In this blog:  What to do to create an event that is successfully accessible and inclusive for disabled people.  Helping disabled people to feel valued and welcome

Why Create An Accessible Event

With 1 in 5 people in the UK being disabled, it is likely the 1 in 5 people that attend your event will have a disability.  As you probably know, disability is not always obvious.  It can be hidden and it can fluctuate.  Whether you are hosting an event for the general public or for industry professionals, it is important that you make your event as inclusive to disabled people as possible.

When you create an event that is accessible and inclusive for disabled people, you are not just ensuring that disabled people feel welcomed and valued.  By nature, if it is inclusive of disabled people, it is inclusive for everyone.  Therefore, you will be encouraging and engaging with a variety of people from diverse backgrounds that may not otherwise attend your event. 

By ensuring that your event is accessible, you will be:

  • Ensuring participation for everyone
  • Enabling a wider audience to attend
  • Diversifying discussion/opinions during your event
  • Promoting inclusion and accessibility
  • Promoting to your audience that you care about access and inclusion for disabled people
  • Potentially influencing other organisations to do the same

6 Factors to Consider

  1. Promoting Your Accessible Event
  2. Ensuring Your Accessible Registration Process 
  3. Publishing Event Information
  4. Diversity of Speakers
  5. Ensuring Inclusion in Presentations
  6. Feedback Gathering

There are a number of factors to consider when planning and executing your accessible event.  The more of these you can encompass in your strategy, the more successful your event is likely to be.  

Promoting Your Accessible Event

Many people say that they have attempted to invite disabled people but disabled people didn’t come.  This is a often a case of not promoting an event in a place where a disabled person is going to look for it.  Not saying that a disabled person is not looking on the same events pages as a non-disabled person.  However, due to prior experience, disabled people may feel that the event will not be accessible and therefore not worth attending.

By stating clearly that your event will be inclusive and accessible to disabled people, will help someone with access requirements to know that this event will be inclusive of them.  After reading this blog, you should have a clear idea of what to say to help a disabled person feel welcome.  However, you may also like to add a paragraph about why you are making your event inclusive.  This will help someone to feel valued.  If you have hosted inclusive events before and have positive reviews from participants, sharing these reviews will also support other disabled people to feel that your event will provide a good experience.

Ensuring Your Accessible Registration Process 

Just as it is important to think about making the application process accessible for candidates in the recruitment process, it is important to think about registration for disabled people coming to your event.  If a person who needs to register before attending your event cannot successfully complete the process, they will not be there in first place to enjoy all the inclusive facilities you have put in place.  Ensuring that your registration process is accessible might sound obvious, but it’s not.  It is however, relatively simple to ensure.  First of all, you want to consider how your attendees are going to register. Is it via an online system such as Eventbrite?  Do you have an online form integrated into your website?

Online form tools can often be inaccessible for disabled people who use screen readers, have visual impairments or use the keyboard to scroll through the website.  WebAim have created a guide for ensuring form accessibility.  You can ensure the registration process is accessible by offering alternative methods to completing a registration.  Having a phone number that will connect to a dedicated team will ensure anyone who is struggling to fill in a form can still register successfully. 

At this point, you also want to ensure you ask about access requirements.  This is an opportunity for your participants to tell you about any access requirements they may have.  Offer an opportunity for people to tell you about any and if the answer is yes, allow space to elaborate.

It can be hard for a person to consider the access requirements needed before understanding what will be happening.  For example, as a disabled person myself, when delivering training, before specifying my requirements, I ask my client about the space I will be in.  With this information, I am able to have a more accurate idea of what I will need.  We will discuss presenting information in more detail later on in this article.

Publishing Event Information

The more information that you publish about your event, the better armed a disabled person will be with the information they need when thinking about accessibility.  As everybody’s access requirements are different, you cannot possibly know exactly what every individual will need.  Nobody knows themselves better than the individual.  Therefore, providing your participants with information about the amenities you will be providing will support someone to know what they will need.  Try to release information on the following:

  • Address of the venue
  • Information on accessible transport routes
  • Accessible entrances
  • Accessible facilities. Including accessible toilets, refreshments etc
  • Timings and length of breaks
  • Provision of hearing loops and sign language interpreters
  • Acceptance of assistance dogs
  • If food is provided, what type of food

When people think about catering, they obviously (and correctly) think about dietary requirements.  However, as well as dietary requirements, another important aspect when considering food for disabled people is accessibility.  Again, using myself as an example, as a disabled person I have limited dexterity in my fingers.  Finger food is difficult and inaccessible from me as it is too small and fiddly to pick up.  Therefore, if I know ahead of time that sandwiches will be served, I will make provisions or ask the host to present the food in a way that is manageable.

This is also where, as stated earlier, a specific point of contact would be helpful.  This could be presented in the form of a phone number that would be staffed by a team of people who have up-to-date knowledge on the event, the venue, the facilities and the agenda.

Access During the Event             

Now you have enabled disabled people to successfully register and get to your event, you will need to guarantee that once they have arrived, they have an experience that supports them to feel valued and welcome as a participant.  Ensuring your accessible facilities are in place is obviously your top priority.  After this, you want to consider where facilities are.  Do your disabled participants have to travel across the entirety of the venue to find the accessible toilet behind two heavy doors.  Meaning that every time they need to take a trip to the bathroom, it will take 30 minutes? Are your refreshments at eyelevel only? Meaning that a wheelchair user will not be able to reach for a cup of coffee/biscuit/cake?

When considering networking/mingling, you will want to ensure that the space in which to do this is big enough for a wheelchair user to navigate.  Will you be having breakout spaces?  If so, will a participant with a hearing impairment clearly be able to hear the conversation and therefore meaningfully contribute?

Diversity of Speakers

When thinking about presenters/speakers for your event, if appropriate, consider commissioning speakers that have diverse backgrounds.  Not just for the sake of it but diverse speakers are more likely to represent the diverse backgrounds of your participants.  Do you have any disabled speakers on your books? Depending on your event, somebody speaking from a background of lived experience – whatever that lived experience may be, will add extra layer to your event.

Ensuring Inclusion in Presentations

For the speaker as well as the participant. Can the speaker access the stage or speaking area? Is the lectern hight adjustable? Can the microphones connect to a hearing loop? Whoever your speakers/presenters are, make sure that they understand how imperative it is to be accessible.  You can do all the work to ensure that disabled participants can find, register and attend your event but you want to make sure that your speakers or presenters are also considering accessibility and inclusion in their presentation.  The article in this link will help you ensure that this is the case. 

Feedback Gathering

After your highly successful event, (as it’s bound to be if you’ve read this article) don’t forget to gather feedback.  People are often cautious about asking for specific feedback related to access and disabili ty.  But I don’t see a problem with this as, you’re only using feedback to improve on your event for next time.  You should add a question at the end of your feedback form allowing anyone to give you specific information regarding how they found the accessibility of your event.

Obviously, you cannot and should not ever ask specifically if somebody is disabled.  However, you can ask if anyone would like to leave any comments regarding the access.  You can use this section to gather feedback on what works well, what didn’t work well and to gather any reviews/testimonials to help you promote future events.

For more specific information about the barriers that disabled people face and how to overcome these barriers, visit our training page and talk to us about a disability awareness session.