I carried an anticipatory packet of Kleenex tissues with me as I walked from the Westin Pittsburgh to the 2023 International Seating Symposium’s (ISS) registration area at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh on Wed., April 12.
The in-case-I-cry tissues were an acknowledgement of how much our world has changed since the previous in-person ISS, in the opening days of March 2020. As we said good-bye to each other then, we didn’t know that ISS would be the final one to take place at the Westin Bayshore in beloved Vancouver. We had no idea how much we were about to lose and how much our daily routines were about to change.
This spring, I traveled to Pittsburgh a more worldly person: older, a little more tired maybe.
And then the 38th International Seating Symposium brought all the feelings.
Hello, Pittsburgh in April
The facts: The 38th ISS took place April 13-15, preceded by extended educational sessions earlier in the week.
Last week’s was the first in-person ISS since 2020, though a virtual ISS took place in 2022. The event was co-directed by Mark Schmeler, Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP, and Rachel Hibbs, DPT, NCS, ATP, and presented by the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology. In the April 20 keynote session, Schmeler said attendees had come to Pittsburgh from approximately 35 countries.
We’d seen this venue — with its postcard views of the Allegheny River and famous Pittsburgh hills — at the 2019 ISS. The expo hall, the registration area, the Spirit of Pittsburgh ballroom that held the keynote presentations — they were all familiar.
But we have changed. And that was evident at ISS, in handshakes that lasted a little longer, and hugs that were a little tighter.
I appreciated everything a little more, I think. I appreciated that during a global health emergency, engineers kept developing new assistive technology. Researchers kept studying. Manufacturers kept creating. And clinicians and providers kept recommending, fitting, fine-tuning seating and wheeled mobility… finding new ways to conduct some clinic visits remotely via telehealth linkups, or by peering through consumers’ kitchen windows while simultaneously talking with them on the phone.
Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) had found a way, or many hundreds of different ways. This industry made it work, somehow. Through supply chain issues, through labor shortages and scrambles for masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment, you kept going.
And this year’s ISS felt like a well-deserved, in-person celebration of what this amazing industry has weathered. The exhibit hall was full, the sessions well attended. Even the weather — into the low 80s F/mid 20s C — was springtime perfect.
2023 ISS Follow-Ups
In the coming weeks, I’ll be following up with more ISS coverage: new technology, product launches, etc.
For now, a few housekeeping items from the University of Pittsburgh RSTCE team:
Complete the attendee survey to help shape future ISS events (including suggestions on where you’d like to see the ISS hosted in the future).
The ISS will post recordings of “select ISS sessions” online, available to all ISS registrants and with CEUs available on demand. Recordings will be available in a few weeks, after the editing and posting process is complete, and attendees will be notified at that time.
Copies of presentations can be downloaded from the ISS Attendee Hub and the ISS app (see the ISS Welcome Letter for details). Printed copies will not be provided. Additionally, ISS proceedings will be published this year in a special issue of Assistive Technology, which is RESNA’s official publication. That issue will be available to download as a pdf.
My thanks to the University of Pittsburgh team who hosted and operated the event — incredibly, as Schmeler pointed out, it’s really a core of just eight people who pull all this together while simultaneously doing their “day jobs” of teaching, working in seating clinic, etc.
And to all the attendees, the exhibitors, the presenters, the friends I got to see in person again, finally — I’ve missed you so much. It was great to see you. It was a wonderful homecoming.