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Five tips to make your meetings accessible for everyone

Posted in Inclusion starts with I

Okay, because of COVID 19, there won’t be any face- to- face meetings and gatherings at the moment. But, if it is possible again, how do you ensure that everyone can participate? In this blog I share the five most important tips to make meeting accessible for people with disabilities.

Tip 1: Make sure that information about the meeting is accessible to everyone. When you announce the meeting online, make sure that the website and invitations are also accessible for people who are blind. It’s also important to think about plain language for people with learning disabilities . When registering for a meeting, also provide different contact options: not only an online registration form, but also, for example, a telephone number, or even a postal address.

Tip 2 : Always choose an accessible location, also if you don’t expect any wheelchair users. I once made this mistake myself. I selected a workshop venue that was accessible, except for the toilet, which was actually a bit narrow for wheelchair users. But I checked with the participants with a physical impairment and they indicated it would work for them. Guess what happened? One day before the workshop I unexpectedly received an extra registration …. and the toilet turned out to be really too small for this participant. So always go for a 100% accessible location, no matter what. As an organizer, you should always check accessibility yourself. Some landlords may have different ideas about accessibility.

Tip 3 : Provide information about the accessibility of your meeting. It is very annoying if you have to inquire about accessibility each time you want to go somewhere. That really is a waste of time! So when you send out the invite, also provide information about accessibility, such as: availability of induction loop , accessible toilets, accessibility by public transport, that sign language interpretation can be arranged on request, or provide the option to join the meeting online. (We have learned from the Corona crisis that’s not too complicated) If, despite tip number 2, you still have an accessibility issue, just be honest about it!

Tip 4 : Ask participants in advance if they have any specific needs, so that you can look for a suitable solution together. Be aware that not only people with disabilities may have specific needs. I clearly remember the hassle when I was going for external meetings while I was still breastfeeding my baby. It wasn’t always easy to find time and space to do the breastpumping.

Tip 5 : Reserve some budget for reasonable accomoodation, for example 5% of the total budget of the scheduled meeting. This will prevent last minute budget stress if you have to pay for braille prints or a sign language interpreter. The organiser is responsible for covering the costs of the adjustments, don’t put these on the participant with a disability. Keep in mind you may need more lunches if participants come with a personal assistant.

Obviously, there is much more to say about inclusive communication and accessibility of meetings and events. Would you like to learn more about this topic? I can also develop a tailormade training for your organization. You don’t have to wait until the Corona crisis is over, I can also provide online training. Contact me for the possibilities. 

In my next blog I will focus on accessibility of online meetings. If you don’t want to miss that one, click on the green Follow button below and you will get an e-mail when a new blog is published online.

Warm greetings, Paulien Bruijn – Disability Inclusion Consultant  

Looking for some good background resources on accessible meetings and events? Check the links below:

In the IDDC accessibility guidelines you will find some quick checklists and tips that will help you to prepare accessible meetings.

This ADA online guidebook about accessible meeting and events will give detailed answers to all possible questions about this topic.

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