Tips For Making Your Event Accessible And Inclusive
Organising a successful event or conference means ensuring that it is accessible to a broad range of people. This means that anyone who wishes to attend can do so without facing physical or social barriers, and that they are included in the pre-event marketing strategy.
It can be easy to become subject to unconscious biases when drawing up invitation lists or selecting guest speakers, particularly if your sector is underrepresented in certain areas. However, this will only perpetuate the status quo, and can also narrow down the agenda and potentially mean that new ideas and opinions remain unheard.
Here are some tips to optimise the inclusivity and diversity of your event.
Have a diverse organising committee
Aim to have a good balance of genders, abilities, cultural backgrounds, ages, and levels of seniority and experience on the organising committee. This will help to ensure that a range of voices are heard and the conference or event will benefit from fresh perspectives and ideas.
Have a well balanced programme
When planning topics and selecting speakers, consider if they will appeal to a broad range of attendees and send out the message that the event is for them. It may help to set targets, such as a 50/50 gender balance for speakers or panellists.
Consider how accessible the venue is
The accessibility of the venue should be clearly stated on the invitations so that wheelchair users can decide whether it is suitable for them to attend. They will obviously require step free access to the building and the conference room and break out areas, via ramps or lifts.
Corridors and doorways should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and there should be adequate disabled toilet facilities. Ideally an accessible route map should be provided for attendees to help them navigate the building, marking out disabled parking bays and emergency exits that do not require the use of steps.
Consider the sound and lighting in the venue
Good lighting is particularly important to people with hearing and visual impairments, to aid with lip reading and reading transcripts of audio content. Make sure that induction loops are available and that any other needs are catered for, such as note takers or interpreters.
Reserve seating for guests with special needs
Ideally, guests with disabilities should be assisted to reserved seats so that they have adequate time and space to adjust to their surroundings. People with visual and hearing impairments should sit near the front, and those with mobility aids or assistance dogs will require extra room.
Provide a quiet room
Some attendees may have hidden conditions such as autism or anxiety, and they may need a quiet space to chill out if they are feeling overwhelmed by the occasion. If possible, provide a quiet room where people can meditate, take medication, or just relax for a few minutes while they deal with mental overload.
Cater for a range of dietary requirements
It is good practice to ask attendees in advance if they have any special dietary requirements or allergies. If possible, arrange for caterers to prepare separate dishes for them.
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