Overview  |  Preparing for the Conference  |  At the Conference  |  Meet the Committee

Equity & Inclusion Scholarship Information



As we shift the conference to Chicago, this year’s theme: Building Bridges in Digital, Blended, and Online Learning certainly resonates with many of us as our work becomes ever more complex and as digital, blended, and online learning traverse all aspects of campus-life. Each day digital and online leaders are building bridges between internal groups, with students, faculty, and staff, and with the broader communities we serve.  As we ascend on the city with the most moveable bridges in North America, we are reminded of how physical and symbolic bridges bring us together in our shared understanding of learning and innovation.

We also aim to build bridges amongst our conference attendees in creating an inclusive conference experience. The EI Committee for Innovate 2020 broadly defines inclusion, diversity, equity, and advocacy as honoring all individuals for who they are, and where they are: in so doing, both recognizing and also honoring the whole person. Equity and inclusion also means connecting with each other in meaningful and helpful ways to create an environment where everyone feels part of the conference community.  We are always looking for individuals to help us shape and expand this mission, so please reach out to us if you have an interest in service with us in this event or future OLC events. 

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including those with disabilities, to engage fully. If you need individual assistance to address your accommodation needs to ensure you can fully participate in the conference, please indicate your accommodation needs during the registration process. We will then work with you individually and with the appropriate vendors or the hotel to make sure that your specific accommodation needs are addressed. If you have questions or would like to discuss your accessibility needs or concerns, please email us at conference@onlinelearning-c.org.

And, for all conference participants – attendees and presenters alike – we are happy to provide suggestions on what you can do at the conference to bring diversity and inclusion to OLC Innovate 2020.

This page will continue to be updated as we approach the conference and more information becomes available. 


Preparing for the Conference

During Registration

Dietary Restrictions

The conference registration process includes a question asking you to identify any special dietary needs (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, pork-free). The hotel labels everything on buffets/stations with the most common dietary restrictions. Standard labeling on all buffets includes: Contains Dairy, Contains Gluten, Contains Nuts, Contains Seafood, Vegetarian, Vegan.

There is also space in the registration form to indicate if you have a life-threatening food allergy.  All life-threatening food allergy information will be provided to the event banquet manager, who will review the list with the chef to determine who is not accommodated by each menu and would require a separate meal. If your life-threatening allergy is not accommodated by each menu, we will provide you with a special meal ticket for any functions for which you require something other than the main menu.

Accommodation Requests

During the registration process, you will be asked to identify if you require an accessibility accommodation.  You will be contacted in February or March by OLC for a 1:1 consultation to discuss arrangements needed to maximize your conference experience.  If you missed this during the registration process, or are unsure whether or not you will need an accommodation, please contact the OLC Conference Team at conference@onlinelearning-c.org.

Requests for captioning and other on-site accommodation needs may be submitted to the conference team at conference@onlinelearning-c.org. OLC will strive to make accommodations to the best of our ability based on available resources. 

Presenters: Inclusive Presentation Materials and Formats

If you are a presenter, please attend the training session for your presentation type for guidelines to best accommodate all attendees in your session, as well as refer to our specific Presenter Guide on Equity & Inclusion. You may find more information by visiting the OLC Presenter Services page.

General EI Presenter Guidelines:

  • Presenters should ensure that their presentation materials are accessible for individuals with a wide range of abilities. 
  • Follow web accessibility guidelines to ensure everyone in the room can benefit and that the presentation materials are accessible. Please feel free to use the OLC conference presenter slide template, which is accessible, available from the Presenter Services page. 
  • Please be sure to use the provided microphone equipment during all of your sessions.  
  • Presenters should plan to describe their slides, visual demonstrations, or videos to the audience for any attendees with visual impairments. To best conduct an accessible and inclusive session so that all attendees may engage, it is recommended that presenters repeat any questions that have not been asked through the microphone for any attendees who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and also for the virtual attendees.
  • If you are presenting and need an accommodation to effectively conduct your presentation, please let us know. There is a space for you to indicate that you have an accommodate request when you claim your presentation slot. If you need a low table or chair to present your Discovery Session or other session types, please be sure to request that in advance of the conference so that we may accommodate your request.

Additional tips will be presented to speakers in the presenter webinars leading up to the conference as well as in our Presenter Guides.


The Sheraton Grand Chicago meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and follows ADA accessible guidelines. Wheelchair accessible rooms can be requested at the time of making your hotel reservation. Please call the Sheraton Grand Chicago at (312) 464-1000 or visit their website that details their accessibility accommodations and compliance standards: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/fact-sheet/travel/chigs-sheraton-grand-chicago/#accessibility . Please let us know if you would like to make a specific request for accommodations at the hotel at conference@onlinelearning-c.org.

Photo of Torie Wynn, overseeing the Field Guide station and our Engagement Map display at the OLC Accelerate 2019 conference in Orlando, FL.
Caption: Photo of Torie Wynn, overseeing the Field Guide station and our Engagement Map display at the OLC Accelerate 2019 conference in Orlando, FL.

We want to make participating in the conference experience simple, accessible, and inclusive. One of the ways we work to do this is by generating Engagement Maps; these maps highlight specially-curated sessions in themes such as instructional design, leadership, equity & inclusion, and much more, and attendees indicate that these focused and themed session guides help them to better engage at the conference with individuals who have similar interest areas. Consider attending sessions that have been carefully curated for you by OLC volunteers in our Engagement Maps that match your interests–OR–branch out to a brand new area and meet new people, and learn new information. That’s what building bridges is all about. 


At the Conference

Facilities and Meeting Space

Stop by the Equity & Inclusion drop-in area at the conference for an accessible meeting space map and tour.

Guests are welcome to use public restrooms that are most appropriate for their gender identity. We are excited to note that with our selected conference venue for OLC Innovate 2020, in Illinois all one-person bathrooms are to be labeled gender-neutral by January 1, 2020.

Nursing mothers should inquire at the registration desk for access to the Mother’s Room.

General session and breakout session rooms are set with wide aisles in the center per ADA accommodation requirements. Designated accessibility sections can be located in the front of the room.

Unplug and Refocus

Everyone needs a break and time to decompress when at a large conference. Take advantage of the opportunities to unplug and refocus.

Our Sanctuary room is a quiet, reflective space available for all conference attendees to use. This is a quiet space room, where no cell phone conversations allowed, and disturbances are kept to a minimum to allow conference attendees to rest and recharge. Please keep face-to-face conversation to a minimum or at a very low level so as not to disturb others in the room.


Recommended Events

Please check back–this area will be updated soon! 

Equity & Inclusion Drop-Ins

The EI Drop-Ins serve as an opportunity to discuss opportunities to continue to make OLC conferences and events inclusive. We will also have Talk Abouts including a focus on EI topics during this year’s conference in Chicago. Come chat with EI committee volunteers during networking breaks to share your thoughts on ideas on how we can continue to transform the conference experience.

Bettyjo Bouchey      

Bettyjo Bouchey

Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey is Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Advancement at National Louis University (NLU) where she also serves as the Director of Online Academics for the university.  NLU is an institution engaged in broad dialog and action around how we address equity in all aspects of our work. As a mom to a child with special needs, she is also a tireless advocate for diversity, inclusion, and most importantly, equity in education and the community at-large.  She is especially delighted to bring her experiences in and around Equity & Inclusion to Innovate 2020 this year.

Sherri Restauri

Sherri Restauri

Dr. Sherri Restauri has served in academia for 20 years. During this time, she has served as an instructional designer, faculty member in the field of psychology and other areas, and also as an administrator over Online Learning at several universities. Dr. Restauri joined the Coastal Office of Online Learning as their Director in July 2016. Her research focus is on improving the teaching and learning process across all teaching modalities through the use of technology, with specific interest in pedagogical practices to increase student engagement and access, and best practices in digital learning pedagogy. She is a past Conference Chair for OLC Accelerate and has served for over a decade as an OLC volunteer. 

Jennifer Paloma Rafferty

Jennifer Paloma Rafferty

Jennifer Paloma Rafferty is the Director of the Institute for Professional Development at the Online Learning Consortium. She has served on strategic planning committees for inclusion and multiculturalism in higher education and she has worked as an advocate and interpreter for immigrant and refugee communities.

Roxanne Russell

Roxanne Russell

Dr. Roxanne Russell is the Director of Online Education for Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and co-founder of Full Tilt Ahead, an academic design studio serving universities across the US. She has 20+ years of university-level teaching experience and 15+ years of professional digital learning leadership experience in higher education. Her research focus is on creating equitable and effective digital learning experiences for adolescent and adult learners, and she was recently issued a patent for a machine learning reading comprehension tool, Read Ahead. She has been attending OLC conferences for ten years and is excited to support equity and inclusion efforts and to serve on an OLC committee for the first time.

Janet Smith  

Janet Smith

Janet Smith serves as an Instructional Designer leading quality assurance initiatives at the University of Arizona with the Office of Digital Learning. She manages a multitiered and collaborative quality assurance process to ensure that courses developed for Arizona Online are designed for student success and engagement. Janet works with partners across campus to integrate best practices around course design, copyright, UDL, and accessibility into the instructional design process and leads the Quality Matters program for the university.