About the Disability Summit

People standing and talking in front of posters

The Disability Summit was created as a forum for dialog and collaboration about large-scale societal barriers that challenge disabled people. It is a unique event that brings together researchers, educators, practitioners, advocates, family members, and disabled people from across disciplines, professions, types of disability, and national boundaries. At each Summit, new ideas, best practices, inventions, innovations, and advocacy strategies are shared and compared to build new connections and new understandings of the large-scale inequities related to disability and ways to right those inequities.


All submissions to the Disability Summit are peer-reviewed. The acceptance rate any year will depend on the number of submissions. Once decisions on submissions have been made, the acceptance rate will be posted to the conference site. The acceptance rate for 2021 is 38%. 

Submissions are judged by a committee of students, faculty, and staff who represent a range of areas of expertise and experience with disability issues.


History of the Disability Summit

The Disability Summit was founded in 2015, and the initial Summit was held in 2016. It is a biennial event. While the first three Disability Summits were held in person, the 2021 Summit marked the beginning of the Disability Summit being an entirely virtual event to make it accessible for people all over the globe. The 2021 Summit also marked an expansion from a 1-day event to a 3-day event. 

As the Disability Summit has evolved in scope and delivery method, the number of attendees has increased significantly. The first Summit in 2016 had around 200 attendees; the 2021 Summit had about 1,000 attendees from many different nations on multiple continents. 

Attendance at the Disability Summit has always been free, with sponsors generously supporting the costs of the Summit. Everyone who works on producing the Summit is a volunteer.

2016

Plans for the 2016 Disability Summit came to fruition with approximately 150 attendees, both affiliated with the University of Maryland and guests to our campus. The focus of the first Summit was on ‘Activism and Advocacy in the Academy’ and it was held in Hornbake Library. Within the presentations and breakout sessions, there was a strong focus on making technology more accessible to people with disabilities. Gregg Vanderheiden, then an industrial and biomedical engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the director of UW-Madison's Trace R&D Center, who has since moved to the University of Maryland’s iSchool, addressed the importance of this type of accessibility as the keynote speaker. Read more

2017

More than 400 people - students, faculty, presenters, and community members - registered for the 2017 Summit, which was held in the UMD Stamp Student Union. The 2nd Disability Summit at the University of Maryland focused on cross-disciplinarity and consisted of nineteen presentations on topics from “Crowd-sourcing the Disability Resistance” to “Perspectives from the Guamanian Sign Language Community.” The 2017 keynote speaker was the University of Maryland’s own Deputy Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Beth Douthirt-Cohen. Read more

2019

Following the success of the first two Disability Summits, the planning committee determined to make it a biennial event. The 2019 Disability Summit was held on April 5th, 2019 at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in College Park, Maryland, and continued its commitment to accessibility by providing free registration. Keynote speakers were Dr. Jonathan Lazar, Professor in the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at the University of Maryland, and Gary C. Norman, Esq. L.L.M., Chair of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. Read more

2021

The 4th Disability Summit went online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and attracted 1,000 registrants from around the world. The summit was held on April 12-14, 2021 via Zoom. Dr. Ashley Shew and Dr. Angel Love Miles joined the Summit as keynote speakers. They shared their expertise, insight, and experience as thought leaders and champions of intersectional disability justice. The program included live panel presentations covering topics such as Policing the Disabled Body, Accessibility in a Pandemic, Self Advocacy, Activism across the Globe, and more, plus a spoken word workshop and several pre-recorded sessions.

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