March 14, 2024
By Paul Cook

Creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all attendees, including those with neurodiversity, sensory, and mobility issues, is essential when choosing the right venue.  

Around 16% of people worldwide experience a significant disability, according to the World Health Organisation. Therefore, it makes sense that your events, and your venue, are accessible. 

By asking the right questions before contracting with a venue, you can unearth key facts that will guide you in making the right decision. We've curated a set of questions to help you navigate the path to an accessible and inclusive event experience:

Mobility accessibility

1. Are there reserved accessible parking spaces near the entrance? 

Some attendees may have difficulty walking long distances. Having accessible parking spaces close to the entrance is essential for these attendees.  

2. Is the approach to the venue on solid ground?  

Travelling over uneven surfaces like grass and gravel can be a challenge for some attendees. It’s important to determine if the venue will make accommodations such as temporary pathways over uneven surfaces like mud or cobblestones. 

3. Does the venue have wheelchair accessibility for entrances, exits, and common areas? 

Attendees with mobility difficulties need to be able to navigate the venue without encountering barriers. Wheelchair accessibility of entrances, exits, and common areas is a basic requirement for providing equal access to all event attendees. 

Ideally, the main entrance will be accessible, but if that's not possible, you’ll want to ensure there's an alternative accessible entrance that will remain unlocked for the duration of your event. 

4. Is there ample space for mobility aids? 

It’s not just wheelchairs that have to be considered. Individuals who use mobility aids, such as walkers or scooters, need enough space to navigate comfortably. 

5. Does the venue have step-free access throughout? Are the lifts easily accessible without a key? Are there handrails on the ramps, which have a gentle gradient? 

Individuals with mobility impairments need to be free to move around independently within the venue. Ask the venues on your shortlist if they provide step-free access, accessible lifts without needing a key, and properly designed ramps with handrails. 

6. Can you provide temporary use of mobility devices, such as wheelchairs or scooters, for attendees who may need assistance during the event? 

Assisting with mobility devices means attendees with mobility difficulties can access the necessary equipment to navigate the event space comfortably. Offering temporary use of wheelchairs or scooters promotes independence and accessibility for all attendees. 

Sometimes, attendees can become fatigued whilst at an event. Knowing that you’ll be able to look after them is critical.  

7. Are there any accessible restrooms with stalls that have grab bars and enough space for mobility aids? 

Attendees with mobility difficulties need to use restroom facilities independently and comfortably during events, so accessible gender-neutral restrooms with grab bars and ample space are a must-have. 

Hearing accessibility

8. Do you have an assistive listening system available for attendees with hearing difficulties? 

Check the availability of an assistive listening system (ALS). ALS help people who struggle to hear audio in difficult environments. This is important to ensure that people with hearing difficulties can access auditory content like presentations or speeches more clearly.  

9. Is there a hearing loop system in your meeting room(s) for hearing aid users? 

A hearing loop system helps individuals with hearing aids to hear clearly during presentations or events. Ensure it works and that someone from the venue will be available to assist with operating it if necessary.  

10. Are there visual (flashing) fire alarms in private spaces like toilets? 

Visual fire alarms are needed for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to be alerted in the event of a fire. Ask the venue to demonstrate that they are adequately prepared for this. 

Visual impairment accessibility

11. Are there any Braille or tactile signs in the venue to assist attendees with visual impairments? 

Braille or tactile signage helps visually impaired attendees navigate the venue independently. This type of signage needs to provide essential information such as room numbers, restroom locations, and directional signs.  

Having tactile maps or models of the venue layout can help familiarise visually impaired attendees with the event space. These models provide spatial information and promote self-sufficient navigation. 

Event planners could arrange with the venue to offer tours of the facility for attendees with visual disabilities.  

12. What provisions does the venue have for looking after the requirements of service animals?  

Service animals do a vital job, and they deserve to be looked after. It's important to ensure that they have access to water and appropriate facilities for relieving themselves, as they play a crucial role in supporting individuals with disabilities. 

Neurodiversity accessibility

Neurodiversity is a concept that recognises the natural variations in the human brain and the different ways people think and process information. Common types of neurodiversity include, Autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Dyslexia. 

13. Can you provide sensory-friendly adjustments like dimming the lights or reducing noise levels during the event? 

Sensory-aware adjustments make events more accessible for attendees with all kinds of sensory sensitivities, and this often includes those who are neurodivergent.  

Florescent lighting is something that particularly bothers people. Providing softer lighting options can help promote comfort and accessibility for individuals with diverse sensory sensitivities.  

14. Is there a quiet area or sensory-friendly space for attendees who need a break from sensory stimuli? 

Events can be overwhelming for many people. Designated quiet areas or sensory-friendly spaces can be a welcome oasis. They give attendees with neurodivergences such as autism or sensory processing disorders a place where they can regulate their sensory experiences and recharge as needed. People suffering from migraines, vertigo, and similar conditions can also benefit from this space, along with any attendee who needs a quiet break. 

Additional accessibility considerations

15. Are your staff members trained in supporting attendees with diverse accessibility needs, including those with hearing, sight, or mobility difficulties, and those who are neurodivergent? 

Having staff members who are trained to support attendees with diverse accessibility needs is important to ensure that all event attendees receive the appropriate accommodations and assistance. These staff members are knowledgeable, empathetic, and well-equipped to promote inclusivity and accessibility for all. 

16. Does the venue know how to deal with allergies and special diets?  

Everyone's dietary requirements need to be catered for. Check that both the chef and serving staff know all the ingredients in the food – and consider making sure that the ingredients are listed somewhere attendees can read through. Check that staff can signpost this list.  

Also, confirm whether the food and beverages are provided in-house or outsourced. If outsourced, ask the provider relevant questions about how they deal with dietary requirements.  

Cross-contamination risks are also crucial to consider. For example, making a sandwich with gluten-free bread on the regular bread cutting board may be fine for someone with gluten sensitivity, but it is definitely not for someone with celiac – and your venue should be aware of this. 

17. How accessible are the guest rooms?   

It’s important to check the accessible guest rooms to ensure that they meet the needs of your attendees. For instance, you should consider whether there’s a fridge to keep medication in, how much turning space is available for wheelchair users, and how easy it is to navigate the room and operate the light switch.  

Always keep the attendee experience in mind

Events need to be accessible to everyone. It’s important to welcome and take care of all attendees, including those with hearing, sight, or mobility limitations, and those who are neurodivergent.  

Never assume your venue will take care of all your attendees for you. Asking the right questions means you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing they won’t face barriers due to the venue, which can be hard to adapt later on. 

By prioritising inclusivity and ensuring all attendees feel welcomed and taken care of, you demonstrate your commitment to all your attendees.

Discover more about creating successful in-person events in our Ultimate Guide to In-Person Events. 

Paul Cook

Paul Cook has been immersed in business events for over 20 years, as a writer, producer, speaker, advisor, and educator. He is the author of three event focused books; Supercharge Your Virtual Speaking, Remotely Engaging and Risk It! Paul is a Past President of the UK Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and he is currently serving as a Jury President for the Eventex Awards.

The Ultimate Guide to In-Person Events
Guide to In-Person Events
Create successful in-person events with this practical guide

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