Types of Events
Events can include:
- one-to-one meetings
- larger meetings
What is an Accessible Event?
An accessible event is when participants with disabilities are also able to take part in all activities and are able to get results from being present.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 has now given disabled people equal rights to attend, to participate in and to enjoy events. Reasonable adjustments to the service (in this case the event), must be made to make it accessible for disabled people.
Problems encountered by disabled and elderly people at a non-accessible event
Blind and partially sighted participants often have problems with finding their way around a venue. Physical barriers, confusing layout of buildings and outdoor areas, combined with disturbing noises and other sensual impressions may yield uncertainty and difficulty in moving about independently. Access for blind and partially sighted participants is not only about physical access to buildings but also includes access to written information.
The problem for hearing impaired participants is often the poor acoustics of the venue and additional noise such as the scraping of chairs. Also, poor lighting can affect the ability of lip reading.
Physically impaired participants often have a problem with the physical surroundings having barriers, therefore making it difficult to move about the venue.
The problem for cognitively impaired participants is often with understanding the many forms of information - verbal, written and graphical - available at an event.
The following are key features that are common to most events:
Before the Event
The venue should have accessible approaches and entrances:
- Sufficient drop off areas and disabled car parking bays close to the main door
- Approaches to the building clear of obstructions
- Staff or volunteers available to direct people to the relevant parts of the venue
- If steps are included at the entrance, a safe ramp with handrails to both sides with a gently sloping gradient (1:20), or a lift to the entrance, which is independently accessible by disabled people should be available. They should be well lit
- An accessible main door, wide enough for wheelchair access. Where doors are made of glass, they should be highlighted and door handles should be at an accessible height
- Door entry systems that are accessible. Buildings with inaccessible door entry systems should be avoided or alternative systems and arrangements should be made to welcome participants
- A level threshold at the entrance, with safe flooring
- Clear signs, internally and externally, to all entrances, rooms, lifts, toilets, café and other facilities, including temporary signs giving directions and identifying event areas, where appropriate
- Fully accessible and clearly signed emergency exits and evacuation procedures in place, to assist disabled people to exit the venue in case of emergency, including alternative procedures where lifts may not be in operation
- A permanent or temporary induction loop, or infra-red system or other sound enhancement system, where appropriate. Where PA (public address) systems are used, alternative ways of communicating key and emergency information should be organised and clearly understood by organisers and participants
Clear circulation spaces and accessible areas for events:
- Corridors and reception areas should be obstacle free. If there are any obstacles these should be clearly highlighted, and corridors and doorways must be wide enough for wheelchair user
- All event rooms on one floor, or ramps and/or lifts available for the numbers of people to move between rooms within the time available
- There should be enough room to allow for movement around tables and chairs
- A range of moveable seating, with and without arms/cushions/high backs, adjustable seat heights and tables which are accessible to wheelchair users. These should be arranged to allow sufficient space for wheelchair users and others to move around easily and to sit where they choose
- No background noise, such as noisy heating and ventilation systems or background music
- Rooms which are clearly and evenly lit, without shadows or glare, and well maintained, and where possible, natural light should be available
- Tables, notice boards, flip charts, whiteboards and other furniture and equipment that are also accessible to wheelchair users
- It is important any speaking/stage area be accessible. A platform/stage lift should be large enough for a wheelchair user and be equipped with a ramp and handrails. Presenters should have the option of a podium or table to use during a presentation
Additional facilities including lifts, accessible toilets, exercise areas, refreshment and dining facilities:
- Lifts, with tactile buttons at a height accessible for wheelchair users and independently accessible by disabled people, which are large enough for at least one wheelchair user and one person
- Platform/stage lifts, where available, which are independently useable by disabled people
- At least one unisex accessible toilet, clearly signposted
- Baby changing areas, which are accessible to disabled adults and children
- Appropriate resting and exercise space and the provision of water bowls for assistance dogs, especially if the event is a long one
- Café and restaurant facilities that are accessible to wheelchair users, including counters, bars, tables, moveable (not fixed) seating, and information in accessible formats
- Information, including posters, leaflets and background papers, should be available in alternative formats
- Available in alternative formats
- Specific requirements and needs of participants noted during registration
Arranging for Language Support Professionals (LSP)
- LSP are in demand, and should be booked as far in advance as possible
- Where an event is organised to take place for more than one hour, two LSPs should be booked
- At most events and especially at all open events, it is good practice to book LSP to be available as a matter of course. Although you may plan carefully and get all registration forms, with requirements noted, returned, it is always possible that you will get people attending with additional access requirements
- In order for LSP to become familiar with the topic, it may be an advantage if they have seen the agenda, presentations etc before the event. In particular, they have been provided with acronyms, foreign words, specialist and technical words in advance
- Needs of LSP should be noted ie. chairs without arm rests etc
Programme structure and briefing speakers, trainers, presenters, workshop leaders and other support staff
- Build in appropriate access breaks for people attending and allow for short breaks every 20 – 30 minutes where LSP are involved
- Ensure speakers, trainers and presenters are briefed, well in advance, not only on content but also on inclusive presentations and access issues they may not be aware of
- Ensure that presenters, facilitators and workshop leaders are briefed on inclusive communication issues, including inclusive practice for introductions, ice-breakers, discussions, decision making and exercises, to enable all participants to independently access materials
- All workshops should have notetakers arranged before the event where possible. If this is left to the time of the event, some people may not be able to fully participate
- Ensure that LSP, personal assistants and advocates are available to participants in workshops as well as in the main event, if required, to provide support to facilities or to interpret or explain and assist people to be fully involved
- Organisers should also check that support staff including reception, catering and security staff, are briefed or aware of good practice, especially when using another organisation’s venues such as hotels
- Check that any presentations and paperwork, produced by visiting presenters, will be available in accessible formats to send out in advance of the event
- Wherever possible, the use of overhead projectors, flow charts and graphics should be avoided, unless the information has been provided to participants in a format accessible to them, before the event. Where diagrams or visual images are used at an event, they should be described to participants, unless it is indicated that this is not required
- All LSP should also have copies of any presentation material as far in advance as possible before the event. They should also have a copy of any verbal presentation, particularly if acronyms, foreign words, technical or specialist language will be used
- If an overhead projector is used, the print should be large and well spaced enough to be clearly visible, with few lines
- Avoid using coloured presentational backgrounds. Where colour is used, choose contrasting print on clear backgrounds
- When an overhead projector, flip chart or PowerPoint presentation (PDF) is used, each point should be read out and images and diagrams described. Reading it out will also allow for sign language interpretation of the material being presented and for people using other formats, such as braille, to ensure that they are following the material
- Present key points in multiple ways, including visual, auditory and tactile approaches
- Videos should ideally be subtitled/captioned. The content should also be explained/referred orally
- At least one roving microphone should be available to allow questions or comments to speakers or presenters from the participants
- Consideration should be given to those participants who request to tape the presentation
- Remind speakers that they should avoid using abbreviations, jargon, technical or specialist terms during their presentations, which may not be understood by participants or ensure that these terms are clearly explained during the presentation
- Speakers must talk clearly, not too fast and face the audience and keep hands etc away from the mouth
- Speakers should be aware that good light conditions facilitate lip reading. They should place themselves according to the illumination and avoid standing in front of windows (contrasting lights). Also ensure that the interpreter can be seen when lights are dimmed
- Speakers to keep presentations within scheduled time frames
- Speakers must remember not to walk in front of LSP while they are signing
- It may be necessary for speakers to repeat questions from the audience
Paperwork available in alternative formats
- All information required for the event should be prepared in alternative formats in sufficient time for it to be sent out to participants, in their preferred format, at least ten days before the event, preferably two weeks in advance
Displays and registration arrangements
- Briefing for reception staff on access issues, before event
- Large clear signs indicating all rooms and facilities
- Tables at reception and registration, which are accessible for disabled people, including accessible height and knee recess space
- Chairs available at registration and reception
- LSP available at reception and registration, where possible
- Papers and information, including signing up for workshops, available in accessible formats
- Badges that are easy to use. They should be prepared in advance if possible, using large print. Where badges are written at the event, a range of large and small size pens should be available
- Induction loops or other appropriate sound enhancement systems, checked and working, and clearly indicated to all participants
- Seating reserved, if necessary ie. participants with seeing or hearing disabilities may be more comfortable in the front; need to be seated close to a LSP
Arrangement, layout and requirements of rooms and venues immediately before the event
- A sign language interpreter should not be located in front of a door or where people will be walking in front or behind, and there should be no background distractions
- A clear area between the sign language interpreter and participants must be available and the interpreter should be appropriately lit, avoiding shadows on their face
- When speech to text is used, and if it is not displayed on a large screen, the room layout should be arranged to accommodate this service
- Ensure that the room is arranged to allow for movement around tables, chairs and equipment and that obstacles are removed in routes around the venue
- Ensure that all participants can choose where they wish to sit
- An even room temperature should be established and all lighting checked for any maintenance requirements
- Check that all the equipment, including microphones and induction loops, is working
- Ensure that all equipment, refreshments and resources are accessible to participants and presenters
- Check that all emergency exits are available and that emergency procedures are known to all organisers
- Check that all accessible toilets are free of cleaning materials and other obstacles
At the Event
- Be welcoming and assist people if needed
- Clear simple signs will help people get to the event room
- Let people know about housekeeping at the beginning of the event. Tell people where the toilets, fire exits etc are
- Remind venue staff to look out for things going wrong ie. bags on the floor etc
- Some people will need individual help ie. do not just point to exits, give a description of how to reach them
- It will be helpful to set down the event rules ie. question and answer procedures
- If seats are allocated, make sure disabled people are not seated all together or away from a LSP
- If photographs are to be taken or participants videoed during the event, people must be asked at the beginning if they mind. Explanation given of what the photographs will be used for. Some participants may be sensitive to flash photography
- Introduce organisers so that people know who to ask for if they need help
- When dimming the lights for a presentation, make sure people can still see their supporter
- Portable microphones are good for questions from the audience
- Give LSP regular breaks
After the Event
- Minutes, proceedings etc should be available in alternative formats
- BSI (2008) PAS 88:2008 Guidance on accessibility of large hotel premises and hotel chains. [accessed 01/07/09].
- Centre for Accessible Environments, Department for Education and Skills & Eversheds LLP (2003) Make your Conference Accessible (PDF). [accessed 01/07/09].
- Directorate for Health and Social Affairs, Norway (2004) Accessible meetings, courses and conferences. [accessed 01/07/09].
- Disabled People's Network Manchester (2006) Guidelines for Accessible Meetings and Events. [accessed 01/07/09].
- DisAbled Women's Network Ontario (2002) Planning for Accessible Meetings & General Guidelines When Serving Persons with DisAbilities. [accessed 01/07/09].
- JISC TechDis (2006) Accessibility Essentials 3: Creating Accessible Presentations. [accessed 01/07/09].
- Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (2004) How to Make Your PowerPoint Presentations Accessible (PDF). [accessed 01/07/09].
- North Carolina Office on Disability and Health (2005) Removing Barriers: Planning Meetings That Are Accessible To All Participants (PDF). [accessed 01/07/09].
- Social Care Institute for Excellence (2005) How to make events accessible (PDF). [accessed 01/07/09].
The information contained in this section was taken from the following sources: