13 Tips for Accommodating Attendees with Physical Challenges

Broken ankleSooner or later, every event planner will need to accommodate the physical challenges of some event participants.

It isn't always a long term or permanent physical challenge: During team building sessions and corporate events that my company has organized, there have been participants who have recently broken a limb or had knee surgery. Based on these experiences, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that all participants are comfortable:

  1. Always do a pre-event survey or discuss the issue of accommodating physical challenges with your prime contact.
  2. Ask don't assume what accommodation your guests with physical challenges require. 
  3. Identify any legal requirements of your selected destination. For example: Impact of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act for Event Planners.
  4. Take any pre-existing physical challenges into account when selecting the venue. Opt for venues that are wheelchair accessible or that have some fully accessible guest rooms if this will be required by some attendees.
  5. For public events, as part of the registration, ask participants to identify if they have any physical challenges or require assistance in accessing the venue. Keep in mind individuals who face visual or auditory challenges
  6. Again, don't forget those with ambulatory challenges:

    I remember attending a networking event at which this had not been taken into account. One participant ended up in tears after walking across a large parking lot and along a long corridor to the event venue. When she faced the need to climb stairs after walking that distance, it was more than she could bear.It turned out that there was a back entrance and golf carts were on-property, so her challenges had been unnecessary.
  7. For events that involve air travel, be sure to alert the airline to any individuals who require wheelchair assistance, extra time to pre-board, or aisle seats.
  8. Provide the hotel or resort with some guidance when assigning a room. Individuals with ambulatory challenges should be assigned to lower floors and, accessible rooms that are not to far from the main venue where the meetings and group events will be held.
  9. Be certain to alert the nurse or doctor on-site of any special physical challenges that members of your party are facing.
  10. Alert the resort to attendees who may require shuttle service getting to and from the various event venue.
  11. Keep in mind the needs of pregnant attendees. There may be a need for healthy options for meals and accommodation that  doesn't require a lot of walking to the event venue.
  12. Before the group arrives, inspect the rooms of all individuals with physical challenges. Pay particular attention to washroom facilities.
  13. Before the group arrives, do a final inspection of all function rooms, identify any accessibility challenges.

    Recently, during my final inspection of venues during a foreign incentive trip, I realized that there was a long walk from the area where the shuttles stopped to the beach venue for the group dinner. Discussing the needs of a participant who had recently fractured her ankle, the hotel was able to use an alternative staff route and drop the guest directly at the venue.

For more health care tips, also read Health Care for Corporate Events: Covering All Bases.

Photo Credits: alfaltendorf

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