There are several important on-site access considerations to address while planning an event, including those outlined below.
- Room size and set: Venues generally attempt to fit as many people as possible in a meeting space, and provide estimates that do not account for people with disabilities. They often estimate very narrow pathways that are inaccessible to people using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. For this reason, secure meeting space that, according to the hotel, can accommodate 30 percent more people than you anticipate attending. For example, if you’re planning an event with 100 participants, tell the venue you need space that can seat 130 people. When determining how to arrange the room, allow for 36 inch aisle ways between all furniture so that participants using mobility devices are able to sit anywhere they choose. Also be sure to factor in seating needs of your sign language interpreters and set the room in such a way that allows a clear line of sight to interpreters.
- Meal set-up: If you provide meals and/or snacks during events, there are several access considerations to address. Buffets create access barriers for people with mobility disabilities, so plated meals are preferable for lunch and dinner. If you’ll be offering plated meals, be sure to ask about dietary restrictions during registration, and the need for pre-cut meals. For continental breakfast and coffee service, make sure nothing is on risers and provide open space for someone to put down their plate to serve themselves. Avoid heavy containers for serving beverages and ensure everything is within reach of the edge of the table. Also have staff available to assist people if needed.
- Signage: Signage is an important aspect of any event and should provide clear way-finding for your participants. Create signage that uses plain language and follows accessibility guidelines for print materials. Use signage to direct people to event spaces and accessible areas, such as accessible restrooms if they’re difficult to find and service animal relief areas.
Resources You Can Use
- Accessible Information Exchange: Meeting on a Level Playing Field. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice created this document for businesses hosting meetings that may be attended by people with disabilities. The publication addresses access considerations for the event space and meal set up, and includes a chart featuring common access barriers and suggestions for removing them.
- Budgeting for Access Tip Sheet. This tip sheet offers additional information on how to estimate the amount of event space you’ll need to accommodate the number of people you anticipate participating in your event, along with helpful budgeting considerations.
- Creating an Accessible Meeting Environment Tip Sheet. This tip sheet addresses the key considerations for a welcoming environment, such as signage, on-site registration, materials, meals and refreshments, room set-up, and meeting agenda and activities.