We often like to stress the importance of choosing a unique venue for your events, but the more your stray from the traditional hotel-type venue the more you need to think about accessibility. Hotels are often already set-up to accommodate people with accessibility needs, but other venues may not be.
On top of that, there are other accessibility considerations beyond just the venue that you should be thinking about as you plan your event. Here are four key areas to think about when planning your event to make it accessible to everyone.
1. Ask attendees if they have special requirements
There are many ways you can make your event more accessible, but you can't plan for everything. Make sure during the registration process that you give people a clear way to share their requirements in a discrete way. The IAEE recommends this as the first step to ensuring you're meeting the needs of your attendees. While you shouldn't just rely on these responses to plan for accessibility at your event, this input will help you prepare.
*Pro-Tip: Create a section in the DoubleDutch app that includes photos and tips that let attendees know exactly what to expect upon arrival to curb any pre-event anxiety they may have.
2. Make sessions and signs big and bold
Make your signs with large text and encourage your presenters to do the same in their presentations. This isn't just an accessibility consideration, it's good practice in general. Same goes for audio: make sure everyone is mic'd up and the sound can be heard throughout the session rooms and consider hiring interpreters to stand at the front of presentations.
3. Provide dignified access
Think about things like dining table height, attendee check-in, coffee bars, and exhibits. Can all of your attendees sit comfortably, grab collateral easily, and serve themselves independently? Consider wide aisles, varying heights of countertops and tables, safe lighting, and that accessible elevators are working and your staff is trained to help usher attendees when needed. For your speakers, make sure microphone height and podiums are appropriate for everyone’s needs.
4. An accessible venue and flexible seating
There are many aspects about a venue that make it fully accessible. This is a handy checklist from the ADA that you can reference. It's up to you how far you can or want to go. Seating is something that is very much in your control so think about ways to make it flexible and accommodating to people in mobility devices or who may not be comfortable shimmying into the middle of a cramped row. Big aisles, seating "cutouts" and well-spaced seating are just a few ways to do it.
5. Don’t forget to train your staff
You’ve got the accessible hotel room block, the appropriate lighting and seat spacing, and info in the app to help your attendees, now it’s time to train your staff. Your internal events team should be brief on accessibility options and how to effectively communicate with attendees who have limited speech or mobility devices. Depending on your survey results during registration, some role playing with your staff may be necessary.
While the considerations we discussed above may require some additional directions to your event and creative teams they don't require a lot of additional costs. An accessible event not only makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome, but it also says a lot about who you are as a company and a marketing organization.