Preparing yourself, your team, and your facilities for meetings, events, and conferences that are accessible to those with disabilities will likely result in delivering even better customer service and a better experience for all attendees. To be better prepared, you will want “soft skills” to support your event in addition to the structural, technological, and other physical elements needed for accessibility. The Guide authors recommend the following resources:
Planning Accessible Meetings
This online guide is an update from a print publication issued in 1993. As a web resource, however, it becomes a living document that can be modified and updated as emerging practices become best practices, and as these practices fold into an ever-widening circle of gatherings, like weddings, family reunions, and more.
Knowing your audience is critical to ensuring that meeting room layouts, menus, and other elements of the event will allow every participant to engage fully. Make sure your registration materials and forms ask specifically about your audience's needs and accommodations. See the sample below:
To successfully participate in this event, which of the following will you need?
[ ] None - I do not need any modifications to participate
- Materials Provided In:
[ ] Standard Print
Resources to help plan accessible and inclusive meetings, conferences, exhibits, tours, and other events.
There are a variety of strategies and tools, from low-tech to high-tech, for managing audience participation in a large gathering:
Two layouts are provided here, and either could be adapted for additional presentation elements.
Both layouts incorporate presentation screens that are easily viewed from all areas of the room. Captioning should run on at least one if not all screens showing slides, videos, or live feed of the presenters. Space for a qualified interpreter for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing should be included in all plans, and seating nearest interpreters should be reserved for individuals using those services.
Each layout below is available as a printable PDF. You can include layouts as an addendum to your facility contract, provide them in a pre-meeting with facility and banquet staff, and use them with your internal planning team to ensure that your rooms are set up correctly. Measurements shown are adequate for ensuring accessibility, but more space is highly recommended for aisles, paths between chairs and tables, around the perimeter of the room, and around any refreshment or display tables.
Keep these recommendations in mind as you plan the layout of seating, tables, and other elements:
The layout of your meeting, event, or conference will dramatically impact the way attendees engage with your program and with one another. Creating the most accessible event possible allows all participants to fully participate. Those who use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, crutches, and braces, require more space to move around. Other accommodations are needed for those with hearing or vision disabilities.
While the U. S. Department of Labor estimates that individuals with disabilities control more than $200 billion in discretionary spending, this figure is likely much less than the true market power of all individuals with functional needs to be accommodated. This is due to vast under-reporting on official surveys, census documents, and employment documentation (where it is voluntary to disclose a disability).