Planning an Inclusive Event
Are you organising a convention or conference? Do you want to ensure as many of your attendees feel included and comfortable as possible? Here’s our comprehensive checklist for making your event accessible for the wonderful, diverse people who might be attending.
It’s important to provide accessibility options, even for people you don’t believe will be attending your event; diversity is cyclical, and preparing for accessibility might be what makes a person feel welcome to come to an event they otherwise felt they were unable to attend.
Communicate and consult
Provide an obvious point of contact for feedback regarding accessibility before, during, and after the event.
Connect with and consult with the communities who will be attending the event and listen to their needs.
Invite a diverse range of people to join committees so that your diversity and accessibility initiatives are meaningful.
Let people know about the initiatives that have been implemented so that people can reassess whether they are now able to attend your event, and can also plan accordingly.
Advertise your event as inclusive and accessible, and include the ways you've ensured it is.
Code of conduct
Ensure your code of conduct explicitly prioritises the safety and comfort of minority groups.
Have policies around touching (hugs, handshakes, etc.), social interactions, and the taking and sharing of photos. Make these transparent.
Make explicit, inclusive rules visible in spaces like tabletop game areas at gaming events, so everyone feels welcome at the table.
Staff, volunteers, and speakers
Always ensure an event includes a Welcome to Country and that talks include a Welcome / Acknowledgement of Country (dependent on the speaker) if the event is held in Australia.
Provide clear standards for visual aids and slides during panels and talks to ensure they are accessible to the audience, including colour contrast and font size.
Disallow speakers who are disrespectful to minorities (such as supporting anti-diversity movements, deliberately misgendering individuals, etc.) from attending.
Consider an individual’s whole identity; don’t bring minority speakers to an event just to have them speak on events about their minority identifiers. They have other skills!
Ensure speakers will contribute to an inclusive environment. Have agreements ahead of speaking as to appropriate and inclusive language, such as avoiding ableist language, sexist catch-alls (like referring to the audience as ‘guys’), etc.
Provide disability and sensitivity training for staff, volunteers, speakers, and other stakeholders.
Ensure that people dealing with tickets know that the name on a person’s identification may not match their preferred name.
Make it clear what roles are paid and are not. Speakers should be paid, and their registration fees for the event should be waived.
Make accessibility and inclusivity information clear, transparent, and obvious on the main page of the event’s website.
Ensure the event website is accessible with a screen reader.
Use the Web Accessibility Guidelines and the A11y Project to assist with making your website more accessible.
Arriving at the event
Include space for pronouns on all attendee badges to normalise this practice.
Provide clear ways for all attendees (including speakers) to indicate that they don’t want to be photographed, such as different coloured lanyards. (Make sure they’re colour-blind friendly too!) Provide additional ways for speakers to indicate whether they are happy with photographs or quotes being shared on social media, and if they're happy being tagged.
Provide ways for patrons to indicate that they do not wish to be approached by strangers or anyone in networking scenarios.
Rooms and spaces
Incorporate diversity and safety initiatives into events. Don’t make inclusive spaces too separate or distant from the main attraction.
Make diversity and mental health spaces bigger and more accessible, rather than upstairs or far away the main area of your event.
Offer childcare and lactation rooms.
Provide a ‘blackout’ room where individuals can rest their senses, including sight and sound.
Provide prayer rooms and wash rooms.
Have gender neutral bathrooms, and don’t limit these only to the ‘diverse’ area of your convention space.
Provide period products for attendees and sanitary bins in every cubicle, including in accessible and gender neutral toilets.
Consider using fragrance-free hand wash and reducing the use of air fresheners to help those with chemical sensitivities.
Have a separate, private space (not a bathroom) available for breastfeeding women to attend to their children.
Prepare to be accessible
Provide location maps that make accessible routes clear, including elevators and spaces that would be clear of foot traffic and obstacles.
Check that anything that features a colour-coded key (maps, program, etc.) is colour-blind friendly.
Leave spaces open in community rooms for people with mobility issues to access materials.
Have easy-to-access seating around the event space.
Provide seated queuing options for people who struggle to stand in a queue for the required durations.
Provide roaming microphones rather than relying on standing microphones so that people with mobility issues can still engage with talks.
Check lighting, as some people have issues with fluorescent or flashing lights.
Have sign language interpreters and live captioning for talks, and roaming interpreters so people can interact with people on booths or stalls, at networking gatherings, etc.
Provide hearing / audio loops in theatres.
Ensure there is signage and programs available in braille.
Ensure there are spaces for service animals to eat, drink, and do their business.
Request that attendees limit the use of scented products to help those with chemical sensitivities.
Ensure all forms that attendees need to complete prior to attending are gender inclusive. Advice on this can be found here.
Ensure content and trigger warnings are included on talks that cover sensitive topics so audience members can make decisions about whether to view content. Provide these ahead of time so individuals can choose not to attend, rather than needing to leave part-way through (often in front of an audience).
Ensure dietary requirements are catered to. Consider vegetarian and vegan options, gluten and lactose free options, any common allergies, halal, and kosher.
Provide alcohol-free events for patrons to network without feeling pressured to drink or being exposed to uncomfortable drunken behaviour.
Provide opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds or people who are new to an event to meet in safe environments, like specific rooms, organised pre-event breakfasts, or other arrangements.
If possible, provide options for discounted or free attendance for diverse individuals or people from low socio-economic backgrounds who otherwise could not attend. Consider allowing more privileged attendees to sponsor these tickets, which is a model adopted by several events, like AlterConf.
We know that not every event can include every accessiblity option. Sometimes there are constraints: the location, the budget, the time frame, etc. The most important thing is that you are aware of what you are and are not providing, and you make this clear to attendees in advance (remember some poeple may be travelling, so need notice!) so they can plan accordingly. Communication is key!
Thank you to everyone in this Twitter thread for your input and suggestions regarding convention accessibility!
This reference guide was last updated May 2019.