Doctor Helen Grote, a neurology registrar at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Trust, offered a range of ideas on how to make events more accessible and inclusive, as a keynote speaker at a recent C&IT event.
Grote is a profoundly deaf doctor, who also attends lots of conferences where the experience is "typically very poor" and where loop systems are not functioning or switched on.
Often, Grote says, she sees speakers not using microphones and there is no response to correspondence.
She puts this into context when she confirms that there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, and also points out the law, in terms of public sector equality duty:
"...due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities..."
The law applies to private organisations for public functions, she says before outlining tips to improve events:
- For advertising, use subtitles and image descriptions on social media
- Offer more than one way to book (telephone and email)
- Ask delegates how you can help with registration forms
- Task a dedicated member of staff to focus on accessibility ?
Venue and access
- Think about issues when you visit the venue in advance ?
- Speak to venue staff about facilities for delegates and assistance dogs ?
- Offer accessible transport options
- What about Disabled parking – is it well lit? Is there a gravel surface? ?
- Which doors can be used for level access?
Welcome your delegates
- Try to have a staffed, disability information stand?
- Offer to meet or guide blind/ visually impaired delegates ?
- Make sure conference materials are provided in a format which can be used by the delegate
- Provide facilities for assistance dogs ?
- Disabled delegates may need reserved seating near the front ?
- Have appropriate, well-lit seating for BSL interpreters ?
- Make sure there are dedicated wheelchair spaces where required (plus extra for assistants)
- Think about fire exits and access to bathrooms ?
- Face your audience ?
- Use a microphone
- Make sure your microphone is passed around for questions (or that questions are clearly repeated into the microphone)
- Offer slides and transcripts in advance
- Check on loop systems before the event and ask how they work?
- Find out whether the delegate needs to wear a receiver
- This can be a help for all delegates – not just the hard of hearing ?
- Companies can provide captioning (in person or remotely) ?
- Check ATTR (www.avsttr.org.uk) website for details ?
- Remember not all disabilities are visible ?
- Make sure you have clear timetabling and directions ?
- Offer a quiet room for those with anxiety or autism ?
- Provide advance notice on the format of ‘breakout groups’ – remember not everyone enjoys ‘team games’ or forced conversation with people they don’t know
- Dietary requirements are as ever very important ?
- Provide seating, where needed – not everyone can manage a ‘standing lunch’ ?
- Assist visually impaired delegates ?
Other points for inclusive events
- Make spaces for parents to feed and change babies at events where small children may be present ?
- Buggy parking ?
- Left luggage facilities ?
- Consider availability of prayer rooms and religious holidays ?
- After a conference is over, value the feedback
- Ask delegates what worked well and ask for improvements
- Apologise if something goes wrong, and fix it for next time
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