When it comes to making events accessible for attendees with disabilities, it can feel overwhelming. Although, accessibility should be an integral part of event planning, not just an add-on. We’re sharing our best trips and practices that will make getting started as simple as 1, 2, 3!
Invitations & Promotional Materials
Before getting people to register, you need to get it out there that you and your society are throwing an event. So make sure that your marketing materials are accessible.
Writing with clarity is vital to making your text accessible and easily understandable for everyone. Consider the diverse needs of readers, including those who use screen readers or may have learning difficulties, before hitting that publish button. Remember that using jargon, slang, or technical terms without proper context can be confusing, so it's best to avoid them unless necessary. Additionally, be mindful of using too many full caps or long lines. These design choices can hinder readability and retention. The text should always be at an adequate font size and legible font.
Alt Text & Descriptive Captions
Adding descriptive captions and alt text to your images helps people visualize them, even if they can't see them. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have specific fields where you can add alt text for images and GIFs. If adding alt text is impossible, include descriptive captions to provide context for your visuals.
When making visuals, it's super important to keep colour contrast in mind for people who are colourblind or have some level of visual impairment. So try to avoid combos like green and red or blue and yellow since they can be tough to read. Also, adding text to images can be tricky, so consider using solid backgrounds or overlays. Sometimes, event materials may need a graph or chart, so feel free to get creative with patterns to show data.
When registering, make sure you ask your attendees if they have any accessibility requirements. This helps you prioritize the accessibility adjustments that are needed and prepare ahead of time. Remember to ask others involved in the event, like presenters or performers, if they have accessibility requirements. The registration process itself should also be accessible. Be sure to know the accessibility features and ratings of your booking and registration platforms. Also, ensure anyone attending can register through multiple avenues besides these platforms. Sometimes, a phone call or email is the best way of contact.
In general, all events should have a virtual component where appropriate so participants with autoimmune, physical, or psychological disabilities can still follow along and engage. When dealing with accessibility in the digital space, you need to make sure that everyone can follow the program and, if relevant, communicate with other attendees. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, YouTube, and Microsoft Teams often have live captions and transcript features. When it comes to the visuals on the screen, make sure that any presentations use legible fonts and simple and contrasted colour schemes. It’s also good practice to see that any attached resources are compatible with screen readers.
The first step when it comes to planning in-person accessible events is picking out a good venue that can meet the needs of anybody. It's always a good idea to visit the site beforehand. When you're physically there, consider how different mobility limitations might impact access to the space. Also, remember that once registration is complete, contact your chosen venue to assist with preparing any additional accessibility requirements with the information provided by attendees.
Considerations when picking the right venue
- Proximity to public transport or parking or a drop-off point
- Clear paths to the building with identifiable signage
- Corridors and hallways are wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users
- Ramps or elevators as alternatives ro stairs
- Automatic doors, entries and exits, and accessible bathrooms
- On-site support for people with various accessibility needs
- Quiet spaces nearby for attendees who may need them
- Well-ventilated spaces and social distancing for those with autoimmune disabilities
Running The Event
Make sure that your execs and members in running the event are informed of accessibility considerations and plans. This especially means knowing which attendees have accessibility requirements when registering. During the event, ensure your team continues to ensure that all accessibility measures are operating as designed. Every person with a disability is unique, so their needs are different. This is especially true in the way we usually think about accessibility. We typically focus on physical needs, but it's essential to consider people with less visible disabilities, like sensory sensitivities and neurodiverse ways of thinking. So, in addition to making sure the wayfinding signage is at an appropriate eye level, you should also consider if your event has any particular sensory triggers. Although, the rule of thumb you should always follow is that when you connect with someone with a disability, remember that they are the expert on their condition.
If you have any questions about how to run accessible events, feel free to get in contact with the Arc Clubs Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check your event’s accessibility stacks up against Arc’s Inclusive Event Checklist.
For a more comprehensive checklist (including a venue accessibility checklist), you can also give the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations' Event Accessibility Checklist a gander and a read.