‘The devil is in the details,’ this should be the motto of every conference planner. And, the key to a successful meeting is to plan for the full participation and inclusion of every attendee. For conference participants with disabilities, inclusion means making every aspect of the event barrier-free so that they feel welcomed and valued.
University campuses are venues that are frequently used for conferences. The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) Accessible Campus website publishes information about accessibility at universities across Ontario. A checklist about planning for accessible conferences can be found on the site. The purpose of the guide is to help event planners think about issues relating to accessibility and eliminate the need for last minute changes. Here are a few of the topics featured in the guide which should be considered in the planning process of a successful event.
- Always visit the site before booking the location.
- Check if any renovations are scheduled during the time of the conference which may impede accessibility.
- Is there sufficient signage? Is it well-lit at night?
- Are there sufficient parking spaces close to the entrance for the number of attendees with disabilities?
- Are sidewalks wide enough and obstacle-free?
- Are entrances wide enough for wheelchair users? If not, is there clear signage to direct them to an accessible entrance?
- Do the signs in the lobby clearly indicate where the meeting is being held?
- Are the washrooms labelled with Braille signage and accessible to wheelchairs?
- Is the meeting room large enough for the expected number of wheelchair and scooter users?
- Is the lectern and stage area accessible for people with limited mobility?
Website and Accessible Communications
- Has a sign-language interpreter and/or a real-time captioner been booked?
- On print materials, is information included to show materials are available in alternative formats, and how they can be obtained?
- Have staff and volunteers been trained on accessibility and customer service?
For more information about Accessible Campus and to view the full checklist, click here.