Following an in-person event last spring in Pittsburgh, the International Seating Symposium (ISS) won’t meet in person in 2024.
But the University of Pittsburgh RSTCE team is still providing seating and wheeled mobility education — this year, in a virtual, two-day program designed to be optimally accessible to professionals around the world and with a range of job titles and specialties.
A split, two-day educational summit
The 2024 Virtual Professional Summit — aka, the ISS:VPS — will take place online, Wed., Feb. 7, and Wed., March 6, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time each day. Sessions will also be recorded, so registrants who are unable to attend live will have full access to the event on-demand.
If you’ve been to in-person ISS events, the format of the VPS will look familiar. Each day starts off with a discussion on an industry hot topic, reminiscent of ISS morning keynote sessions. For example, the opening session for Feb. 7 is “Global Initiatives for Assistive Technology.”
The rest of each day is filled with seating and wheeled mobility courses given by subject matter experts selected and invited by the RSTCE team.
Rachel Hibbs, DPT, NCS, ATP/SMS, is Co-Director of the ISS. In choosing the speakers and topics, Hibbs noted that the ISS team did not do a usual call for papers “because we weren’t going to do 80 sessions like we typically do for ISS.”
Instead, this year’s speakers are people who have expressed interest in presenting sessions in the past, and topics came from requests gleaned from ISS surveys. ISS advisory board members also suggested relevant and current topics from both industry veterans and new, innovative voices.
The resulting lineup is a combination of advocacy and technology, of seating and accessibility with an international flavor. The goal, Hibbs said, “was to appeal and apply to a lot of people, including students or new ATPs [Assistive Technology Professionals]. These [sessions] are generally beginner to intermediate, and there are broad topics that affect wheelchairs.”
One such example is the March 6 morning panel, “CRT Wheelchair Repair and Maintenance.”
“There’s a maintenance topic,” Hibbs said, “because that’s something that many people in the field are going to understand, regardless of their level of skill or level of confidence.”
Speaking to professionals across the seating spectrum
While the in-person ISS is a five-day event including pre-symposium workshops, the VPS seeks to be more accessible to more people, including those who can’t miss work or school for an extended period.
“We’ve gotten a lot of requests of ‘Do something, please,’” Hibbs said, referring to inquiries for educational opportunities. “So this was a way of doing something that is more attainable or more accessible for some people. Going to another in-person conference isn’t realistic or reasonable for everyone. Because of the [VPS] online format, we do anticipate and already do have more International attendees than we typically would.”
Hibbs also said the VPS is a great opportunity for professionals who perhaps don’t focus full-time on seating, but still work regularly with seating and wheeled mobility.
“We’re attempting to access or invite people that wouldn’t normally come to something like ISS — like therapists who aren’t only doing seating, or students who are interested, but are not going to come to a full week, in-person event,” Hibbs explained. “So we’re doing this virtually. We’re trying to make it more accessible for more people.”
The split format of the VPS means clinicians, ATP suppliers, and students won’t need to miss consecutive days of clinic or school. And because all sessions will be recorded, they can be viewed on demand.
“You don’t actually have to schedule two days out of clinic or two days away from your full-time job,” Hibbs said. “You can do it when you have time, or you could schedule one day [to attend live] and do the other one later.”
Continuing education units (CEUs) will be available, whether the sessions are viewed live or on demand.
Networking with friends
While the VPS won’t have a virtual expo hall — Hibbs said participant feedback led to that decision — each day will feature two 30-minute Supporter Spotlights that will include tech education and/or demos. Feb. 7 Supporters are Sunrise Medical and Merits Health Products. The Supporters for March 6 are Permobil and Etac.
And each day will wrap up with a “Town Square Social with Friends of the VPS,” a collaboration where attendees will mix and mingle with different industry organizations. For Feb. 7, iNRRTS has invited the VPS to their virtual happy hour, and for March 6, the VPS will be joined by RESNA, NCART, and the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals for lively conversation on their work in the fields of seating and assistive technology.
In the interest of making the VPS — which has a $349 registration fee — accessible to as many people as possible, Hibbs added, “We do have a link for students or someone who does not have the resources to register. We ask for some information, and they can apply for a scholarship. And we do have discount codes for those from lesser-resourced areas. Because of the nature of this, it may be more accessible for some, and that’s what we’re trying to highlight.”