Tell people about access at your event. This will send out a strong message to disabled people about how accessible and inclusive it is likely to be and could have an impact on their decision to attend.
Check your website is accessible and compatible with specialist hardware and software that disabled people use. Have a contact point for queries manned by someone who understands the issues.
In addition to a contact phone number, provide an email address, fax number and a postal address. Use a large font size in a clear style such as Arial and use a good contrast for text and background on printed and online material.
When you produce written information for your event, Braille is usually a first thought in making it accessible, but also consider audio (a sound file on the website, for example). The easiest and cheapest method to increase accessibility is large print - 14pt or larger in a sans serif typeface. Colours can also be used to differentiate between document sections.
Provide phone numbers for taxis and minicabs. Also consider somewhere for disabled visitors to be dropped off in safety. Consider parking: how far away is it, are there disabled spaces, and are there any obstructions between car park and venue? If there are no parking facilities at your venue, find out about local on-street and car park facilities.
Access to the venue
As a starting point you could choose to consider only venues which allow people to enter, exit and move around with ease, that offer adapted toilet facilities and where ideally, the event can take place on one floor only.
It may be possible to make changes to the venue for your event. These could be temporary changes or changes which you bring to the attention of the venue owner.
With a self-service buffet, can a person with mobility or visual impairments carry or hold food from a buffet selection and eat without placing their plate on a table? It would be reasonable to provide staff to serve people at the buffet and to carry food to tables.
Make sure that there are seats and tables available. Some disabled people need to sit down or cannot hold a plate for long.
Provide a choice of cutlery and crockery. A mug may be easier to use than cups and saucers or plastic cups that do not have handles. Offer drinking straws.
Information or booking services should be accessible for disabled people and you should provide details of hotels that are accessible.
Everybody in the team can contribute. Disability awareness training, equipment and access surveys are available from companies such as Access Support Group.
Remind staff to be on the look-out for things going wrong. This might be double swing doors where one door is locked, bags on floors, open cupboard doors and portable display stands creating hazards for visually impaired people. It could be that groups of people are gathering in areas and preventing access for wheelchair users. Also, if possible, brief exhibitors by including a section on the DDA in your exhibitor manual.
The routes and surfaces leading to your stand should be even, level and solid. Take care to ensure carpets and flooring materials are well secured, as poor carpet seams or lifting corners are a particular hazard to visually impaired people. Access routes should remain free from unnecessary obstacles, so keep products or marketing material within the stand area. Ideally the approach to your stand should be entirely flat and level.
Try to display information and products in a position and at a height that can be reached by everyone and ensure that people can move about with ease. Information should ideally be displayed at a height between 900mm and 1,200mm. If this is not possible ensure staff are prepared to assist.
The position and design of chairs and seating arrangements can have an impact. Ideally, different sizes, shapes and types should be available.
The arrangement of seats should also be considered. For example, four chairs closely arranged around a table will obstruct wheelchair users both in using the table or sitting beside someone at the table.
Avoid glare from lighting caused by signage with a high gloss finish; use matt or satin finish instead. Be aware of how you position localised lighting - this should be concealed or shaded whenever possible. Provide clear colour contrast between the text and signage background. Avoid complex calligraphy.
Consider a sign language interpreter and, if possible, arrange for deaf or hard of hearing people to visit the event on the same day. A solution for many is a hearing induction loop. In a seminar or conference, place visitors close to the speaker where they can lip-read, and provide a copy of the speaker notes. Remember, dimming lights can hinder lip-reading.
The AEO plans to stage two Delivering Accessible Events seminars in London and one each in Birmingham and Manchester. For details go to www.aeo.org.uk.