A few tips on access guides from Richard Boggie.
When we invited 50 people along to our Disability at Work Summit earlier this year, we spent quite a bit of time preparing an Access Guide for the event. Why? Because we wanted the event to be as inclusive as it could be, and that means giving participants as much information up front as possible. That way they could be aware of the accessibility that we as organisers, and our hotel venue, were able to provide, and could predict any other stuff that might restrict their ability to attend or get fully involved.
We disabled folk love information. We crave it. Especially when we’re going somewhere new or unfamiliar. We don’t trust vague reassurances about access because we have all felt the frustration, embarrassment and awkwardness of turning up to an event to find issues that prevent us from taking part as we would want to, that is on equal terms with everyone else.
And after all, we are the experts, so give us the information and let us decide how accessible an event or venue is going to be. Not being funny, but we’ll do a much better job at it.
So, I’m going to leap, rather elegantly in my view, to the conclusion that you are now convinced that providing an access guide for your event is a damned good idea. It will
- Signal to your participants that you care about their inclusion and their welfare
- Help you to comply with your legal duty to make reasonable adjustments
- Reduce your participants’ anxiety about what to expect
- Enable them to contribute more fully
- Give them the information they need to assess the situation for themselves
- Avoid wasted journeys and toe-curling incidents
So, how do you go about putting one together? There is no standard format, so don’t worry about getting it wrong.
A few tips that you may find useful:
- Remember that the guide you are producing also needs to be accessible. So, break it up into sections, use headers, include photographs or videos. And remember to add Alt Text!
- Make use of the information provided by your venue, but check it is accurate and up-to-date.
- If in doubt, add more information. Let your participants decide if it’s relevant to them.
- Get it ready well in advance – people need time to plan, book journeys, arrange Pas etc.
- Don’t forget to include details of how your meeting or event will be run – not just the venue. People need to know about breaks, activities, equipment, refreshments, dress code and so on.
- If your event is online, then your guide should include links to your meeting platform’s accessibility features.
- Also make it clear how delegates can get in touch with you if they have any further access queries.
And if, on the day, things don’t quite turn out as planned, don’t panic! Most disabled people are pretty reasonable and will work with you to overcome any last-minute hitches, especially if they can see the effort, you’ve made putting together your lovely access guide.