Beyond the Basics: How to Host a Truly Accessible Business Event

Written by Noah Bethilda

At some point in their lifetime, 70% of all Americans will have a temporary or permanent disability. Many disabilities aren’t visible to the naked eye — mental illness, heart conditions, or deafness, for example.

When you’re planning a business event, chances are, you’ll have registrants of different abilities. It’s definitely your job to know what ADA rules you must follow. But disability awareness extends beyond simply understanding the law. The more accessible your event, the more your attendees feel welcome — all of them.

Creating an environment of inclusivity is not just about making sure there are handicap ramps. Hosting an accessible business event means thinking of all the little things that make people feel welcome.

Plan for accessibility from all angles

Accessibility at your conference starts with choosing a venue that’s already compliant with the ADA. (That’s shorthand for Americans with Disabilities Act, the act that governs accessibility law in the US.) Most conference centers, arenas, and hotels already comply.

It’s wise to do a walkthrough to check for signage, though. Signs pointing to handicapped entrances and bathrooms should be visible from a low vantage point for those in wheelchairs. And for the vision-impaired, they should be clear, with large writing and contrasting colors.

Also set up the event to have clear pathways and a layout that allows for wheelchairs and other assisting devices to pass through easily.

And don’t forget about other types of disabilities such as food allergies. Peanut allergies in particular are on the rise, so any food that contains peanuts (or could be contaminated) should be clearly marked. It’s these extra measures that will set your conference apart in terms of accessibility.

Let everyone know it’s accessible

Don’t just say your event is accessible. Illustrate exactly how. Make those interested feel confident about their decision to attend. In your event listing and your marketing materials, detail the efforts you’ve made to make your event inclusive.

For instance, describe entrances, including detailed information about where ADA-compliant ramps are located. Note whether there are wheelchair spaces available for lectures and other types of sit-down sessions. And address parking — are there handicapped spaces available? How many? (Note that accessible parking rules vary from state to state, so make sure to check out the ADA National Network’s online guide.)

A comprehensive description of accessibility options helps people with different abilities make informed decisions. It also shows that you have given thought to their needs. Making sure they can access this information before they make a decision to register is key.

Create an accessible event listing

One of the places a lot of conference creators neglect to account for accessibility is in the event listing itself. You may have a fully accessible event, but if there’s a barrier to finding out about it, that’s a problem.

There are a few simple ways to make online event listings accessible to more people so you can attract a wider base of attendees:

  • Include written descriptions for all images, for those who use an electronic reader to describe websites pages.
  • Always include a transcript for every video you upload to YouTube. Some people are hard of hearing. Others just prefer to read along as they watch.
  • Increase the text contrast of all your pages to make it more readable for those who are vision-impaired (including the elderly!).

You might choose to work with a web designer versed in accessibility design. Or, count on a ticketing provider whose event listings are designed for accessibility.

And make sure registration flows, too!

The most important part of any hopeful attendee’s online experience is the registration process. Any lags in your online registration will frustrate all your potential event-goers.

Too many questions in the checkout process can especially frustrate those using assistive devices to register. And pages that take forever to load will meet with a similar end: abandonment. Keep your registration process streamlined down to the essentials.

Make sure your online registration process is streamlined, fast, and foolproof. If you’re using an online ticketing provider, ensure the format works on any kind of device, including mobile. If at all possible, set up accessible spots as a separate type of registration in your inventory to facilitate registration.

Taking steps to create a superb experience for those who need accessibility options makes them feel included, not merely accommodated. But making your event marketing, your registration process, and the event itself more accessible has ripple effects. A fully inclusive event benefits everyone, from your brand to all your attendees.

For a detailed guide to ensuring accessibility and ADA compliance at your next business event, download The Basics of Event Accessibility: How to Create a More Accessible Event.

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