When you’re planning an event, be proactive in thinking about how you will work to make the event as accessible as possible to folks with different needs. Accessibility is about not only the physical space (eg., barriers for people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility), but also the environment (scents, lighting), financial and transportation considerations (do folks need a car to get there? do they need to pay for the bus? childcare?), and social and cultural considerations (language, types of food, presence of alcohol). You might not always be able to make your events as accessible as you would like (eg., translation can be very expensive), but it is important to have the conversation and make intentional decisions beforehand. Often if events or actions are organized without much lead time they end up being less accessible. This is partially because planning ahead gives you time to think about all of the below considerations, but also because people may need time to set up care support, transportation, and to fit your event into their spoon budget for the week.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but based on our experiences, we offer the following elements to get you started.
Please note: In addition to listing accessibility considerations when promoting events, we strongly suggest including a note encouraging participants to contact the organizers about accessibility needs not already addressed.
- Childminder (volunteer/paid?) – make sure to discuss with the childminder what their needs are (eg., knowing ages and/or number of children that plan to attend)
- Consider using a separate room for childcare, if possible.
- If using the same room for childcare, develop a plan with your childminder in advance
- Supplies (crafts, crayons, paper, toys)
- Activities (games, art projects, etc.)
- ASL (option: upon request – this requires you to give participants a deadline by which to request this, and that you secure funding and interpreters well in advance)
- French/other language (options: whisper, upon request)
- If low-hearing or Deaf, the practice is typed transcripts projected, which requires a typist, projection set-up, and a screen
- Main floor? Elevator?
- If no elevator, is there a ramp? Number of steps? Railing?
- Doorway widths for entrance?
- Do doorways have automatic open buttons?
- Are there chairs without arms?
- Are the chairs adhered to the floor? Is there room for a wheelchair to maneuver inside the room?
- Is the washroom located on the same floor?
- Do washroom doors have an automatic open button?
- Is there a large stall with handrails?
- Is there a gender neutral washroom?
- Do washrooms have diaper-changing tables?
- Bus tickets available?
- Lights? (note florescent)
- Seating for various body types and mobilities (chairs without arms? mats for people who are uncomfortable seated?)
- Ensure space in your seating plan for wheelchairs or other mobility devices
- Is there a quiet space available if people need a sensory re-set?
- Will the event offer remote access or recording? Plan for if participants don’t want to be streamed or recorded
- Video/audio record – person; equipment
- Possibility for closed captioning?
- Have you communicated a community safety plan for minimizing covid transmission? (This could include whether masks are required, asking people to not attend the event if they have symptoms or close contact with people with covid, to test before arriving, what mitigation strategies you’ll practice for the event, etc.)
- Is it possible to meet outdoors?
- Rapid access tests available to participants?
- Remote attendance made possible/accessible?
- Separate rooms for eating/drinking?
- Masks available?
- HEPA or Corsi-Rosenthal filters running?
- Windows open or good air circulation available?
The Event Accessibility Description
In promotional materials, instead of saying “venue is accessible” (or not), give a description (using the points above) so that people can decide if it is accessible for them. Following the description, you can then add “Please get in touch by email if you have other accessibility needs not identified here.”
- Access Suggestions for a Public Event (from Sins Invalid)
- “Your social justice events should be accessible. Period.”
- “How to Make Your Social Justice Events Accessible to the Disability Community: A Checklist”
- “Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy Guidelines for Conference Hosting” (for academic conferences, but useful and very thorough resource)
- “COVID safety: A resource to support community organizations hosting community meetings, activities, and events” (from Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury)
- “crip the resistance: thoughts and resources on accessible protests”
- Access Suggestions for Mobilizations (from Sins Invalid)
- “Five Ways to Make Direct Action Organizing Less Ableist”
General reflections on disability access in activist spaces: