As event organisers, it is our responsibility to make events as accessible as possible by removing any barriers that make attendance either impossible, uncomfortable or stressful.
It is important to understand that many disabilities are not obvious (such as chronic pain) and you should therefore be mindful of this when planning all events, not just events where you have been informed of a guest attending who is a wheelchair user, for example.
At this point in the planning process you are not likely to have yet sent out invitations or started marketing your event. Therefore, you will not yet have been informed of any access requirements by your potential attendees. It is important to plan, in advance, when choosing your venue. Many University venues are old, and therefore installing such things as lifts are impossible. It is imperative that you do a site visit, walk the route attendees will take to access the venue, look at the size of the rooms, and talk to your venue event manager. Ask the venue if there have been accessibility problems in the past, and how they overcame them.
You can view details of most University venues and their accessibility.
What to look out for:
Announce your event in good time. Some people may have to make more complex arrangements in order to attend.
Make sure your publicity material is available in multiple accessible formats. Web pages should comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (scroll down the page).
If sending invitations you need to ensure your invitations are accessible. If you are sending your invitations out by using Outlook, please do switch your accessibility tracker on (available on Office 365). This will highlight any parts of your email that you need to change to make it accessible. If you are using Adestra in order to send out your invitation, please ensure that you have your ‘alt tag’ for alternative text for images turned on.
When you send out your joining instructions, you should ensure you include the following:
Depending on the delegates you attract to an event, and any additional requirements they have, it may be necessary to provide additional support. For example: a personal assistant, note taker or British Sign Language interpreter may need to be employed; or documents may need to be produced in alternative formats such as large print, or provided in electronic form, potentially in advance. This activity should always be done in full consultation with the appropriate delegate, as they will be fully aware of their own requirements.
Many services, such as note takers, or personal assistant can be arranged through your own staff and will not cost anything apart from time. However, do consider your budget before you offer sign language facilities, for example.
Consider any equipment you may need to hire, for instance portable ramps for accessing entrances and staging or height adjustable lecterns.
For guidance for speakers and moderators at online events please refer to the planning and running an accessible virtual event guidance.
Brief your speakers and moderators to consider individual attendee needs where appropriate. When appropriate, ensure you have briefed them on best practices for accessible presenting;
Keep in mind that your presenters may also have accessibility needs. Let them know in advance about the resources at the venue and ask whether they have accessibility needs.
An increasing number of people are changing their diets due to allergies, intolerances or personal choice. People of different faiths, people with disabilities and pregnant women all have specific requirements regarding food and drink. Remember to delete any recorded dietary requirements, after the event, for GDPR reasons.
Provide clear directional signage both inside and outside your venue. All signage should be sufficiently large and clear, dark letters on a light background, and a mixture of capitals and lower case.
Reserve seating for those who need it.
Hopefully you will never be in the position where you have to facilitate an emergency evacuation of a venue during your event. However, you will need to plan for all eventualities, consider the individual requirements of your attendees and make appropriate plans, both in your risk assessment, crisis management strategies, and your conversations with your venue manager.
These guidelines have been produced by the Events Office, Public Affairs Directorate, in collaboration with the Equality and Diversity Unit.
Guidelines for running accessible online events are also available.
More comprehensive guidelines are being developed by the Staff Disability Advisory Group and will be available soon.