Planning accessible meetings & events can seem like an overwhelming task, but with the right preparation (and the right checklists) you can make it feel like second nature.
Good access to your meeting or event means that more people can (and will) attend. Besides being a legal requirement, it's best practice to remove barriers for disabled people.
And it all startes long before booking your meeting venue. Here's a handy checklist for your upcoming on-site venue visit (and even if you don't typically do on-site visits, it's good to keep in mind).
Is Your Meeting Venue Really Accessible?
On-site visits to meeting venues can help whether barriers exist for persons with a wide range of disability.
However, asking the venue sales representative is merely sufficient. Too often, meeting venues simply 'forget' that there might are small areas within the facility that are inaccessible to some users.
Think of those heavy doors that some people might find hard to push and pull. Or those doors with springs that automatically close. Or the toilet that's barely big enough for a wheel-chair to turn around.
Often, these things fall under the radar. But when the meeting is in full action and you have disabled participants struggling to participate this is not good.
✅ Venue Exterior Accessibility Checklist
Planning accessible meetings and events doesn't stop with the meeting room itself.
Consider the surrounding factors that might have an impact on your disabled participants travelling to and from the venue.
Therefore, check for:
- Slip-resistent, level surfaces
- Close proximity of venue from airport, train station, taxi stand, and public transportation
- Close proximity to restaurants and shops
- Ramps for inaccessible areas, equipped with hand-rails on both sides
- Accessible, clearly marked parking spaces with accessible loading zones
- Barrier-free and clearly marked, well-lit accessible main entrance at street level
✅ Venue Interior Accessibility Checklist
Some venues and hotels are more accessible than others. You might have some control over things like registration & check-in desks, but there are variables you definitely need to check when visiting the venue for the first time. These include:
- Clearly marked elevators with tactile signage of the door and along an accessible route
- Elevator control buttons that are reachable by wheelchair users
- Elevator voice and visual display with two-way emergency communication
- Easy-to-open, light doors with lever handles easy to grasp with one hand or automatic/push button openers
- Wide (32 inches / 90 degrees opening) doorway for wheelchairs and scooters to enter and exit
- Clearly marked accessible restrooms
- Emergency procedures for people with disabilities (audio and visual alarms in halls and sleeping rooms)
- Registration/Check-In Desk at a height accessible by wheelchair users
- Accessible space for walking service animals
- Well-lit areas and adjustable lighting
✅ Meeting Room Accessibility Checklist
You want to make sure that everyone can easily participate and contribute to your meeting. Don't just think about potential barriers for your participants. For events, you might also want to consider accessibility issues for speakers & presenters.
Definitely check for:
- Signs with tactile and easily readable and large type (sans serif or simple serif) with good contrast that direct attendees to all rooms
- Wide seating aisles that are at least 90cm wide to accommodate wheelchairs & scooters
- Well-lit rooms for participants with visual impairments
- Audio-Visual Equipment located in a place that doesn’t block pathways
- Multiple sets of outlets for laptops and other electronic aids
- Well secured cables, wires, cords, and microphones outside paths of travel
- Speaker podium at ground level or accessible via ramp / lift
- Tables for materials and food & beverages at a height that is reachable by wheelchairs/scooters and in an accessible location
- Rooms large enough to allow all persons to move freely
- Accessible bathrooms in close proximity to rooms
- Toileting space and water for service animals
- Proper air circulation with temperature controls
- Quiet break space in close proximity to the rooms
✅ Promotional Material & Registration Checklist
Promotional and registration materials are fundamental when communicating the accessibility of your meeting or event. Maybe you can offer various registration options (phone, email, online) or maybe you can offer meeting material in alternative formats, such as Braille, large print, or electronic files.
In any case, make sure you check the following:
- Ensure that you have a fully accessible event website
- Include a statement that your meeting / event is accessible
- Identify any barriers that cannot be eliminated
- Provide alternative registration options (online, phone, text, email)
✅ Social Areas Accessibility ChecklistDepending on the type and size of your meeting and event you might have social activities going on. You want to ensure that meals and functions, such as receptions, are accessible to participants with disabilities.
- Provide chairs with arms
- Avoid counter-top high tables and chairs
- Ensure that entertainment is accessible
- Arrange for accessible transportation
- Include finger foods that don't require people to use utensils or hold plates
- Ensure sufficient room between seating areas for wheelchairs / scooters
✅ Training Your Staff Checklist
Staff (both from meeting organisation and venue) are critical when planning accessible meetings and events. Here are a few items to tick off when training your internal or external staff:
- Appoint a dedicated person (often yourself) for accessibiliy issues
- Make your staff aware of emergency procedures and accesibility features of the meeting venue
- Hold orientations/trainings for staff on types of disabilities and etiquette
- Do a walk-through of the venue at the day of themeeting
- Hold orientation for attendees with disabilities to review accessibility features, locations, and/or accommodations
There seems to be many areas to consider when planning accessible meeting & events. We hope that this checklist will be useful when managing your on-site visits.
While this list might be extensible, it might also be worthwhile reaching out to your local disability association for further tips.
If you're on the lookout for amazing meeting venues, make sure to also check out Meetingselect, our online platform to easily find, book, and manage your meetings online.