Accessible events for everyone

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How to create inclusive meetings and conferences - 10 practical tips

Meetings and conferences are platforms where all kinds of very different people come together to network and exchange know-how. This is only possible if everyone who is interested in taking part is actually also enabled to do so. It is as important for people with physical or cognitive impairments to attend a conference or visit a trade fair as it is for everyone else. However, inclusion is much more than a ramp for wheelchair users at the entrance or disabled toilets.

Inclusive thinking

In fact, inclusion starts earlier with a specific way of thinking: Inclusion means that everyone can be a part of what is happening and benefit from attending, no matter their gender, age, physical or mental abilities, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, education or cultural and religious beliefs. As a company or event planner, you need to be sensitive to the needs of all attendees, including those of people with restricted mobility or sensory impairments. Often little things are enough to enable people to jointly visit an event.

Considering the needs of attendees with disabilities starts as early as in the planning phase when choosing your venue: Are all visitors able to use the same entrance? Do I have an accessible website so that also visually impaired people can independently get information about meeting and conference offers? Can attendees using wheelchairs help themselves from the buffet and sit at tables without any problems?

Ten top inclusivity tips

We have put together ten practical tips of what you should consider when planning inclusive events:

  1. Let attendees know what you're doing before, during and after the event to achieve more inclusivity so that people with restricted mobility or visual impairments know that they can take part in your event.
  2. Make sure that your website and invitations are accessible (for more information and tips, please click here).
  3. Establish beforehand how visitors with physical impairments can get barrier-free access to your event. If necessary, you could organise a shuttle service that is suitable for wheelchair users or a service that accompanies attendees on the way to the train station or bus stop and back. Plus, provide directions for visitors arriving by car, including information about suitable parking spaces and disabled parking close to the entrance.
  4. Make sure that every attendee can, where ever possible, independently find their way round the event and get the information they need. In this context, pay particular attention to stairs that can create access issues. Also, ensure that the registration counter is accessible.
  5. When furnishing the catering area, keep an eye on different table heights and make sure to leave at least 1.20 metre between tables with occupied seats.
  6. It is important for people who are visually impaired that the catering staff can explain what is offered on the buffet. If they have special dietary requirements or diabetes, they also need information on ingredients and additives.
  7. Did you think of visual as well as acoustic signage for providing important information on site? For example, you need to make sure that every visitor can receive and understand safety and emergency information.
  8. Reserve space for people with mobility issues at the end of the rows of seats so that they can easily follow talks and presentations.
  9. Similarly, you should reserve a few places close to the speakers for people with hearing and visual impairments so that they can use their alternative senses to take in what's being said.
  10. Offer transcribed talks or videos after your event to make information available to everyone.