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  • Writer's pictureKey Society

CHAMPIONING INCLUSION AND EMBRACING ACCESSIBLE EVENTS


When planning an event, we can all agree that there are a few key universal goals — to ensure everyone feels welcome and they are able to enjoy the event to the fullest.


Accessibility and Inclusivity for events means that organisers must take steps to ensure equal access to event facilities, information, and services, and to ensure attendees can participate on an equal basis through the identification and removal of obstacles and barriers. In Australia, under both state/territory and federal law, ensuring an event is accessible for people with disabilities is a legal requirement.


DID YOU KNOW - In 2018, there were 4.4 million Australians living with disability, 17.7% of the population - Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019. THAT’S 1 IN 5 PEOPLE!


One of the top priorities when planning an event is to consider WHO will attend the event and WHAT are their needs and requirements. This includes people with physical barriers, communication, sensory, cognitive and socioeconomic barriers, and also their carers. After all, an event cannot be considered a success until each and every attendee is empowered to participate without barriers.


Here are a few elements to consider:


EVENT PLANNING STAGES

Accessible and Inclusive venues and spaces

  • Ensure your event is held in an accessible venue, temporary structure or outdoor space and is well-lit throughout the event.

  • Surfaces such as gravel and grass pose risks for many people including wheelchairs, mobility aid users, people who have impaired vision, elderly people and people with prams. Firm, even surfaces are best, as an alternative, slip-resistant surfaces may need to be temporarily installed.

  • Promote the venue access details within your invitations, marketing material or website so all attendees can make an informed decision about attending and supports requests for reasonable adjustments ie whether a hearing loop and/or sign language interpreters will be available, if there is a wheelchair platform lift or ramp as an alternative to stairs and disclose of any specifics relating to the use of flash photography, strobe lights, fog machines etc

  • Event wayfinding and signage are easy to read, with large font, colour contrast, contrasting elements and simple iconography and imagery.

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS - One of the most impressive and inclusive music festivals in Australia is Ability Fest, an event organised by The Dylan Alcott Foundation & Untitled Group which aims to use music as a platform to normalise disability. Click here for a site tour of the event with Dylan Alcott and see how they are dominating accessible events.


2. Accessible Amenities Available

  • Include details of the accessible parking onsite and drop-off zones and public transport which is clear of obstructions.

  • Ensure there are sufficient unisex accessible/ ambulant toilets and amenities for guests and their carers, who may be of the same or different gender.

  • Being able to evacuate in an emergency is as important as being able to get into an event. Take into account the egress and evacuation procedures to ensure there is a plan for evacuating all attendees.

  • We believe in using Open or Closed Captioning Services where possible, as it's beneficial to all attendees including non-native English speakers, and those who might have distractions or may have learning or literacy difficulties (such as dyslexia).

  • Ensure the venue has an accessible stage or speaker platform (generally with ramps) for people who use wheelchairs, people with balance or unsteady on their feet or other mobility aids.

  • First Aid equipment must be kept updated, adequately signed, and staff and volunteers trained in first aid procedures. And ensure at least one event staff member has a First Aid Certificate.

PROTIP: Google has added wheelchair accessible routes to Google Maps on both desktop and mobile devices. This should make your research into routes to and from your venue a total breeze.


3. Floorplan and seating layouts

  • Be thoughtful about accessible event design. For instance, make sure seats aren’t crammed together so there’s enough room for everybody.

  • Pathways, doorways, and aisles should be free from obstructions to accommodate wheelchairs, mobility aid users, scooters, canes, and service animals.

  • Reserving seating at the front or middle of the venue for people who use wheelchairs, mobility aid users, or have an assistance animal. Also, event attendees with low vision can choose seats with clear sightlines and close to the stage or presenter.

  • Be aware, people who are deaf or hard of hearing may require access to functioning hearing loops. A hearing loop can assist the hearing impaired by boosting the sound of the performance through their hearing aid. The majority of newer venues in Australia and New Zealand have this already installed however temporary solutions can be hired should it be a requirement.

4. Event Communication

  • Event marketing and invitations should include contact information so people with disability can speak directly to someone to discuss any specific access needs or requirements.

  • Include inclusive and accessible imagery within marketing material and present each person in a genuine and empowered way. If your graphics don’t embrace different religions, cultures, abilities, and ethnicities, you might lose potential attendees who don’t see themselves as part of your ideal participant.

  • Your event RSVP or ticket order form is the perfect opportunity to capture the attendee's needs and requirements. IE. Dietary restrictions, requests for interpreting services or assistive listening devices, requests for accessible parking or seating and to capture preferred pronouns so you can display them on badges/ lanyards.

5. Catering

  • When it comes to catering, consider people’s religious, allergy and dietary restrictions ahead of time. Include options for vegan, nut-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free in your menu, and clearly indicate allergens.

  • Provide a “mocktail” menu and alcohol-free drink options at the conference happy hour. This will ensure those guests who are abstaining from drinking or are sober-curious are looked after with an interesting selection of beverages.

  • Some people with mobility impairments or vision impairments may find it difficult or impossible to carry or hold food, consider how food items are served.

DURING THE EVENT

Opportunities for inclusive participation and experiences

  • Communication at events such as presentations, speeches and announcements should be provided in accessible formats (such as Word or PDF formatted for accessibility). Send slides and other information out in advance, this allows time for users with visual impairment, dyslexia or other conditions to have time in advance to familiarise themselves with the content.

  • Event timetabling takes into account the time that people with a disability may require to move between sessions.

  • Q&A Time - Make sure speakers repeat questions posted by the audience before responding, especially if there is not a roving microphone available. Presenters or audience members may express confidence that they are loud enough and do not need a microphone. Regardless, ask them to speak into one.

  • Consider keynote speakers, presenters and panellists who can provide insights on how businesses can foster a culture of inclusion, increase diversity, and promote equity are in high demand. Speaker bureaus can facilitate a great range of knowledgeable speaker recommendations to suit your event program.

Organising team

  • All event and venue staff, volunteers and security are briefed on the accessibility elements described above and are comfortable supporting people of all abilities to access the event.

  • A staff member is assigned to address access concerns that may arise during the event, and is comfortable dealing with complaints.

POST EVENT

Measure your progress, set targets, and hold yourself accountable. Make sure to give attendees a variety of ways to give feedback, whether it is via email, mobile app, or an online form. Your post-event survey should ask specific questions on how you can make the event experience more welcoming in the future.


USEFUL RESOURCES

  • Canva – An online visual design and communications platform to support your graphic design and marketing needs with a vast range of accessible and inclusive imagery. WE LOVE CANVA FOR EVENT MARKETING!

  • Photo Ability – Authentic stock image library featuring individuals with disabilities in travel, leisure and lifestyle settings.

  • Sydney for All – A visitors' guide to Sydney using universal icons to help users decide which attractions provide the appropriate level of access.

  • Accessible Events Guide - Meetings and Events Australia have developed an in-depth practical guide for Meeting and Event Organisers to help event organisers plan and deliver accessible events and meet their responsibility to provide accessible services under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

  • Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 - The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects people with a disability from discrimination and legislates that reasonable adjustments are made to reduce barriers for people with a disability.


There are a large number of elements to consider when planning a truly accessible and inclusive event, keep every attendee in mind during the planning process. If you are unsure seek guidance, reach out to disability groups, qualified individuals and organisations for planning resources and solutions and to navigate the complexities of making events more accessible and inclusive.


It’s up to us all to make changes and create a conversation around accessibility to spread best practices and host events that are inclusive and, in turn, much more extraordinary. After all, everyone deserves the opportunity to explore, learn, discover, and enjoy the world around them.


GET STARTED

Reach out to us today to champion inclusion and diversity in your next event.

Key Society offers customised venue sourcing and event management solutions to accommodate a vast range of corporate events. By providing complete planning and service coordination from conception to delivery, it’s the personalised approach that will unlock your event's potential giving you, and your attendees not just a meaningful experience but an unforgettable one.


Natalie Young – Key Society

0410 419 904


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