Updated in August 2022
Have you ever created an accessible and inclusive event?
Do you know what it actually means in practical terms?
Should you take the trouble to do it?
Shoutout to all events organisers
If your job is organising events, we know you love doing this. It’s a job that requires so much energy, patience, last second problem-solving skills and passion, that if you are not smiling at the end of a successfully organised event, it’s time for a career change.
However, you might not have experience catering for delegates with a disability, or no-one asked you to set up an event for people who have specific needs – except for dietary ones, which we are all very familiar with by now.
But why should you cater for dietary requirements and not for access ones? We can now happily provide menus for delegates who are pescatarians, vegans, who have all kinds of food allergies, and we manage to send them home alive and happy, after having eaten their nut, gluten and lactose free dessert, together with everyone else. The same approach goes for setting up your event for delegates with a disability.
Do’s and dont’s
Creating truly accessible and inclusive events requires first of all a mind shift. We are flexible people, we can do this. After all, we are capable of solving last second problems, during an event with 6000 participants in a country where we don’t even speak the language, right?
Don’t think that:
- you never have disabled delegates coming to your events;
- delegates with a disability are too few to justify taking the trouble;
- it will be complicated and expensive;
- if you don’t do it perfectly the first time, then it’s a failure;
Do realise, on the contrary, that:
- the more accessible and inclusive an event is, the more participants with a disability will want to take part = more fees paid = more profit (hey, don’t pretend you are doing it for charity)
- sometimes delegates have access requirements, or other needs that they might not want to express, thinking that your event is not inclusive = bad customer experience = less profit
- as an event organiser, you are always learning new things: I mean, you learned to do online events during the pandemic (don’t pretend you loved organising online conferences, it was a necessary evil)
- if it’s not perfect the first time, you’ll do better the next – event organisation is a trial and error business, we know that very well.
With accessibility and inclusion, the Field of Dreams movie quote “if you build it, they will come” is your mantra. Just take the time to organise appropriately, and to promote your event’s inclusive features.
Here are a few good practices and useful, practical, hands-on guides. The types we event organisers like.
Making Brussels accessible for all – at least sometimes
Brussels may well be the capital of Belgium and of the European Union, but it is still lagging behind when it comes to making the built environment and transport accessible.
Visit Brussels, the city’s board of tourism, has created a manual for outdoor events organisers, based on the extensive experience of AMT Concept (Access and Mobility for All), a Brussels-based non profit which deals with many aspects of accessibility.
The manual is focused on accessibility for people with mobility impairments, it gives a great number of indications for event organisers, including the pre-assessment of the location and all aspects of the event, included the evacuation and security in case of emergencies.
Very good tool to read before launching the organisation of your event, and keep using as your reference until the accessibility parts of the organisation will just become a habit.
Accessible meetings and conferences: A checklist from Visit Flanders
Always from Belgium, from the Tourism Board Visit Flanders, a very useful guide for event organisers with a practical checklist approach and plenty of useful addresses of private and public organisations to help you organise your inclusive event (if you are holding it in Flanders).
Drawing from the principles of Universal Design, the approach focuses on making the accessible features blend in with the event flow and locations.
An interesting element to keep in mind is the communication about the event. After all, you are investing your time in making an event inclusive for all, and you don’t want to forget to tell everyone about this.
Not only this will widen your audience, but you will set an example for other companies that are still in the stone age. And peer pressure can be great, when it comes to making the world a more inclusive place.
A holistic approach to making conferences accessible: a guide from Valencia
Another very useful guide (in Spanish) was recently published by the Valencia Convention Bureau, which considers the entire customer journey: from travelling to the venue location until it’s time to get back home. The guide offers a very detailed description of what you should do when planning your event, including practical details of the technical specifications of ramps and toilets, among other things. Elaborated by Visit Valencia in collaboration with disability organization PREDIF, it is a very useful and complete tool to read before starting to organize your event.
Attitude is everything: inclusive concert venues in the UK
Want to make a concert accessible for all? Attitude is Everything is an organisation based in the UK whose mission is to support the music industry to make live music events more accessible.
Working with the fundamental feedback of a community of deaf and disabled “mystery shoppers”, who report back about their experiences across the UK, they also have volunteers who work in events and have issued a Venue and Festival Charter of Best Practice, which has been recognised as an industry standard in 2017.
They encourage events producers to go beyond legal obligations providing a fair and equal service to their Deaf and disabled customers. Their website includes also a map of accessible venues, very useful guidelines for music events organisers, for re-opening a venue after Covid, and an accessible employment guide (more information here).
And if you think concerts and deaf people are a strange pairing, think again (and check out the video below).
- DIY Access Guide from Attitude is everything (accessibility of musical venues and events) – Download
- Handy Events Guide from Visit Brussels – Download
- Accessible Meetings and Conferences, a checklist from Visit Flanders – Download
- Organisacion de Eventos Accessibles from Visit Valencia – Download
Have an accessible and inclusive events guide you want to recommend? Drop us a message in the comments or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.