According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, public buildings must be accessible for guests who have certain mobility needs or disabilities. When planning an event or conference for your organization, it’s crucial you choose a venue that meets these guidelines and allows individuals who use mobility devices to easily navigate from room to room. The goal of every event is to create an informative, memorable experience for all attendees.
Making your event accessible to all guests is key to its success. Knowing the needs of your attendees allows you to properly prepare for them to feel included and provide them with the right accommodations so they can be comfortable at your event. In this article, we’ll discuss five mistakes of accessible event planning and how you can avoid unintentionally excluding attendees from your next conference.
5 Exclusionary Mistakes
Organizing a large event can certainly be challenging. In addition to choosing the location, catering and guest speakers, you also need to prioritize accessible accommodations for all attendees. Let’s look at the top five mistakes to avoid when creating your next event.
1. Choosing an Inaccessible Venue
Any venue you use for an event should meet ADA guidelines for accessibility. If you choose a venue that’s difficult for attendees to travel to or lacks accessible entry and exit points, people who use mobility aids may not be able to attend. Many older buildings will often not have as many accessible accommodations as modern conference buildings have today, including braille signage, parking spaces for people with disabilities and accessible toilets.
Accommodations for wheelchair users are critical, including ramps and elevators. When choosing a location for your next event, call the venue and ask about their accessibility options, ramp access and transportation availability for visitors with specific needs. You can provide guests with this information ahead of your event and properly inform them before their arrival.
2. Lack of Mobility Accommodations
Even if you choose a venue that has accessible entry and exit options for attendees, you also need to ensure the interior of the venue will accommodate people who use mobility aids and those with disabilities once they get inside. Mobility needs include more than those who use wheelchairs. Some attendees may feel fatigued easily and unable to stand for long periods of time, so it’s important to always offer plenty of seating at your event.
Others may use walkers or canes, so you should communicate to these guests about priority seating and barrier-free routes that have plenty of space for them to walk through the venue and parking lot. If the parking lot is not close to the venue, consider providing a shuttle for attendees with disabilities so they don’t have to walk far.
If you provide tables for eating or meet-and-greets, they must be low enough for those with wheelchairs to easily use and maneuver around them. Check that your microphones or equipment used for guest speakers have adjustable heights for those who need it. Some speakers may even need a hand-held or lapel microphone.
3. Using an Overly Complex or Hard to Access Registration System
Making registration as simple as possible will allow more people to attend your event. These days, most events accept registrations through online forms, but many of them are not accessible. For instance, someone with visual or hearing impairments should be able to access your form by using alt text, closed captioning or audible speech options.
To make your registration more accessible, you should offer several options for attendees, such as contacting your team by email or over the phone. Most importantly, you must always provide an open text box so guests can note the accommodations they need to attend your event. Asking about the accessibility requirements of your attendees will allow you to plan and prepare better.
4. No Consideration for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
For attendees with hearing impairments, attending an event or conference without accommodations can be unpleasant. Even for those who use cochlear implants or hearing aids, a large venue with bad acoustics can create echoes and inhibit the effectiveness of these hearing devices. At many venues and events, organizations do not provide a sign language interpreter or lip reader.
To accommodate people who are deaf or hard of hearing, you can provide a public address (PA) system, live captions or subtitles that turn speech into text or a roving microphone for a better auditory experience. If using an interpreter, provide a well-lit space and seating near the presenter for attendees to see them clearly.
5. No Consideration for Blind or Low Vision Attendees
Your attendees with low vision or vision impairments should be able to access and navigate your event safely. This includes creating audio supplements for largely visual activities or presentations and providing appropriate lighting. Your event should also be free of cords, wires and other types of obstacles and trip hazards so those with low vision can maneuver without difficulty.
Throughout your entire event, from presentations to directional signage, you should include large print, audio and braille options. If you provide any physical or electronic materials, these should also include options for people with visual impairments, such as a text-to-speech reader.
What Can You Do to Create an Accessible and Inclusive Event?
Now that you know some critical mistakes to avoid when trying to create an inclusive and accessible event, let’s review what you need to make all guests feel comfortable and welcome at your chosen venue.
- Visibility: For attendees with visual impairments, braille signage and audio options — such as captioning — must be provided. If handing out materials to attendees, provide large print options.
- Acoustics: If your venue has poor acoustics that can make it difficult for some guests to hear your speakers, have sign language and lip reader interpreters present at every presentation and allow guests with hearing impairments to sit close to them.
- Mobility: Your event should have wheelchair access, ramps, transportation and parking accommodation for those who use mobility devices. If you plan to let attendees stand during some presentations, you must include a designated or reserved seating area for those with disabilities.
- Technology to provide visual and audio aids: Provide tablets or other devices that have options for visual and audio aids, such as adjustable font size and text-to-speech capabilities. You can use a virtual event platform to provide accessibility options for remote events for people with certain impairments.
- Space for service animals: There should be plenty of comfortable space to rest, watering facilities and an accessible outdoor restroom area for attendees who bring service animals.
For every event, it’s critical to ask guests to inform you of their accessibility needs when they register so there are no last-minute struggles to make accommodations. Have plenty of staff on hand the day of your event who can assist attendees with disabilities, provide them with accommodation or direct them to ramps and other mobility pathways.
To learn more about how to make your next event available to attendees with different mobility needs, check out the ADA’s guide to accessible and inclusive event planning.
Make Your Next Event Inclusive With Help From MeetingPlay + Aventri + eventcore
No matter how large or small your event is, planning for accessibility and inclusivity can ensure none of your attendees feel excluded or unwelcome. At MeetingPlay + Aventri + eventcore (MPAVEC), we strive to help business professionals create exceptional inclusive events by helping with specific event goals and providing a full-service package for all your conference needs. Our custom solutions are designed to improve the user experience and allow your guests to register and access information about your event easily and efficiently, regardless of their needs and abilities.
MeetingPlay’s unique solutions will help you provide a more inclusive and accessible experience for your guests so they can get the most out of your event. From helping with registration to solving your unique problems, MeetingPlay has everything you need to create an unforgettable experience for you and your attendees. To learn more about our event platform, book a free demo today to get start