Making events accessible: Planning the event
This section deals with several key issues that you should plan for when organising any event that involves disabled people/people who use services.
Use this checklist as a staring point for other issues to address when planning an event:
Advertise the event appropriately Open
Advertising for your event should:
- be clear and simple and in plain English
- be displayed where your target audience will see it
- be available in different formats
- be available in different community languages if possible
- display clear contact details
- include details of any fees and expenses that are payable
While the most effective way to attract people who use services to an event is through ‘word of mouth’, it is important that you advertise all events you organise. The extent of advertising and the ability to make it available in different formats will obviously be limited by the budget for an event.
Service users said it is particularly important to be clear about access arrangements when advertising an event. People also offered the following advice:
Make it easy to read, so that people with dyslexia can read short sentences, with one subject per sentence.
Do not assume everyone has access to a computer. Include as a minimum address and telephone number for contact – be sure to keep this consistent in all information.
If you advertise on any websites, make sure they are accessible.
Let people know about the event as early as possible – this gives people time to arrange transports, PAs/carers etc.
Mention accessibility arrangements in all publicity.
Booking forms and access information Open
The best way to meet the access requirements of participants is to give people the opportunity to tell you about their needs at the earliest opportunity.
This is the booking form that SCIE uses.
Service users said:
Booking forms can be useful for saying what adjustments have been made, and so that I can say what my access needs are.
Telephone contact Open
Many people who use services, for different reasons, will prefer to phone and speak to someone to get answers to their questions about the event. It is important that whoever answers the phone is polite, helpful and professional.
- If you have difficulty understanding a person on the telephone, ask if they would prefer to use email. Clarify what people want using questions that need simple answers. Repeat back what they say and wait for them to confirm. Never agree to something when you are not certain what the caller has said.
- Avoid taped telephone information if possible, as people find it easier to use a personal service.
- Some people prefer to text. If you receive a text, reply by text if possible.
- Some people use Minicoms or textphones. These allow the person to have a conversation with another person or organisation using text rather than speech.
- If you cannot access a textphone you can use the Typetalk service) to hold text conversations. When you have someone’s contact details it can be useful to confirm details from a telephone call in writing.
Support staff Open
- Book support staff as early as possible.
- Let people who use services know you will pay for support staff.
- Check you have the right support staff for the person requiring support.
- Ensure language support staff have adequate breaks.
- Ensure all support staff are given refreshments and food.
People with disabilities need support staff at events for a range of reasons. Personal assistants can help people with physical or sensory impairments with getting from place to place; with drinks and food; going to the toilet; taking notes or minutes; turning pages and holding things. People with learning difficulties often need support to understand reports and papers before and during the meeting – people doing this type of work are usually referred to as support workers.
Some people will bring their own personal assistants or support workers. For events with large numbers of disabled people/people who use services, it can be useful to have support workers available to provide assistance to anyone who needs it.
Language support professionals can support deaf people and people with hearing impairments. Language support professionals can include:
- BSL interpreters
- relay interpreters
- speech-to-text reporters/palantypists
- note takers
- lip speakers.
Support staff attend events solely to provide support to the participant with disabilities/who uses services. They are not there to contribute to the event. You should clarify this at the start of the event.
Accessible information Open
Ask people what format they would prefer to receive information in before the event. This could be:
- audio tape
- larger font sizes:14 16 18 20
- high colour contrast
- plain English
- easy read
- different languages.
Send out papers two weeks before the event whenever possible. If it is going to be later than this, let participants know when the papers are due to arrive. Only table papers at a meeting if it cannot be avoided. If this does happen, let participants know that papers will be tabled and check how to make this process accessible.
Where there are lots of papers for a meeting, it can be helpful to use different coloured paper for each document so they can be easily identified during the meeting.
Brief speakers/facilitators on accessible presentations/workshops – be particularly careful when people use PowerPoint for their presentations. Try to get copies in advance so you can put them into formats that are accessible for people with visual impairments and people with learning difficulties.
Give handouts to people who may not be able to see the screen.
If any videos are being used during the event, use audio-described, subtitled and signed versions if they are available. If you are using audio material, try to provide transcripts for people with hearing impairments.
Think about how people are going to access the information including any presentations on the day – so take technology in consideration.
Put up a graffiti board so people who aren't able to say what they think can write it up instead.
Ask speakers to send presentations at least four weeks before the event so they can be prepared and sent out in different formats.
Translating information into other languages can be expensive but should be done wherever possible and particularly where an event is relevant to a specific community.
Developing the agenda Open
The agenda should build in:
- for each item
- for discussion
- to move between rooms
- for breaks – ideally – every 45 minutes.
- short presentations and feedback sessions
- a draft set of ground rules for everyone to agree on
Try not to have a difficult session straight after a break. I take medication during breaks and it can take up to half an hour for the medication to settle down.
Do not plan too many things in one meeting and put the most important things at the top of the agenda.
- offer local accessible accommodation
- offer to pre-book and pay in advance
- check that the evening meal and breakfast is included
- check the accommodation will meet the participant’s access and dietary requirements
- offer to pre-book and pay in advance for a taxi from the accommodation to the venue if required.
Overnight accommodation is likely to be necessary for many people who use services attending national events such as major conferences. It is important not to make assumptions about who might and who might not require this. Some people might need accommodation for a local event. If the venue offers suitable accommodation then this is usually the best choice.
Service users made some important points about this which should be addressed wherever possible:
I find it easier if people find out whether the hotel has what I need and then let me know.
The local tourist board and local disability groups are good sources of information on accessible hotels.
Tracking hoist availability makes a lot of difference to some people who use services, and it's a lot easier for them if the accommodation is in the same place as the event. Check for hotels with tracking hoists at the Ceiling Hoist Users Club.
If the meeting is in the morning, ensure you offer accommodation the previous night – people with some impairments find travelling very tiring.
Choosing a date Open
- Avoid significant dates that might affect whether people can attend the event. This could be for religious reasons, major sporting events, cultural anniversaries, etc.
- Avoid assumptions around when people are and are not available to attend the event
- Be aware of the different prayer times of different faiths
Service users gave useful advice on this issue:
Use a faith calendar to plan events and avoid religious festivals. You can find a list of religious holidays and definitions at: www.interfaithcalendar.org.
Think about the day of the week you hold events on. For example, Jewish people are unlikely to attend an event on a Friday evening or Saturday.
Remember Muslim prayer times – these change slightly each day and in winter and summer. See www.islamicfinder.org for more information.
Make sure the event does not clash with important religious dates. Some leaflets in different languages may be useful as some faith groups do not speak English.
Give participants clear guidance on your expenses policy before the event. Tell them:
- what you will pay for
- when you will pay it
- what proof you will require for expenses incurred.
Service users who attend meetings should be paid all reasonable expenses associated with their participation. SCIE’s policy on this is that people who use services should never be left out of pocket because they have taken part in a meeting or event. Organisations should consider developing a policy on this issue (if they do not already have one) and ensure this is followed by all staff.
Expenses that are likely to be incurred include travel (which may include the cost of a personal assistant or another person to travel with them), food/refreshments/subsistence, costs of personal assistants or support workers and childcare. Be aware that some people may not be able to use the cheapest options for things like travel and accommodation. For example, public transport may not be accessible for them and cheaper hotels/bed and breakfast houses are also less likely to be accessible to wheelchair users or people with some mobility impairments. Be flexible about reimbursement of expenses and assumptions about what people might need to claim for.
Where possible, try to pay for things like train tickets and hotel bills directly to save people having to use their own money. Alternatively, try to pay people from petty cash on the day of the event.
I always bring my own personal assistant, but need to know whether this is paid for.
I prefer support to be arranged for me. Tell me whether you can do this and whether you can pay for it.
- Make it clear to participants from the start that you will pay for any travel, accommodation and sustenance related to them attending the event.
Ensure that the information you send out before the event includes full details of how to get to the venue by public transport or by car. Directions for people using public transport should include details of stations and bus routes with information about accessibility where available. Information for drivers should include any specific details about where to park – for example, if a car park is accessed from a road that is not part of the venue address.
It is useful to provide a link to a map and details of the venue on the internet and a hard copy that people can use on the day. Increasing numbers of drivers and pedestrians use satellite navigation when travelling so try to check whether the post code is one that will be recognised.
You may also need to provide directions in accessible formats.
It’s always useful to have details of exactly where I’m rather than just looking up an address that may not have all the information.