Six tips for making your event accessible

Last month, we held our Henshaws Awards for our Community Services at the Lowry Theatre, which our committee carefully planned to make sure it was accessible for all. They share some of their tips on the key things you should think about when planning your event, and how you can ensure your event is accessibility friendly.

(1) Public transport

First things first, deciding where your venue will be. Try and make sure your venue is easy to find and accessible with public transport. Provide details about how to get there – is there a bus route nearby for example? Is there someone to help guide them once they’re at the bus stop to the venue, or could you coordinate a group to come together?

For the venue itself, it’s important to make sure that if there are any stairs at all – even just one – there needs to be a lift or alternative route available. This can be easily checked by calling the venue or arranging a visit before booking.

Image of the room at Henshaws awards 2016 - a balloon with the Henshaws logo is at the forefront, and everything else is blurred in the distance

(2) Food

If you’ve got a buffet, make sure that people will be able to find the glasses and plates. Placing white plates on white tablecloths is very difficult for someone with low vision to pick out!

Try and have contrasting plates and tablecloth – at our Henshaws awards, we used green glasses and magenta table runners to contrast against the white plates. We also made sure food was available on the tables readily, to help ease any problems with mobility.

(3) Guides

Make sure you’ve thought about guides – if a visually impaired guest has a plus one, will they be able to help guide? Do you have members of staff that are on hand to help? At our awards afternoon, we made sure to have allocated staff to guide guests from the entrance of the Lowry Theatre to the main event room.

And don’t forget about guide dogs, make sure you can provide dishes of water around the venue (but out the way so they’re not a tripping hazard)!

4) Staff and volunteers

Make sure staff can be easily located – if it’s a formal event and everyone is wearing black and white, it might be hard for people to locate where you are if they need assistance. Our friendly staff team wore our magenta t-shirts and hoodies so that we could easily be found if we were needed.

If you’re using external staff, brief them so they know in advance, and perhaps even offer them training so they can be expert guides. For example, we chatted to the Lowry Theatre catering staff so that they knew to announce when they were serving food.

(5) Alternative formats

The easiest thing to do is just to check with people what format they’d prefer. Offer braille or large print for invitations, programmes and certificates, and if there’s a PowerPoint presentation with lots of writing, make sure people have an alternative format. For example, we make sure we braille our singing sheets at our carol concert every Christmas.

Top tip – if someone has requested a braille certificate, you can always offer a visual copy as well, in case they’d like to have it displayed in their house.

(6) Sensory additions

Why not make elements of your event sensory or tactile where you can? Our awards were beautifully crafted by the Art Makers at our Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough, and were made tactile so that they appeal for everyone – the ‘.h’ in our logo was even embossed so that people could feel the lettering.

Did you know? The 2016 Paralympics medals have all been designed with a rattle built in. These rattle noises have a different sound for gold, silver and bronze so that visually impaired winners can not only hear their medal but also tell by the sound which colour it is.

Image of the awards

We hope you find these tips useful, and if you have any more suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

If you want to make sure your event stands out from the rest by being accessible for all, why not try out our Visual Impairment Awareness Training (VIAT)? VIAT is an interactive one-day training course where you can learn how to guide a person with a visual impairment, or how to set your business apart by making it easy for everyone to access. Contact us on 0161 872 1234 to find out more and book your place.

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Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.
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