I’m working with World IA Day 2016 – a one-day (February 20, 2016), annual celebration focused on the practice and education of Information Architecture. As accessibility coordinator, I’m helping local events be welcoming to everyone.
Thinking about planning an accessible event might seem overwhelming for a volunteer group. But it doesn’t have to be. The key is to take it in steps so that accessibility-thinking is just part of everything you do.
This series of articles will help you make sure that your event welcomes everyone, including people who might need help with mobility, vision, or other disabilities. We’ll follow along as you plan your event, with tips and resources.
Choosing a location
Right now, you are probably just starting your event planning. One of the first steps in having an event for everyone is to make sure your venue is accessible.
Start with a visit to the locations you are considering:
- How will people get to the event? Provide information about parking. Provide information about public transportation, too, because people with disabilities may not drive. Include how to find the correct entrance from the street or parking.
- How will people get into the building? Check whether someone using a wheelchair or with other mobility issues use the main entrance, or do they have to find a special “handicapped” entrance? If the main entrance is not accessible, are there clear signs to point people in the right direction?
- How will people find the meeting room? Check the path from the entrance to the meeting area. Look for good wayfinding signs, clearly marked elevators, and Braille labels for elevators. If the path is hard to find, plan to have good signs and volunteers placed at crossroads who can help direct people.
- * Does the meeting area have facilities for people with disabilities? Check the restrooms near the meeting area and make sure they are accessible. If they are on a different floor or a long way away, check the wayfinding as you did with the building entrance, and plan now for how you will direct people.
Resources for Event Planning
The National Federation of the Blind has directions that include great instructions for someone coming to a new place for the first time. The details are tailored for the blind, but are helpful for everyone. A good model, covering driving, cabs, and public transportation.
The ACM SIG-ACCESS Accessible Conference Guide covers all aspects of event planning, based on their experience running an annual conference for about 130 people that is attended by people with disabilities. In a typical year, there might be attendees who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or hard of hearing, use a power wheelchair or an electric scooter, have limited dexterity, and limited mobility. ASSETS strives to create an environment in which all attendees can participate and socialize together.
As you might expect from lawyers, the Accessible Meetings Toolkit (pdf) from the American Bar Association covers requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but they are relevant everywhere.
Next in the series: Captions for Video