Ensuring an event is accessible is just good for everyone. It creates a community of inclusion and acceptance. It is also a fundamental human right. So, if you plan on running in-person or online events in 2023, we want to ensure your event is accessible and inclusive for the 1 in 20 people worldwide who live with a disability.
Many businesses, organisations and educational institutions give little thought to accessibility or have no idea where to start. Lucky for them, we do. Accessibility is not difficult, nor is it expensive to implement. As a result, any costs incurred will most certainly be recovered via repeat event attendees and word of mouth.
When we find an accessible event or program, word travels fast. It is the most efficient and organic marketing and promotion. And suppose you hadn’t already figured it out that disabled and neurodivergent individuals have revenue and, like neurotypical and nondisabled persons, seek services and events that are ethical, accessible and deliver what they promise.
Below we address five key areas where a business can improve even accessibility.
1. Ask attendees if they have accessibility needs.
How often have we attended an in-person event and been asked about our dietary requirements? However, very rarely are we asked about our accessibility needs. It is just as important and should be asked for every in-person and online event.
We can understand why the event organiser may not ask. It can present a challenge when a person asks for a miniature pony to pet as a therapy support animal at the event, right? Jokes aside, my point is that people only request what they require to attend and enjoy the event. And if you cannot supply an individual with their accessibility needs, then you are missing out on their business and money. Not to mention you may be in breach of the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)
2. Captions on Videos
Every event, whether it is an in-person or online event, should include captions on videos. Captions are not just for the hearing impaired. They may greatly benefit neurodivergent individuals who struggle with auditory processing. However, they can be a huge benefit to all attendees. Captions allow the user to follow the conversation, even while having their device sound turned down or off. Great for individuals who work in an open workspace and those who work from home.
Auditory and visual information presented separately is it far more engaging. It may also surprise many to learn that up to 85% of all social media content is viewed with sound off—captions for the win for accessibility, engagement, and inclusion.
3. Sensory-friendly accessible event.
Many event organisers do not understand what sensory-friendly means. It doesn’t mean that every sense is represented at the same time. A carnival is not sensory-friendly just because it has lots of sounds, textures, and sights.
Sensory-friendly means that you can cater to individuals who may require sensory inclusion while also being able to isolate that sense if needed. An example of this is having the ability to remove yourself from the noise and visual onslaught of an event by accessing a quiet space away from the main event. Or it may be being able to modify an activity that may overwhelm an individual. Such as working one-on-one with another attendee instead of participating in the group activity. Or perhaps by simply providing an area where an attendee can stand as an alternative to sitting down if it is an auditorium-style event.
Sensory-friendly simplistically means choice when engaging with the senses. These include sight, sound, and touch, taste, texture, smell, movement etc.
4. Programs and social stories.
People who are attending your event need to be fully informed about all aspects of the day or program. This allows informed decisions on the ability to attend and prepare guests who may need to have structure and confirmation of schedules.
Social stories work great for this. It can be a brief email before the event with details about speakers and accessibility.
For online events, you may include;
- A schedule or running sheet for the day, including break times.
- Details about logging on to the event.
- Images of all speakers or performers and a brief bio.
- Inform attendees of caption options.
- Information about event recording for future viewing.
For in-person events, you may include;
- Images and information of guest speakers or performers. Including the schedule.
- Programs with guest speaker information and schedule at the event. This may be located in a central location or as individual programs.
- Location of wheelchair access and location of accessible toilets at the venue.
- Information about quiet spaces or areas at the venue where individuals may access when seeking sensory regulation.
- Information about accessing the venue, which may include a bag search or the wearing of wrist bands.
- Information about hearing loops or Auslan interpreters.
- Images and descriptions of event employees, eg images of uniforms or badges.
- Transport and parking information.
- Will there be flash photography or flashing lights.
5. Let your speakers’ or performers know ahead of time of any accessibility needs.
Let any speakers or performers know ahead of time about any accessibility needs. You may want to provide your speakers with information and instructions that include;
- Speaking clearly and facing the audience.
- making sure not to cover their mouth, especially if using a microphone.
- Asking attendees for pronouns when addressing them individually.
- Avoiding industry jargon or acronyms as much as possible.
- Introducing themselves before beginning the presentation or performance.
- Not to publicly draw attention or humiliate anyone who decides to stim or stand during a presentation.
- Asking them to follow the running sheet or program.
Here to help
If in doubt, ask. Disability, Autism, ADHD and neurodiversity are not dirty words. Asking for advice and consultation for your next event will undoubtedly the best way to ensure that you engage a larger audience. Resulting in a far more successful and enjoyable event for everyone.