Make your event accessible and inclusive!


Attendees at a networking event

Disabled people make up almost twenty percent of the UK population, so whatever sector and industry you’re in, your current and potential client or user base includes disabled people. Your clients and users are diverse in other ways too – different ages, faiths, sexual orientations… ad infinitum.

If you’re running an event to connect with those clients or users, it’s imperative that it’s accessible and inclusive, enabling you to welcome and meet the requirements of anyone who wants to attend. A single blog post isn’t enough to cover everything you need to consider (and this will vary depending on the specifics of your event) but below are some key issues to think about…

Get information in advance

Ask about requirements on a booking form, or if this is not possible include a request on your event literature. Remember that for large or open events you may not know about everyone’s requirements in advance – so be proactive and plan for the unexpected.

Event literature

Design your literature to be accessible to visually impaired people, and consider how to improve it for people with neurodiverse conditions. Be prepared to provide information in alternative formats, such as large print, Braille or Easy Read.

Venue and location

Step-free access and accessible toilets are crucial, but consider access for people with a range of impairments – features such as colour contrasting stair nosings, hearing loops installed (and working!) and clear and intuitive signage.

Consider how people will get to the venue, including the proximity of accessible public transport, onsite parking (including Blue Badge) and, if people may attend from outside the area, suitable accommodation.

Dates and timings

Avoid dates that could exclude large groups of people, such as religious festivals or holy days, or school holidays. Bear in mind that, for daytime events, an early start or late finish may make it difficult for some to attend for the full event – for example, those who need to travel off-peak or have childcare responsibilities.

Staffing

Ensure that all staff interacting with your attendees can provide great customer service to all attendees – providing equality, diversity and inclusion training can help. Some attendees may require adhoc assistance – for example help getting refreshments or being guided between rooms – so it’s helpful to have additional staff available.

Presentations

For large or open events, provide British Sign Language Interpreters and Speech to Text Reporters for presentations – additionally, some attendees may require other types of communication support. Remind speakers to use inclusive language and images that reflect diverse communities – and brief them on how to present in a way that is accessible to people with sensory impairments, including working with communication professionals.

Breaks

Build sufficient breaks into your event. Some people will find the event more tiring and others may take longer to access toilets or refreshments. Provide adequate seating during breaks.

Food and refreshments

Meet dietary requirements requested in advance, and build in flexibility to meet unexpected requirements. Staff assisting with serving food should know what it is and what’s in it!

Get feedback

Ask attendees for feedback about whether your event met their requirements. Nobody’s perfect, so if it didn’t, don’t beat yourself up but do use any lessons learned for planning future events.

Good luck with your accessible and inclusive event! And, if you need additional advice or support, take a look at what I can offer.

Share your thoughts – What makes an event accessible and inclusive for you?

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