Creating a schedule for the week is very important. ACS will put the schedule on their website within two months of the meeting. Once it’s up, log on to the ACS website to access the technical program. You can piece together a schedule for each day and narrow down by several factors: division (colloids, polymers, etc.), type of event (such as social events), meeting themes, and more. If you are bringing your own access assistant, make sure to sit down with them and go through the schedule for the week. If you are going to be with an access assistant that ACS provides, make sure to send them your schedule before arriving at the conference.
These are the bulk of the ACS schedule. They are located at the convention center and surrounding hotels. They take place under individual divisions and have specific themes (e.g. COMP: Drug Discovery). Technical sessions usually run 4 to 5 hours, with 20 to 30 minute individual talks. Although you can attend different talks in different sessions, my advice is to try to schedule them so that you are localized to the same area. If you are bringing your own access assistant, you can have them take notes during each session on a computer.
These are fun events that are the best for networking. They are typically events that are held at every meeting, such as the Women’s Chemist Committee Cocktail Hour.
These happen every night of the conference. If you are presenting a poster, make sure your access assistant writes down any questions people have about your research (and who asks them), as well as anyone else who stops by to talk to you.
If you plan on attending a ticketed event (I usually attend the Women’s Chemist Committee breakfast), make sure to buy your ticket when you register for the conference.
ACS releases a mobile app about two weeks before the start of each conference. Make sure to download it and log in with your ACS information and it will sync your saved schedule in calendar form. It’s much easier to navigate compared to the browser version, and VoiceOver compatible with it. Make sure your access assistant also gets the app.
In addition to the app, I like to have a hard copy of the schedule on hand in a binder. All notes that are taken during the meeting are also typed up added into the binder after the conference. This is also useful in keeping a physical record of the conference, in addition to the digital record.
At every conference I go to, I end up collecting business cards from so many people. I have a business card book with insert sleeves in which I keep all of the cards I receive. I like to have my access assistant write a short note on the back of each card to help me remember who the person is when I read the card later and when I am connecting with them on LinkedIn or via email. You can braille stamp your own business cards as well.
This is the most important item your access assistant should have throughout the week. They should write down the name of everyone you meet (and possibly their affiliation) and a little note to help remember the conversation we had. Everyone wears a lanyard badge with their name and where they’re from on it, so your access assistant can easily write this down when you start talking to someone.
Uber is a great way to get from your airport and to your hotel and back, as well as any other place that isn’t within walking distance. You can use Uber with voiceover, but it also helps if your access assistant has Uber on their phone, too.
I have some vision in my left eye, so I usually like my access assistant to walk on my left side so I can take cues from them, even though I have my cane with me. If you have a preference for how you two will be walking together, make sure to communicate that with them.
Floorplans and Layouts
ACS will have floor plans and layouts of each building in which the conference has events. Make sure that your access assistant has copies of these and reviews them in advance; it helps to know where you’re going before you get there.
It is important that your access assistant has spatial awareness when in a large convention center and when walking between sessions that are in different buildings.