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Putting accessibility and inclusion at the heart of your events 

William Mullen

Lawyer and event strategist

June 11, 2024

Blog posts

Putting accessibility and inclusion at the heart of your events 

Today, accessibility is a fundamental part of successful event planning, and with good reason:

In 2017, approximately 16% of people in Quebec aged 15 and older were living with a disability.

Source: Statistics Canada

In 2013, 75% of people with a functional limitation reported encountering obstacles when attending public, cultural or sporting events.

Source: Coalition québécoise pour la participation sociale des personnes handicapées

When you’re getting ready to create an event you’d like everybody to enjoy, it’s essential to take measures that help you sidestep obstacles or pitfalls that could mar the experience for guests. Here are a few things to keep in mind when crafting fully democratized, come-one-come-all experiences:

Physical considerations

  • Choose spaces that are easily accessible for people with reduced mobility, with access ramps and elevators, and adapted, gender-neutral washrooms.
  • Do a test run of the guest experience by wheelchair to identify obstacles and perform any necessary adjustments.
  • Have wheelchairs on hand and provide reserved seating for anyone in need.
  • Communicate all pertinent information about accessible transportation options, such as shuttle services, and offer taxi reimbursements to guests with reduced mobility.
  • Opt for visual elements (like images, photos, graphic details, etc.) with clear, contrasting colours and designs.
  • Provide a telecoil system for the hearing impaired and a magnifying device for the sight impaired.  
  • Offer the option of participating remotely, which can be vastly helpful to many guests with mobility constraints.

Cognitive considerations

  • Communicate clearly with simple, straightforward language on the website and promotional material.
  • Avoid jargon and use universal non-verbal cues like pictograms and images to support presentations and discussions.
  • Provide alternative descriptions for images.
  • Set up an information kiosk or increase the number of guides present to direct guests and answer any questions in a polite and respectful manner.

Language considerations

  • Offer live translation or sign language services.
  • Provide teletypewriters, subtitles or audio description services as needed.
  • Create event communications in several languages.
  • Ensure that typefaces and font sizes used in your event material are clear and legible.

Emotional considerations

  • Provide designated ‘quiet’ areas that are calm with soft, subdued lighting.
  • Create welcoming safe spaces where all guests feel comfortable expressing themselves.
  • Reduce visual and audio stimulations, or warn guests in advance that certain sights and sounds may have an adverse effect.

Responding to unique needs and situations

  • Offer meal options adapted to the age, cultural diversity and dietary practices of guests.
  • For events that call for an entrance fee or other costs, consider pricing structures that work across a variety of budgets.
  • Plan regular pauses or intermissions and keep the event to a reasonable duration.
  • Prioritize diversity in guests, hosts, moderators and staff.
  • Invite guests and moderators to choose their own pronouns on nametags.
  • Choose suppliers from among social enterprises or groups that are underrepresented or traditionally marginalized.  

Above all, never label guests by their limitations, but feel free to ask them about their specific needs and concerns when it comes to accessibility and inclusion. Taking the time to gather and consider their feedback will help you improve future events, making each one more welcoming and inclusive than the last.

Would you like us to accompany you in organizing your next accessible, inclusive event?

Photos by Girl with red hat on Unsplash