Organising an event has its challenges at the best of times. Besides choosing the right venue or thinking of what catering to offer, accessibility plays an important role. Avoiding these 5 mistakes will guarantee an accessible event for everyone.
#1 – Choosing the wrong venue
Generally, event managers choose a venue before opening registration. Older venues usually do not have all the accessibility modifications that modern conference buildings are often built with, such as disabled parking and toilets, braille signage in lifts, and accommodations for wheelchair users. It is worth checking that your venue can accommodate visitors with specific needs.
#2 – Inaccessible means of registration
These days many events accept registrations mainly through online forms, many of which are not fully accessible to all. For example, for someone who is blind using a screen reader, these forms can be inaccessible, and and images without alt text are completely incomprehensible. It is also strongly recommended to offer alternative means of registration such as by e-mail or over the phone, as well as making your website accessible to those with specific needs. Asking about accessibility requirements as part of the registration process will allow you to prepare better.
#3 – Not considering deaf and hard of hearing delegates
For attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing, a conference or event can be a nightmare. Even with hearing aids or a cochlear implant, the size of the venue can inhibit the effectiveness of these devices, and in most events, lip reading would be out of the questions. However, there are various options for accommodating the deaf and hard of hearing. Live captions turn speech into text in real time, providing direct access to the English language and creating a transcript of what is being said. Some delegates might prefer to have a sign-language interpreter onsite or use a hearing loop.
#4 – Not considering delegates with low vision
In addition to choosing an accessible venue, good health and safety practice will ensure that delegates with low vision can access the event safely. For example providing even and appropriate lighting and removing obstacles and trip hazards will benefit all delegates and will be particularly appreciated by those with low vision. It is also recommended to provide written material in alternative formats, for example large-print and audio or braille. If material is provided electronically then delegates can adjust the size of the font to their taste or use a text-to-speech reader.
#5 – Not accommodating mobility impairments
Remember that the term mobility impairments means more than just wheelchair users. Some people may be able to stand and walk unaided, but may feel fatigue easily. Because of this, it’s recommended to have some seating available at events where delegates are generally expected to stand. If tables are being used, then they need to be low enough for wheelchair users to access them easily and have sufficient space between chairs for wheelchair users to manoeuvre their way in and out. Likewise if mics are being used, they need to be either height adjustable or hand-held/lapel mics.
The goal of every event is that delegates have an incredible memorable experience, talking about the event for months to come. Making your event accessible plays an important part of its success.