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Accessible events: where to find them and how to make them

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Improving the accessibility of a venue, be it a concert venue, a club, a restaurant or a museum, can be a challenge. Sometimes this is due to the characteristics of the building (historical locations where you cannot interfere with the existing structure), but sometimes, in countries where there are no binding laws to make the buildings accessible, even a new construction can be inaccessible or poorly planned for people with reduced mobility.

The accessibility of events is in a way easier to manage, but it’s still not taken in consideration enough by event planners, so here are two best practices from the UK and Belgium, aimed at professionals who want to make their venues and events fully inclusive.

Attitude is everything: mapping accessibility of concert venues in the UK

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. 
Having begun as a pilot project in 2000, they are now a fully independent charity and part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio of Organisations.

Their CEO Suzanne Bull MBE was announced as the DWP’s Sector Champion for the Live Music Industry in February 2017.

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.

In April 2018 they announced the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition,  is a growing group of over 40 industry umbrella organisations, ticketing companies, venues and event companies who collectively represent the majority of the live music market.

They encourage events producers to go beyond legal obligations set out in The Equality Act, and implement best practices, providing a fair and equal service to their Deaf and disabled customers. Their work is rather unique in it’s way and has a very hands on and practical down to earth approach. Their website includes also a map of accessible venues and some very useful guidelines for music events organisers.

Making the “not-so-accessible” temporarily enjoyable for all in Brussels.

Brussels may well be the capital of Belgium and basically of the European Union, but it is definitively lagging behind when it comes to making buildings accessible. However, a wave of awareness has been spreading – thanks to some good advisory work by local disability associations – and it is a real pleasure to see that when it comes to events, there is some very good news.

Belgium is rather well known for its music festivals, and there are a number of associations that deal with making these events enjoyable for all: world famous music events like Tomorrowland or Dour have been progressively more attentive to their disabled public and have been setting up proper infrastructure and customer service.

Also, in Brussels there are continuosly open air and city wide events like the Nuit Blanche (White night), museum events where they are open all night, comics festival and parades of all kinds. You can be sure that every weekend in all seasons there are things to do and see. The accessibility of events has been curated with local experts and now practically all the events are equipped with ramps, adapted toilets, well signaled parking spaces and, depending on the event type, accessibility features for people who have sensory disabilities.

Practical resources from Visit Brussels and Attitude is everything

Visit Brussels, the Brussels board of tourism, has created a manual for outdoor events organisers which is 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 those who want to organise, including the pre-assessment of the location and all aspects of the event, included the evacuation and security in case of emergencies. One factor that Brussels has become rather experienced at managing, after the terrorist attacks which shook the city in 2015. The guide can be downloaded in French English and Dutch here.

Attitude is everything has set up a guide specifically for musical events, which is “a collection of ‘top tip’ lists and easy to follow ‘gig hacks’ to help any band, artist or promoter link up with a venue to make a gig as accessible as possible, “even if a stage is up or down a flight of stairs”. The tips include multiple situations, included how to to set up an accessible seated viewing area, prepare DIY captions for the lyrics, make an accessible flyer and manage the eventuality that the venue is not accessible at all. 
The guide can be downloaded here.

Accessible meetings and conferences: A checklist from Visit Flanders

Always from Belgium, this time from the Tourism Board of Flanders, a very practical and useful guide for event organisers with a practical checklist approach. Accessibility and inclusion, tips and instructions to make all delegates feel welcome.

Download the checklist here

Accessible events guidelines: to DIY or not to DIY?

The discussion is open: as an event organiser, do you rely on professionals and companies specialising in accessibility for event (and do you have these skills in your area?) or do you DIY? The comments are open for discussion 🙂

This article was written by Eleonora Censorii – for further information you can write to info @ destinationeverywhere.eu.

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