This is the third in a four-part series about improving the event experience for disabled guests.
- Part 1: ADA at 25: Industry still struggling to include disabled.
- Part 2: Satisfying all attendees pays off in multiple ways.
- Part 3: 7 ways planners can do better.
- Part 4: ADA-related questions you should ask venues and providers.
We’ve been looking at how the meetings industry still struggles to fully include disabled attendees — and why it’s so important — even though it’s been 25 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act became law.
Here are seven ways to customize events for those using wheelchairs or scooters or crutches, those who have hearing issues, those who might be visually impaired or be disabled in a less obvious way.
- Make sure registration forms include space for information on attendees’ special needs and restrictions. Don’t forget to ask exhibitors, sponsors and speakers, too.
- Ask disabled attendees what they need to make the experience more accessible and enjoyable.
- Keep your guests’ needs in mind and mentally walk through the event to identify potential challenges or barriers.
- If you do a site visit or can physically move through the event space, do so as someone who has every disability your attendees have. This helps you understand how their experience differs from that of an able-bodied attendee.
- Develop solutions as part of your event design. As often as possible, create a plan that allows everyone to experience the event in the same way without segregation. Ideally, you want everyone to arrive, eat and leave together.
- If alternate plans are required for guests with special needs (e.g., meal tickets, shuttle transportation, ramps or elevators instead of stairs, American Sign Language interpreters, etc.), create a communication strategy that will tell guests, event staff and venue staff about what needs to happen when, contacts and contingency plans.
- Consider having an on-site concierge responsible for answering accessibility questions and helping attendees know what to expect. An on-call guide is also helpful.
Resources and readings
- The Americans With Disabilities Act government page. Includes information and technical assistance on the law.
- U.S. Census Bureau’s Americans With Disabilities: 2010 household economic report.
- Mobility International USA. Planning tips, inclusive best practices and community resources.
- U.S. State Department. Advice and international agencies to assist disabled travelers.
- Boston Commission for Persons With Disabilities. Local resources, events and advocacy. Go here for a list of other cities with similar commissions.
- “Creating a culture of inclusion: Tips and tactics for addressing attendees’ special needs.” 2013 PYM Annual Guide
- “Accessibility: Making trade shows accommodating to all.” Trade Show Insights
Are there other resources you’d recommend or planning steps we’ve missed? Share them with us in the comment section below.