By Erin Vallely, ATI Advocacy Specialist
May 26, 2023
The start of summer weather in upstate New York means months full of community activities and festivals. From company picnics to weekend-long street festivals, it’s important to ensure every member of the community can enjoy these opportunities. While the inclusion of permanent accessibility practices is more common nowadays, the accessibility of temporary celebrations and events often goes unaddressed.
The Benefits of Accessible Events
While accessibility is usually thought of as something disabled and chronically ill people need, everyone benefits when events are accessible. For example, elderly people, people pushing strollers, and people with temporary injuries will have much more fun at an accessible event. When more people can access events, it generates more attendees and business. This will make the event more successful and earn causes and vendors more income and recognition. Furthermore, planning for accessibility is a great way to demonstrate your organization's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Accessibility and Inclusion Tips
Venue Selection – The space or venue you use should reflect the type of event you’re hosting, and your group’s needs. You need to ensure the space is big enough for people to easily get around in, especially for those using mobility devices and who need extra personal space from crowds. Lastly, the location of the venue is important. Whenever possible, keep events on public transportation routes and ensure there’s smooth pathways throughout the event. Step-free entrances are also a must.
Event Advertising – Do your best to advertise your event as far in advance as possible. When you create invitations and flyers, use contrasting colors and clear fonts so they are easy to read. Additionally, any social media advertisements or event postings should meet web accessibility standards. Lastly, include event accessibility information in your advertisements and provide contact information people can use if they have questions, or need to request additional accommodations.
Event Set Up – When you’re setting up for your event, think through event flow and navigation. Materials, food, stations, and venders should be logically ordered and easy to get to. You also need to ensure paths and walkways are clear, smooth, and free from tripping hazards or likely to be blocked by other attendees. When possible, you should also borrow or rent mobility devices like walkers and wheelchairs for people to borrow, especially if your event is being held outside.
Event Communication – Many disabilities and chronic illnesses make it difficult to read, hear, or see well. For public activities where entertainment, guest speakers, or announcements will be made, an American Sign Language Interpreter needs to be provided. Additionally, if you have programs or materials, make copies with large print so people with visual impairments can read it easier. Lastly, use the simplest words you can to convey information and remove unnecessary details that might distract from your main points.
Dietary Needs and Food Allergies – For invitation / registration only events, ask everyone what dietary restrictions (gluten free, lactose intolerant, vegan, etc...) and food allergies (nuts, shellfish, soy, etc...) they have. With advanced notice you can plan food that everyone can safely enjoy. For larger public events, do your best to include a wide variety of options so everyone can find something to eat. Lastly, label foods with ingredients whenever possible so no one has to guess what is safe to eat.
Event accessibility is the responsibility of all community members and will become even more important as our population ages and chronic health complications in all age ranges continue to increase.
Accessibility is so much easier to plan for ahead of time than to provide in the moment. Here are some great steps you can take to make events more accessible and inclusive:
- Become an accessibility ally in your community by following these tips https://alsoweb.org/8-ways-to-be-an-advocate-for-people-with-disabilities/
- Use this checklist to help ensure you are planning ahead https://accessibility.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2022/11/Site-Accessibility-Checklist.pdf
- Recruit multiply disabled and chronically ill individuals to join your planning committee meetings with tips from this guide https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Step4.pdf