Guidelines for making events accessible
Access is about providing people with equal opportunity to participate fully in whatever is being offered. Meeting people’s access needs should be done in a positive and affirmative way, which should be reflected in the language we use when discussing access requirements. All disabled people are individual and will therefore have different needs at different times. People with the same impairment/condition may manage it very differently and also have different access needs. However, here are some guidelines that Shaping Our Lives National User Network suggests are good practice.
Before a meeting/event
As a matter of good practice participants should be asked prior to a meeting/event if they have any access requirements. Event registration form template 2018
It is absolutely essential that anything people ask for is available at the meeting/event. This means that events/meetings need to be planned well in advance as, for example, palantypists, lip speakers and BSL interpreters cannot be booked at short notice. Hearing loops in venues are notoriously unreliable and thus venues must be made aware of the importance of them working and be reminded of this closer to the event, with testing carried out prior to the event.
An agenda should be sent out in advance of each meeting/event. The agenda should include a paragraph under each heading explaining what will be discussed/covered etc. in this item. This will allow people to think about it or discuss it with a support worker if necessary before the meeting. (Funding must be made available to support this).
Getting to the meeting/event
Disabled people who drive, or who are being driven, need reserved, well signposted car parking nearby. People who take enquiries about public transport to the event need to be able to advise on accessible travel arrangements.
Entrances to venues should be level or ramped, and if there are steps as well, these need to have a handrail and preferably step edges clearly marked. Some people with walking difficulties prefer steps to a ramp. Revolving doors are not suitable for wheelchair users or for many other people with different impairments. The position of the entry door needs to be clear, with glass doors well identified. It is a good idea if someone can meet and greet people at the entry into the building.
Venues should have natural lighting and be well ventilated without air conditioning, which can be noisy and thus be a barrier for many impairment groups.
A ‘quiet room’ should be available so that if any participants want to take ‘time out’ there is a space set aside for this. Make sure all participants know where it is.
Water should be available throughout the event and a supply of plastic drinking straws is useful.
Food should be clearly labelled and not mixed.
During the meeting/event
House keeping: At the start of meetings it should be explained to people where the toilets are (accessible and non), and where the fire exits are. This should be done in an inclusive manner avoiding pointing, for example ‘over there’, and should take into account different people’s access needs. For example, if the meeting is taking place in an upstairs venue how will wheelchair users evacuate in the case of fire, are the lifts operational in fire and so on.
Agendas must be stuck to so people can follow where they are in the day’s proceedings.
Timing is an access issue. At the beginning of meetings, (even if they start late due to unreliable public transport) times of breaks, lunch and ending need to be agreed and stuck to.
During meetings ‘ground rules’ should be agreed. (SOL Ground Rules Updated Jan 2018 )word doc.
If it is intended to include people with Learning Difficulties in a truly inclusive way then it is important that this is taken into account when the agenda is planned, as well in the practice that is adopted in running the meeting/event.
Before the meeting starts it might be a good idea to discuss the need for break times. Some people need regular breaks for a variety of reasons. For example, a break every ten minutes in order for people with learning difficulties to take ‘time out’, talk with their support worker, talk to each other or whatever they wish, might be necessary. This can be positive and have benefits for the entire group and for some specific impairment groups, for example hearing impaired people who are lip reading or following a sign language interpreter, people with pain who need to move frequently, or those with continence problems. The interpreter themselves may need a break.
It is important that the venue is checked in terms of access. Staff attitudes are a major factor in determining whether a venue is suitable or not. If possible it is advisable to seek personal recommendation from user groups.
It is important to remember that a solution for one group of service users might become a barrier to another impairment group. It is good practice to have more than one option available.
Access is about providing people with equal opportunity to participate fully in whatever is being offered.
These guidelines are being up-dated and developed as an ongoing process. If you would like to comment on them please contact Shaping Our Lives National User Network.
Read our ground rules to making an event more accessible here( pdf) : SOL Ground Rules Updated Jan 2018