Event planning takes effort: Organizing an event is time-consuming, unpredictable, and requires careful planning to ensure the final result is a success. With so many moving pieces, it’s not uncommon to have things slip through the cracks.
Providing proper accessibility to all attendees is one thing that can be overlooked. After spending so much time planning an event, the last thing you want to do is have anyone miss out on the experience you’re aiming to deliver.
So, why is accessibility important when it comes to event planning? First, it’s the law. Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), individuals with disabilities must have access to the same amenities and experiences other individuals have. Second, an accessible event means guests have various ways to interact with the content, leading to a wider, more engaged audience.
With a focus on providing industry-leading closed captioning solutions, EEG Video has a long-running commitment to making visual media accessible to the hard-of-hearing. We’re sharing a checklist for event planners so you can make sure your event provides the accessibility that your audience–and your content–deserve.
To begin, keep the following individuals top of mind to ensure your event delivers the right experience:
people who are blind or visually-impaired
people who are deaf or hard of hearing
people who are using a wheelchair, cane, or other mobility aids
people who have service animals
people who have cognitive disabilities
At the Venue
Choosing the right venue for your event is about more than how much exhibitor space it can accommodate. It’s also about making sure event attendees can easily navigate the premises.
Consider people who are blind or visually-impaired by making sure that the stage is visible from all seats. Signs at the event space should have large font, Braille, or an audio format. Clear signage will also benefit individuals with cognitive disabilities who may find it challenging to navigate the event space.
To be inclusive of attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing, check if the venue has an assisted listening system and/or digital signage to complement its public address (PA) system. If an interpreter will be present, it will be important to have proper lighting and close seating available. Systems to support open or closed captioning should also be in place.
Ramps and/or elevators, as well as accessible parking in the lot, are all necessary in order to accommodate guests using wheelchairs, canes, or other mobility aids.
Plan to have more seating (and space) than the number of guests would allow in order to accommodate individuals with mobility aids or service animals. This will allow all attendees to comfortably be seated attendees who require more room to comfortably be seated without leaving other attendees without a seat altogether. Also, make sure walkways and doorways are wide enough and not blocked by any barriers.
Does the event space have signs with large font, Braille, or audio format?
Is the stage visible from all seats?
Is there an assisted listening system and/or digital signage to complement its public address (PA) system?
Does the event space have proper lighting?
If applicable, is there close seating to an interpreter?
Does the venue have ramps and/or elevators?
Is accessible parking available in the lot?
Is there ample seating at the event space?
Are walkways and doorways wide and barrier-free?
Marketing the Event
Accessibility is an important piece to consider when sending out the message about your upcoming event! No matter how short or long your guest list, you don’t want to find out that an attendee requires an accommodation you are not prepared for, and thus are unable to accommodate. To avoid an uncomfortable situation, request to be notified of accommodation needs ahead of time. We recommend placing this information in the invitation, RSVP form, and any emails leading up to the event.
Make sure to also communicate what visual, audio, and accessibility aspect guests can expect at the event. Will there be loud music? Strobe lights? Interpreters? Assistive listening devices? Keep your guests informed so that there are no surprises.
Do communications leading up to the event request attendees to notify you about their accommodation needs?
Do event materials communicate what guests with disabilities can expect at the event, such as loud music, strobe lights, interpreters, assistive listening devices, fog machines, off-site activities, or flash photography?
At the Event
During the event, it is imperative that each guest can access the information being presented. Ensuring this level of accessibility requires forethought, but, with the below checklist, you can proceed with confidence.
To ensure guests who are blind or visually impaired can access all event signage, both print and digital materials should use large enough text to be easily read from a distance. Make sure colors have high contrast and fonts are Sans Serif for optimal readability.
Additionally, images or diagrams in presentations should be described; you may want to consider having each presenter submit materials prior to the event, which can then be printed or electronically forwarded to guests.
For guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, it is crucial that all videos have real-time captioning, whether via a human captioner or an automatic captioning service. Whichever option you choose, EEG Video can help! We’ve provided captioning equipment and solutions to countless events, from small business meetings to tech giant conferences, to sports matchups at major stadiums. Additionally, consider purchasing assistive listening devices to aid guests who would benefit from a higher signal-to-noise ratio.
For events where guests will be expected to move through the space, make sure that all displayed images can be easily seen by both people who are standing and those in wheelchairs.
Do presentation materials (both print and digital) use a large font?
Do images and diagrams in presentations have speech descriptions?
Is real-time captioning part of the event?
Can displayed images be seen by both standing and seated guests?
Planning, organizing, and executing an event is no easy task. At any given time, there are multiple things to coordinate and circumstances to consider. And even after the tickets are sold, there is a responsibility to deliver a memorable time. Every attendee has the right to experience your event to the fullest, which is why providing accessibility is a necessary part of the planning process. The accessibility that you provide will be noticed and appreciated by all.