The 20th century revolutionized the concept of American freedom based on equality and inclusivity. People realized that all sorts of discrimination must end to fulfill our Founding Fathers’ dream of a free country. The civil rights movement promoted the fair treatment of all races, religions, ethnicities, and persons with disabilities. These realizations resulted in the legislation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). This law prevents non-disabled people from discriminating against differently-abled individuals in all public places. Therefore, event managers need to be extremely careful about inclusivity in 2020 while organizing a public gathering.
How to make an event more accessible?
The answer is in three words, i.e., event accessibility checklist. The event may refer to a seminar, personal gathering, office meeting, Christmas party, educational conference, and other. An accessibility checklist takes into consideration all facilities you need to accommodate your differently-abled guests. This task might be exhaustive, but it saves event managers a lot of embarrassment. The trick is never to assume; always inquire about your guests’ exclusive requirements beforehand.
Does accommodating the disabled cause a lot of money? Not necessarily! Sometimes these accommodations can be as slight as changing the layout of a table. In 2015, a Nation Disability Summit, which was a badly-organized Australian event, caused further embarrassment when the disabled attendees got to sit together in the back. An accessibility checklist prepares you for such mishaps in advance. You can place temporary ramps for the stage, height-adjustable items, and wheelchair accessible porta-potties for differently-abled attendees. Sometimes, people tend to hire caretakers for their special guests not to let them feel unattended at any cost.
These considerations enhance the significant engagement of all guests in a program.
- Choosing a venue:-
Make sure that lift, ramp, entrance, and corridor widths are as per ADA guidelines. It’s better to pick a venue with functioning automatic doors. Bathrooms should be clean and accessible; mobile toilets will provide added convenience. The forum must comprehend the regulations regarding service animals. Emergency exits should also be universally available. The venue must have a nearby parking space with parking spots for the differently-abled individuals.
- Organizing the venue:-
The venue should consider the unique requirements of people with sight/hearing impairments. The location must be bright enough to make lip-reading possible. Microphones must be adjustable to accommodate speakers in their wheelchairs. Consider people with heating disabilities when you set up acoustics. Make sure there are enough listening devices available. There shouldn’t be any loose cables piled across the floor to benefit people with mobility disabilities. If you choose to provide wheelchairs, going with Rolstoel smart wheelchairs might be of great help especially to the ones who need extra care and attention.
- Inviting the guests:-
Your invitations must include the accessibility features of your venue. Send digital invitations and ask your guests for any unique services they require. Make sure that attendees can register online. Provide an accurate and accessible map to reach the venue. You can also advise non-disabled people to consider the sensitivities of differently-abled individuals. For instance, you can ask them not to wear an intense fragrance for the sake of people with allergies.
- Enabling the disabled:-
Assign volunteers to help out disabled guests and guide them on their arrival. Some differently-abled guests will find self-help buffets uncomfortable. There should be waiters to service such individuals — reserve seatings for people who require special assistance. Make seating arrangements for companions such as interpreters, note-takers, sign language experts, and others. Moreover, offer various edible delicacies, including halal, kosher, gluten-free, and vegetarian options. Make these food items labeled for easy identification. Hire caterers who can guide guests regarding their queries about the meals.
- Helping out during presentations:-
Make sure all your videos possess captions. The visually-impaired must be seated near the screen. Describe any visual information for the ease of people with hearing impairments. Submit the presentation material in advance to the visually-impaired guests. Moreover, they have printed copies available in bold, large fonts for the requesting attendees. Make sure all presenters use a microphone. Hourly breaks will facilitate the disabled further.
- Arranging the event:-
Make sure there’s enough space between chairs and tables for wheelchairs to pass through. Provide chairs for the easily-fatigued people. Clear the venue of all the hazards to make the entire floor wheelchair accessible. Don’t use strobe lights as they may cause epileptic fits. You can also arrange for some refreshments and exercise areas for service/assistance animals. Inquire about the preferred pronouns of your guests and make sure the bathrooms are gender-neutral.
- Collecting feedback afterward:-
The collection of feedback follows the conclusion of a successful event. It will be an effective method of spreading awareness regarding universal accessibility. You can advocate for the dignified treatment of the disabled by answering people’s queries regarding event management. The differently-abled guests can comment on the host’s organization skills. This feedback will help you prepare to follow ADA standards and guidelines in a better way.
Further useful tips
- Make sure that images in your presentations have written descriptions included. These descriptions must accurately and wholesomely depict the nature and purpose of that picture. It’ll help an interpreter explain the depiction to a visually-disabled individual.
- Every video must accompany an accurate transcript. People with hearing disabilities will appreciate a chance to read if they’ve missed out on something. It also gives you an option to achieve excellent SEO scores later.
- Ask the speakers to speak slowly. Some of your guests may be listening to an interpreter due to their lack of English comprehension. You can also allow guests to join via video-conferencing tools such as Zoom or Google Meet.
- Use plain language that is easy to grasp and understand. Make your speeches inclusive of all people. Avoid using slang or jargon. Don’t use ableist words that promote a gloomy picture of the differently-abled persons.
- It’s not appreciated to use strobing/flashing lights. Avoid using similar animations as well. Make sure to place a clear warning if you’re going to show a video that may cause epileptic fits. Give interpreters time to explain before you move on with your next point.
An event must include specific features to accommodate the disabled. In 2015, 40 million Americans suffered from some mental/physical disability/handicap. According to the CDC, 1 out of 4 American adults has some disability. Around 14% of them find walking or climbing stairs a challenging process. An event needs to consider the inclusion of people with a disability. It’s not just a legal but also a moral obligation to make differently-abled people feel secure and comfortable. The recommendations mentioned above help the disabled participate in your event in a dignified manner. The protection of human dignity is a responsibility we all equally share.