule one-on-ones with them.”

At press time in mid-June, RESNA had not yet published the education program for the virtual conference, but it will include sessions for CE credit, keynote sessions and student scientific paper competitions, all around the theme of “Enter the RESNA universe,” a nod to the organization’s first conference logo, itself a nod to the Star Trek Federation logo.

“We’re having some fun with it,” Van Hook said.