Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Make your Meeting Accessible

Information website details access ideas for meetings and public events.

Christina Clift of MCILBy Christina Clift
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that individuals with disabilities control more than 200 billion dollars in discretionary spending and believe that number underestimates their true buying power because disclosing a disability is voluntary.  However, according to the last census in 2010 there are more than 57.6 million people with disabilities living in the U.S.  For individuals wanting to plan the perfect cocktail party, conference, or other types of public events, it is important to include everyone.  After all, social media can often make or break an event and people will spend their money where they can find someone who can best accommodate their needs. 

The Accessible Meeting Guide will help you get started down the right path.  The information in the guide will help you plan an event that will be accessible to most people with disabilities.  It addresses items such as site selection, seating arrangements, preregistering for an event, providing accommodations for people who are blind or deaf, and food.  While most of the information might seem like common sense, for individuals who do not have a disability it can provide a check list to ensure a successful event.

The guide is easy to navigate. It provides logical sections to assist you in finding the information you need.  One interesting section entitled “Invisible Wounds, Emerging Promising Practices” discusses how to make an event accessible to veterans or survivors of a trauma by a few simple steps: providing advanced notice of strobe lights, fireworks, or other loud components, providing seats versus standing to provide more organization, have seats close to exits for those who cannot handle large crowds, and most importantly educate volunteers or staff on how to handle persons with disabilities who may attend. 

Another interesting tip under the section entitled “Personal Assistance and Service Animals” states that you should ask people with service animals not to treat their animal with pesticides for fleas or groom them with fragranced products.  I thought this was unusual because who wants to sit by a smelly service animal during an event.  Often, many owners give their service animal a bath before such events just for that reason.  Finally, the guide wraps up by providing tips for both attendees and presenters.  If you would like to fully read this guide or use it to help you plan for an upcoming event go to www.adahospitality.org.  

People sitting around a table at a meeting