Accessibility is critical for events industry
Recent statistics from World Health Organisation state that 16 per cent of people worldwide (1.3+ billion people) experience significant disability. This already substantial number doesn’t take into consideration the countless additional individuals who experience minor disabilities that impact how they interact, process, and engage with the world around them.
For the meetings and events industry, accessibility is critical because live events are all about bringing people together for a shared experience. Planners should work to ensure that everyone can have a positive, valuable experience, which is exactly why accommodating people with disabilities should not be overlooked during both the event planning and execution process.
Here are a few insights and best practices to deliver more accessible events:
UNDERSTAND DISABILITIES AND EMBRACE THE DIFFERENTLY-ABLED
Some disabilities are visible, while others may not be immediately apparent – such as certain neurodivergence or mental health conditions. Others include mobility, visual and hearing impairments. A person can be mildly or majorly affected by any of these, and their accessibility needs may differ. Understanding these unique individual needs and adapting to your delegate’s requirements at each stage of the event planning process can make the attendees feel more welcome at your event.
PLAN MORE ACCESSIBLE IN-PERSON EVENTS
Successfully delivering a more accessible in-person event means having the right technology in place, investing in accessibility services, and training onsite support staff to accommodate guests’ needs. In practice it may vary, depending on the event’s size, scope and technological capabilities like:
• Designing unobstructed registration and presentation space and have ushers/guides to assist.
• Providing accessible check-in technology.
• Offering live captioning and creating accessible meeting notes.
• Providing Braille, larger print, and assisted listening devices.
• Consider having a sign language interpreter present.
• Assisting with accessible transportation at the event.
Leverage assistive technology for virtual or hybrid events.
Virtual or hybrid events require their own set of planning considerations. First and foremost, planners should ensure any mobile or online content meets standards specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Other recommendations include:
• Offering blind and low-vision users live or pre-recorded audio that describes the text, images, graphics, and video that comprise the visual portion of the presentation.
• Providing participants with a variety of meeting connection methods (computer, app, telephone) to maximize accessibility and choice.
• Providing window-in-window sign interpretation and captioning on all video content.
PRIORITISE ACCREDITED ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGY
Planners should choose a technology partner that values and facilitates accessibility. Companies often claim they are accessible, when in reality, they might not be. So, look for those that leverage outside companies to evaluate their accessibility efforts through direct reviews and accreditations, usually offered through VPATs (Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates).
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Ultimately, creating a truly inclusive and accessible industry requires the support of all stakeholders across the meetings and events ecosystem. By working together, we can create a more inclusive event environment for all attendees, regardless of their abilities.
* David Quattrone is Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Cvent