How to Make Your In-Person Event Accessible
Even though someone might not think about emergency planning when organizing a program, but it is essential in case an emergency occurs during the event. Often emergency plans do not include what might be needed for individuals with a range of different disabilities, even though extra consideration should be reviewed. Once an evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities has been drawn up, it should be up to the program organizer to communicate the plan to the other staff, volunteer, and event participants.
The non-profit organization Disability Alliance BC has a number of emergency preparedness documents that can help a museum re-think emergency planning, including thinking through personal preparedness checklists, developing different strategies for distinct emergency scenarios, creating maps, and analyzing what speciality equipment might be needed.
It is important to set a budget aside first for some essentials for your programming once you have decided to put on the event. For example:
- Interpreters (both ASL or other languages) should be booked at least 3 weeks in advance of the event
- Captioning any videos used
- Bus tickets
- Rental for assistive listening devices, microphones, etc.
- Snacks and food
All marketing for the event should give at least two months for participants to register and prepare transportation, assistants, and other supports. If registration is necessary, then it should be available in multiple ways, such as Eventbrite, in-person, email, and phone. A part of the registration text should include contact information so potential participants can contact the museum with questions or make confidential accessible requests.
Any promotions, including posters, ads, online calendars, and Facebook events, should include accessibility information for event, including numbers of stairs, parking, public transportation, washrooms, food, cost, and scent-reduction policy. All online marketing formats should have captioning and alterative text for all the images, including the graphic designs. The font of the printed advertisement should be at least between 18-to-24-point font, should be checked with the colour contrast checker, and the text should not be behind any images.
Set up of the Event
If the event is a sit-down affair, you should offer:
- Reserved spots at the front for elders, seniors and those are hard of hearing or low vision
- Accessible spaces available for individuals using mobility devices interspersed in the front, middle, and back rows
- Aisles that are wide enough for a wheelchair or scooter user to go through
Other thoughts for the event that are needed:
- Territory acknowledgement
- Microphones for all the speakers of the event
- If there are any flashing lights, there should be a warning on the marketing before the event and on the front door of the building
- A quiet space and some signage to a sensory friendly place that individuals who are overwhelmed during the event can use
- The lighting should be adequate for individuals with low vision to see the speaker and screen if that isbeing used
- If tables are being used, they should be reachable for any individuals using mobility devices
- Signage directing people to accessible washrooms (both in large print and Braille) and also having directions announced at the beginning of the event
- Staff and volunteers need some kind of easy identifier, such as outfit, name tag, or lanyard
Providing free food is a good way of bringing people together and making them feel comfortable. However, many individuals have some very deadly allergies to certain foods. In general, it is best to stick to veggies and non-berry fruit such as apples and oranges. If you are providing a wide variety of food, make sure that the food is labeled with specific dietary needs (such as dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) and have the full list of ingredients available for visitors.
Off-Site Program Location Selection
Sometimes a program will take place off-site from the museum’s usual facility. In order to make sure that the event is accessible, the following questions should be considered when selecting the space:
- Does the location have gender-neutral bathrooms that are wheelchair accessible?
- Does the location have a baby changing table in at least one bathroom?
- Do the bathrooms have grab bars and have a sink, soap, and paper towels that a person using a mobility device could reach?
- Is it close to an accessible bus stop?
- Is there free parking available? Or at least parking spots available?
- If outside, does the location include ample seating in a shaded area?
- Are the doors automatic?
- Are there ramps available instead of stairs?
Regan Shrumm is a queer, genderqueer, and disabled curator, educator, and administrator. They have been working in the museum field since 2010, and have worked at such institutions as the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Museum of Northwest Arts, and the National Museum of Northwest Art. Their programming focuses on building and deepening community that is as accessible as possible for everyone.