Accessibility is the idea that services, products and devices are designed to be useable to any individual that wishes to use them. In this article, we explore how public events can be organised with accessibility in mind for all guests and participants.
What does accessibility mean at public events?
When we refer to accessibility in the context of public events, we understand it to mean that an organised space or environment is available to the public at large, even if some of these intended visitors have some form of disability.
Creating accessible spaces means identifying and responding to an event’s weaknesses in terms of structure, design or layout.
Accessibility demands inclusion, along with striving to break down unnecessary barriers to privacy, dignity, and independence by providing equal opportunity of access to all.
Accessibility cannot be just an afterthought
Organisers who plan and launch public events without questioning whether it is truly accessible to all simply fail to meet their responsibilities.
A public event should be a common experience that is open to all, which means that event planners should explore every avenue to improve accessibility while they are still in the planning stages.
To ensure their event is truly accessible, event planners should consider the following questions.
Questions to ensure that public events are accessible
Is there clear signage and lighting?
Organisers must ensure that there is clear signage around the event venue so anyone with sight-related disabilities can identify signs from a distance.
Event planners must also ensure that there is sufficient lighting, especially if the event is taking place in the evening or at night.
Does the venue location itself allow for mobility?
Whether it’s a stadium, a fair, a concert or a match, the actual physical location of the event must allow for access and mobility for all attendees.
For example, guests with mobility impairments should be provided accessible parking near the venue, or be able to gain entry as close as possible to where they just departed their mode of transportation.
Event planners should also ensure there are ramps and elevator access, as well as accessible bathrooms. There must be wide doorways and aisles to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters and walking canes.
Are the event acoustics sufficient?
It is important to consider how you will cater for hard-of-hearing attendees. Will you provide assistive listening devices or closer access?
For example, those who are hard of hearing could benefit immensely from an up-to-date PA system.
Organisers might also consider reducing unnecessary background noise, as well as trying to seat those with hearing impairments nearer to any guest speakers than other attendees.
Is there electrical access for specific mobility devices?
Several adaptive devices may require power, whether to operate effectively or simply recharge.
Event organisers must ensure that electrical outlets are in accessible seating areas for those who utilise such adaptive devices.
Does the venue allow for service animals?
An often overlooked example of accessibility is that some attendees may require support from service animals, such as guide dogs or dogs that provide mobility assistance.
Service animals such as these will require ample space to rest during the event, along with toileting and watering facilities as closely nearby as possible.
How do you communicate event accessibility to guests?
Without delivering clear messaging on accessibility, many guests will be unsure about whether they will be able to attend the event or not.
Therefore, event organisers must communicate all aspects of event accessibility to their attendees in advance of the event itself
This can be achieved through several methods:
Public events should publish accessibility information on all platforms
Event planners can provide information through various platforms such as social media, email blasts, official website accessibility sections, posters and invitations.
This information must be accurate, disseminated on multiple platforms and communicated to attendees at least a few weeks in advance of the event.
Gathering information about the needs of attendees
Utilising a ticket or an RSVP form is a very effective way to gather information on each potential guest and their accessibility concerns.
Using such mediums, you can include questions surrounding:
- Requests for interpreting services or assistive devices
- Requirements for accessible parking or seating
- An open communication space where guests can ask about other accommodations they might require
This method allows for open collaboration with guests to ensure a successfully accessible event.
Ensure that you communicate accessible transportation options
Attendees with accessibility requirements will really appreciate information about how they can enter the event premises depending on the various modes of transportation they may have taken to arrive there.
For example, you could outline available trains or bus stops nearby or direct guests to appropriate parking lots that contain accessible parking.
Public events need to disclose any specifics in pre-event communications
Organisers ought to disclose an itinerary for their guests in advance of the event. This itinerary should discuss the planned usage of any materials which might affect them, such as strobe lights, fog machines, or loud sound effects.
It is essential to acknowledge that some attendees may have sensitivities which would make these special effects harmful, such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity for example.
Inform guest speakers about special accommodations beforehand
It is important that guest speakers not be in the dark regarding whom they are speaking to.
Event organisers should notify guest speakers about any special accommodations they should be aware of, including accessibility notes like:
- Speaking clearly and facing forward toward the audience
- Avoiding acronyms and colloquialisms as much as possible
- Specifying when they’re finished speaking
We can help public events become more accessible
Creating a more inclusive and accessible event is just one step to having a successful event and prompts an essential conversation about inclusivity. This conversation will encourage more organisers to reach out and be resourceful in how they adapt to the needs of their attendees.
Ground Protection Ireland can provide event organisers with many of the tools they need to make their events accessible to all pedestrians.
Our TerraTrak Plus provides a temporary access solution and ground protection for protecting both natural and artificial grounds during large-scale events and gatherings.
The innovative slip-resistant surface is pedestrian friendly as it ensures safe access for wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, and canes. TerraTrak Plus is also very simple to install as it uses vertical cam locks to connect each panel – producing a hold which is as strong as steel.
So if you are organising an event and are interested in hosting in an accessibility-friendly and pedestrian-minded venue, get in touch with us today – our TerraTrak Plus can provide you with the foundations you need for a safe, inclusive and accessible event.