Practical Considerations for Designing Accessible Corporate Events

Accessible VenueBased on the extensive discussion about events and accessibility on LinkedIn, there is much interest in designing events are truly accessible. Here are just a few more few practical considerations when designing accessible corporate events.

Venue Selection

When obtaining information from hotels, resorts and event venues that you are considering, accessibility is important to include in your selection criteria even if there is no one in the group who has physical challenges or other disabilities. In 13 Tips for Accommodating Attendees with Physical Challenges I shared the experience of having participants get injured or have surgery a few weeks prior to a corporate event or team building retreat. Let's face it, we are all one slip or fall away from having accessibility issues. When you visit venues:

  • Ensure that there are ramps, washrooms and seating areas that can accommodate wheelchairs.
  • Reserved parking close to the venue is a must.
  • If guests will be staying overnight for one or more nights, make sure that there are accessible rooms.
    The rooms should be on a lower level with no stairs or steps inside or outside the room. Check to make sure there are no steps or ledges making it difficult to access washrooms including tubs and toilets.
  • Make sure the rooms are near the meeting area and that the meeting rooms are fully accessible.
  • Discuss the venue's provisions to cater to attendees who have allergies, food sensitivities or other special meal requirements.
  • Ensure that there are dining, buffet tables and coffee stations are at a height that will ensure accessibility.

Communicating with Attendees

In some jurisdictions, like Ontario where I am based, legal provisions mandate that it is essential determine what accommodation someone requires. This should be considered a best practice even if there are no similar legal provisions in your area. The bottom line is that there is no "one size fits all" approach. Open communication prior to and during the event is essential to ensure that you identify what the individual needs. Some individuals may appreciate a lot of assistance while others may not want to be centered out in the group. Ask what is needed. Don't assume. Go over the event details and determine if any modifications are needed in event design.

My company has participant profiles in which we always ask about any special needs participants might have. 

Accommodating Deafness and Hearing Deficiencies

I did a team building retreat for an association that served individuals with hearing impairments. There were a number of best practices that were highlighted for working with sign language interpreters:

  • Always have at least 2 sign language interpreters for the program, as it is a best practice for them to take turns.
  • For smaller events, give the person or people requiring interpretation the opportunity to select where they want to sit and the interpreter will position themselves accordingly. This may involve re-arranging or moving audio-visual equipment like screens or monitors so have a member of the audio-visual team present to make last minute adjustments.
  • Address your comments to the attendee NOT the interpreter. (This is extremely important.)

Visual Impairments

Again: ask what is required. You'll likely need to consider water and other refreshments for guide dogs, ensuring that there is dog-friendly accommodation and identifying a local resource in case veterinary care if required.

Helpful Resources

  • American Foundation for the Blind
  • CNIB (Canada)
  • Canadian Hearing Society
  • CDBA (Canada)
  • International Hearing Society
  • American Association on Health and Disability
  • World Association of Persons with Disabilities

Remember many of these associations have chapters or similar organizations in other countries. This can come in handy during foreign events.

For more information, read 13 Tips for Accommodating Attendees with Physical Challenges, Impact of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act for Event Planners and Inspecting Event Venues for Accessibility.

Photo Credit: herzogbr


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