When event planners consider accessibility it is usually seen as an accessory to the main event. With so much built into the hosting of an event virtually between schedules, speakers and communication with attendees it is easy to forget how critical accessibility can be to the foundation of an event. For many larger companies, access is about optics and ensuring they are reaching the right people. While this may seem sensible, it ignores the facts that millions of people worldwide live with invisible disabilities and a lack of generally visible access can signal a quiet complicity in removing them from the conversation. It is never the goal of any successful event to reduce participation from attendees. For these reasons, making access a key focus in your event planning will guarantee a stronger and healthier event for years to come.
First, it’s important to treat accessibility with the respect it deserves.
Access in general should be a key component and those working to provide it in and around the event should be involved in larger discussions of logistics to ensure a smooth delivery come showtime. In the same way disability is woven into every aspect of our world, creating access for those disabilities must be done in the same way. Things as simple as a registration form can easily become inaccessible and remove the ability for many to attend much less participate in the programming.
Create roles for disability consultancy.
Inviting disabled creators, event planners and attendees to the table in discussions serving to create the event will guarantee that establishing structures that allow everyone equal footing at your event. To that end, it will reduce the chance of needing to fix things in the moment. Essentially, build the boat before you take it to water. Bringing in voices from the community in the earliest stages will ensure that your event is given the careful planning many solutions require.
Flamingo Interpreting works hand in hand with members of the community in providing consulting services for events both remote and virtually to ensure they are creating the ideal atmosphere for all people. When we work with members of the community, we work to empower them in decision making and offering their influence to create events that become the standard practice for other companies to emulate. That can only be done by working directly with members of the community and supporting their feedback.
Timing is everything.
An event planner with no experience using ASL interpreters for an event in NYC may expect to call an agency a few days prior to opening doors. A Deaf person will tell you that you should plan for at least two weeks, with more time allowing the agency to source the perfect fit. By collaborating with members of the community you can dial into the pulse of services. You will learn how things are scheduled, according to what timelines and key factors to consider before booking.
Not all services are created equal.
Experts and service users of solutions built for access can better guide you to the most cost effective and impactful options. While there are tons of options virtually there is also a ton of cost cutting, cheap alternatives and all around hack jobs offering solutions that cause more harm than good. You wouldn’t cut corners on the attendee experience in any other arena, don’t allow a cheap price tag fool you into purchasing a service that leaves your attendees wondering what went wrong? Local community members will be best versed in the available options and can guide you to the best services for your budget.
Lived experience is important.
When working with members of a community you can count on a critical eye that is trained by years of experience. What may seem accessible to an able-bodied person may miss the mark for someone who sees an improved option that would serve someone like them in any given situation. It is solutions like these that brought texting to the wider world – once an idea created within the Deaf community. When we trust members of the larger disability community to create solutions, we create a universal design that supports all attendees. It is always important to sideline bias and assumption to make way for ingenuity coming from experience that may not be our own.
Disability as a community makes up the worlds largest minority. With incredible buying power valued at over 1.8 trillion dollars annually, it would make sense to prioritize a community that often must fight for visibility. In creating access at your event, it’s important to consider that often bringing a seat to the table is not enough. True accessibility only happens authentically, with collaboration, creativity and supporting a community by providing them equal voting power at the table. With these simple practices in play, you are guaranteed an incredible event that will have your attendees excited to register again and again.