Accommodating accessibility has often been an afterthought in event planning. In some cases, it may not have even of crossed the minds of some event planners. Thankfully, this has changed significantly over recent years. The majority of event organisers now incorporate accessibility requirements into event planning and operation processes.
In our latest blog, MGAC Consultant Belinda Cameron takes a closer look at how proper planning can help ensure every component of an event is accessible to all participants, no matter their ability.
Accessible events planning process
Planning for an accessible event not only allows people with an accessibility need to fully participate, it also improves the experience for all everyone. This includes families, carers, the elderly, parents with prams, children, staff, and participants.
No matter the nature, size or location of an event, proper planning is vital. It is crucial for event planners to consider access requirements early in the planning process, and strive for best practice with accessibility wherever possible.
Access for people with an accessibility need is not only about physical access to buildings for wheelchair users. It also includes access to written information for people with a vision impairment, along with access to public announcements for people with a hearing impairment.
The main considerations when planning an accessible and inclusive event include:
· Venue and infrastructure accessibility (i.e. ensuring appropriate infrastructure is used to maximise access within and around the venue or space)
· Specific accessibility needs (i.e. mobility, vision, hearing, cognitive and intellectual impairments)
· Inclusive participation (i.e. Auslan interpreters, hearing augmentation, live captioning, audio description and sensory space)
· Communications and material (i.e. a dedicated accessibility webpage that outlines key access features of the event in appropriate formats/technology, including printed material and a functional booking system)
· Staff training (i.e. appropriate terminology to use when servicing or assisting someone with accessibility needs.)
The aim is to establish a seamless network for accessibility. This includes consideration at all stages, from pre-event information and event entrances, through to seating and overall participant enjoyment.
Accessible events and compliance
A large part of the accessible event planning comes down to compliance. Event organisers have a responsibility to incorporate access issues into the planning process. It is also a legal requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act, 1992 (DDA).
In general, permanent venues and temporary overlay should apply to Australian Standard 1428 suite, Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), the National Construction Code (NCC) and the principles of Universal Design (UD). Under these legal guidelines, all relevant access provisions need to be considered in accordance with the ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ provisions of the NCC and AS 1428 suite. Where these cannot be met, a ‘Performance Solution’ provided by a certified Accessibility Consultant is acceptable.
The performance solution must detail the alternative means by which the Deemed to Satisfy solution can be met either through operational, modified design or provision of specialise infrastructure or technology.
By integrating situation appropriate performance solutions, it ensures functional compliance is maintained in line with the spirit and intent of the DDA and Universal Design principles.
Seeking continuous accessibility improvement
All event organisers should be striving for best practice when it comes to accessibility. By implementing universal design and delivering accessible facilities and services, events will continue to be less encumbered by barriers, ensuring more people can participate fully. These considerations with all events also help to create positive culture change and a lasting legacy within the wider community.
MGAC is committed to working with event organisers and suppliers to identify key accessibility issues and find practical solutions to common problems. We are here to help deliver and provide a safe, accessible and equitable experience for all.