Whether an attendee has serious allergies, is pregnant or nursing, has vision or hearing deficiencies, or mobility or cognitive impairments, the right preparation and planning can make a world of difference. “Are there any special accommodations that we can assist you with?” This question needs to be addressed from the very beginning, since the most significant thing when planning a meeting or event is making sure that each person attending, regardless of different abilities, is comfortable.
On the Planner’s Side
The essential point when planning events is to know who your guests are and what they need. You need to be prepared for everything. “Making sure that each person is having the same incredible experience and not lessening a moment regardless of their personal circumstance,” is what drives Carly Sussman, assistant account executive at MKTG, an experiential marketing company, in every event she plans.
Here are the main points for consideration when selecting a venue that will suit all event attendees.
>> The first and most significant question is to find out if the building is fully accessible, then to make sure where the ramps and elevators are in proximity to the meeting or event.
>> In older buildings, it is important to find out the dimension of the elevators and ramps.
>> When it comes to the seating setup, always confirm that there is appropriate space for a wheelchair to navigate the aisles and sit and view the event comfortably.
“When conducting site visits, I try to put myself in others shoes and be considerate of how the space will flow for people of all abilities. I try to avoid spaces that are multilevel and look for ramp locations and elevators to be in close and obvious proximity to where the location intends for the majority of guests to utilize so that no one has to enter/exit alone or ask for directions to different accommodation,” says Valerie Cowen, director of events, technology, and communications for Choice Hotels Owners Council.
The Venue’s Viewpoint
“One of the most common accommodations we find ourselves dealing with is to provide a clean and lockable room with power outlets for new mothers who need to pump during the day. Outside of dietary restrictions that is probably the most requested thing that comes our way,” says Brian Weiner, conference center manager at RWJ Conference Center.
Regarding food allergies and restrictions, which continue to be the most requested accommodation, there needs to be special precautions made that will ensure that all guests will be safe. This can be done through excellent training of the serving staff; and if food is served buffet-style, all ingredients should be clearly listed with the common allergens in bold font.
Look at your event’s attendees holistically and consider their needs outside of the venue. For example, Weiner’s venue holds meetings and support groups for caregivers. “Frequently it is hard for caregivers to make it to a meeting or event because the very nature of what they do means they are needed and can’t be away. For a while we were providing space for a support group of caregivers who were taking care of adult children, spouses and parents with physical and mental disabilities. To make it easier for them to attend, we set up a music therapy session in the room next to the support group that was for those with the disabilities. It allowed for the caregiver to remove the guilt of leaving the person they care for while giving them an outlet to help them with their needs. At the same time, we were providing therapy and entertainment for the person with disabilities, which really made this a win-win,” he says.