Event organizers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure their experience can be enjoyed by all their guests, includes those with special accessibility requirements. This guide is intended to help you think through some ways to engage a spectrum of people. Just remember, no list of recommendations for accessibility comprehensively addresses the needs of all people with disabilities.
Our Accessibility Guide
While the our tips for accessibility won’t apply to every event, and is certainly not an exhaustive list, there are important sensitivities to be aware of overall that will and can improve a participant’s experience at your event. Remember to always respect an individual’s independence and think of ways that can enhance their experience with your event to make it as enjoyable as possible. Being that three of our exclusive venues are museum landmarks, we know that our event guests have the ability to enjoy the venue in many ways depending on their event programming. Some event hosts open the galleries, and offer tours to their attendees as well. With that in mind, the accessibility guide we created can assist those visiting our museums as event guests or as museum patrons. It also gives a glimpse at what our signature venue, Montage, offers. We hope you find the information valuable as you plan your future events at the Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis Museum of Art, or Montage – as well as when you visit one of our downtown museum cafes.
Our 10 Tips for More Accessible Events
Selecting the Site
1. Include accessibility in your site selection process.
Create a checklist of what is needed and important for all of your guests to enjoy their experience. Note important features are in place that could impede or enhance the experience. It’s important to constantly think how guests with accessibility needs will experience the event.
2. Venue Access
Ensure those with mobility devices can access the venue and have access throughout the venue. Encourage the venue to provide tips from their own experience with events at the venue. Make note of entrances and exits and if there are ramps or electric doors, as well as the locations of stairs and elevators.
Before the Event
3. Consider the needs of those with limited vision or are blind:
- Does the venue offer Braille signage? Raised maps?
- Do you need large text printed materials?
- Are your speakers prepared to fully describe any images, diagrams or models they are using during the presentation?
4. Be inclusive of those who are deaf or have limited hearing:
- Will you need a sign language interpreter?
- Will you have a discussion group? Provide pen, paper or another type of writing device.
- Is there any distracting ambient noise in the event space?
5. Ensure dignified access.
There is nothing more demeaning than having to access a session space through a freight elevator when everyone else can use escalators, stairs or guest elevators. Make sure lifts and a accessible elevators are working and that qualified staff is available to promptly assist. Be aware of access ramps the heights of microphones and lecterns. Modifications should enable a person being spotlighted.
6. Plan for ease of movement.
Consider asking someone who uses mobility devices like a wheelchairs or power scooter or cane to give you feedback before the event about what needs to be considered. This could be things like aisle width, turning distance, cubs, path stability, seating areas and counter heights.
7. Integrate equally.
Remember not everyone with a mobility device wants to sit in a designated area just for them, or worse, on the margins of the room. Most want to sit where it is convenient and comfortable with their colleagues and friends. Depending on your event, you may have assigned seating. If so, be sure you leave ‘cut out’ spaces for those guests with mobility devices so they are able to sit without the added inconvenience of having to have a staff member move a chair for them.
8. Ensure safe movement.
Low-light can be hazardous for anyone, especially someone who has low vision or may need to navigate with a cane or walker. Keep brighter lighting on whenever possible. Be careful about electric elements running along the floor and be sure they are properly taped and covered to avoid creating a falling hazard. Also, ensure any curb edges are noticeable.
9. Provide accessible washrooms.
This may seem like a given, but don’t assume that needs will be met by just asking or assuming they are complying with the law. Take time to visit these areas and ensure they have things such as grab bars, sufficient mobility space both in and out of the stall, and accessible sinks.
During the Event
10. Keep Your Staff Accountable
Train your registration and other onsite staff and volunteers about accessibility. This includes how to effectively communicate with a participant with limited speech and interact with someone using a mobility device. It’s important to think about things like self-serve registration counters, attendee check-in, exhibits onsite, buffet tables and coffee stations. Encourage universal design that anyone can use.