To assist you in reviewing your accessibility policies and practices and to approach meetings with forethought and preparation, two CMPs, each with nearly ten years of experience, shared their check-lists and suggestions.
Amy-Marie Lemanski, Senior Event Planner at Nexstar Network and Todd Schwartz, President of The Professional Planner Group, each plan, produce and supervise over a dozen meetings annually. The majority of their meetings are pre-registration, not large public events, thus these checklists and suggestions pertain primarily to meetings with pre-registration.
- Choose a site with accessible meeting space, a well-trained staff and a positive history of working with accessibility issues.
- Is the site located close to public transportation?
- Are there sufficient ADA over-night guest rooms?
- Are there adequate accessible parking spaces, restrooms, water fountains and shelter from sun and rain? Is there toileting space for assistance animals?
- Is there enough space in the meeting room(s) for persons in wheelchairs and their companions?
- Are there clear paths of travel between meeting rooms, restaurants, auditoriums, hotels, parking lots, etc.?
- Site solutions may include: Temporary ramps, temporary parking spaces, and temporary surfaces over grass, sand or other loose materials, signage and Braille signage by and in the elevators to enhance communication.
- Best Practice: Before signing the contract, walk through the space with a person with disabilities. A participant using a wheelchair can be especially helpful in identifying physical access issues.
Administrative & Registration
- Include accessibility as a budget line item.
- Promote the event or meeting to people with disabilities and encourage their participation.
- Provide a deadline and space on registration materials for attendees to identify and request individual accommodations that may not otherwise be provided. Be aware that some services may be difficult to secure in certain regions of the country and may require a significant lead time to arrange.
- Indicate that materials will be available in alternate formats (Braille, large print, sign language interpretation, captioning, assistive listening devices and audio taping) on an as-needed basis and upon early request.
- Arrange for interpretive or assistive services.
- Be aware that registrants prone to seizures may have service animals in tow. These participants can have light and sound sensitivity so be aware of the risk for seizures and have a plan in place with the site if there is an incident.
- Contract accessible vehicles, if transportation is part of the meeting.
- Include a map with access symbols on promotional materials so attendees will know ahead of time where services are located.
- Seek volunteers as readers, guides and other functions related to accommodating individuals with disabilities.
- Train staff on appropriate disability etiquette, use of assistive devices and emergency procedures.
- Keep in mind that buffets are challenging for persons with visual impairment and those with mobility issues.
- Communicate with all presenters to ensure presentations are accessible to all.
- Prepare evaluations and survey questionnaires for all participants.
- Best Practice: “It is important to be sensitive to the needs of the disabled but not to draw attention to those needs at the meeting.” Amy-Marie Lemanski, CMP
- Verify with the site that all requested special arrangements are being followed through as planned.
- Seek out those with special needs or request they seek you out to ensure their needs are adequately met.
- Include integrated seating rather than limit wheelchairs or other mobility devices to one area.
- Best Practice: “Early communication and thorough planning are ideal but be aware that guest needs may change at a moment or day’s notice and you have to accommodate as best as you are able.” Todd Schwartz, CMP
- Follow up with individuals requesting special accommodations seeking feedback on what can be improved for future meetings.
- Follow up on invoicing and billing for special services.
- Remove all temporary solutions at the site.
- Best Practice: The financial responsibility of special needs for special attendees belongs to the planning organization, not the site.
5 Presenter Instructions
- Speak clearly.
- Do not turn away from the audience.
- Provide handouts in alternative formats.
- Speak to the person for whom an interpreter is working; do not speak to the interpreter.
- If you write on a board, say what is being written and do not turn away while writing.