The responsibility to ensure accessibility at events does not stop and end with the venue. It is of equal pertinence to ensure invitations are presented in a manner that meets the needs of those with disabilities. These practices are unfortunately left as an afterthought by many event organizers, creating an uncomfortable and unaccommodating environment from the start.
Fortunately, there are a variety of methodologies for accessibility, provided both by ADA legislation as well as by people with disabilities and their own shared experiences. Let’s unpack some key ways to ensure comfort and equal treatment for people with physical, cognitive and invisible disabilities, as well as additional overlooked communities:
The earlier you start gathering information about attendees, the quicker you will be able to make accommodations for specific disabilities. It is recommended to include a section within the event invitation’s RSVP form that allows for people to express the accommodations they require and to ask questions. Be sure to let potential attendees know that an event planner is happy to coordinate with them and hear requests.
If a guest presents with a disability that may impact the permitted behavior of the audience, such as sensitivity to loud noises or smells, continuously remind your attendees in the days before the events to honor requested accommodations by turning off cell phones or limiting strong fragrances. Alert guests to potential hazards or triggers that may take place during the event, such as strobe lights or camera flashes. Be diligent in providing up-to-date information about the accessibility of the venue, as well as what accommodations are to be provided.
It is important to consider how disabilities may prevent certain individuals from being able to view standard methods of event communication, such as email. To make sure your invitation is accessible, ensure the website the event is featured on is optimized for screen readers, adjustable color schemes and closed captioning for any potential audio segments.