Our guide to accessible and inclusive event production
Event organisers, by nature, are planners.
We plan each element of an event meticulously, with backup plans in place, for those just-in-case moments. Yet, too often, we only consider accessibility in our planning if requested. Very often, this ends up being so close to the event date that you find yourself in a position where you cannot provide the access required for someone to attend.
By creating an accessible event from the get-go, you will ensure everyone can participate as well as enable a wider audience to attend. Here are some simple things you can include in every event plan:
This is your first point of contact for attendees, and ensuring that your registration process is accessible will determine whether an individual will attend.
You can do this by simply offering alternative ways for people to register, for example, having a phone number to register should they be struggling with the online form.
Registration is also the point where attendees can let you know any access requirements they have. Offer the opportunity for attendees to let you know any, and if they answer yes, allow the space to elaborate.
It can be hard for someone to let you know their requirements without understanding more about the event. Access requirements vary and you cannot know what every individual will need; therefore, the more information you publish about your event at the start, the better-armed the individual will be to know what they will need.
2. The venue
The key to making your event inclusive and accessible is to think about the many barriers that can exist for people with disabilities and address them at the planning stage. It starts with your venue.
Map out your attendees’ journey from street level to ensure that each point along the way is accessible. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Is there any accessible parking? Where is it? Is there an easy drop-off point in front of the venue?
- Is the venue close to an accessible station?
- Are there automatic doors? Are you able to prop them open if not? Are doorways wide enough for a wheelchair to go through?
- Are the lighting levels adjustable? The right lighting can help people lip-read and communicate using sign language.
- Is there level flooring? Is it firm and stable?
- What are the room acoustics like? For example, does the space have a loud echo? This could create barriers for people who are hard of hearing
- Are there accessible and changing place toilets available? Are they on the same floor as the main event space?
- Is the space big enough for a wheelchair user to navigate?
3. On the day
Throughout the day, numerous factors can limit a person’s inclusion to all areas of the event.
Accessible seating and clear signage should make it easier for guests to navigate through the event.
A key consideration is ensuring there are regular breaks and quiet spaces. During lunch breaks, provide accessible cutlery, such as cups with handles and bendable straws.
- Ensure presentations works for everyone in the room, even those sitting in the far back in the corner, who may not be able to see the presenter and slides as clearly. This may mean changing the seating layout, having a larger screen or having additional screens towards the back.
- Use an easy to read font size and type.
- Consider the use of colours: would it work in grey scale?
- Avoid using italics and underlining.
- Think about the amount of text on each slide and if this is necessary.
- Make presentations available in a digital format before the start of a presentation so that guests can easily follow.
- All videos shown should have a Voice over AND closed captions. (Think about adding video and image descriptions too)
We must all think more carefully about how we can improve our events to ensure that all attendees have the same positive experience.