An open letter to the events industry,

We need to talk. 

You may or may not know my story, but it doesn’t really matter for this particular conversation. All you need to know is that I was born without the proper use of my legs, which means that now I use a wheelchair to go any great distance. 

I love meeting new people and trying new things, which is why I studied events management at Victoria University in the early 2000s. 

Over the years I have just dealt with the fact that many events I attend don’t have the best access for people with disabilities, but last week it became apparent to me that in 2017, nothing has really changed.

This isn’t good enough. 

People with disabilities are still being forgotten about in the planning and execution of events. It’s disappointing because people with disabilities are around 25% of the market, so not only is a big chunk of people being excluded from many different events but also event organisers are missing out on a chunk of people that could help their events be a real success! 

Here are five things you NEED to take into account when organising an event so that people with disabilities are not excluded. 

1.    When you pick your venue, think about whether there are people out there that may want to attend your event who may not be able to if it’s upstairs, has inaccessible bathrooms or no parking. How can you make your event as accessible for people with disabilities as possible?

2.    Mention up front in your marketing and social media if the venue you’re holding your event at isn’t accessible; it doesn’t matter if it isn’t. There are lots of beautiful venues that are in old buildings that can’t be made accessible to someone with limited mobility and that is ok. The people with disabilities just want to know either way so we do not have to waste their time researching the access. 

3.    Find yourself a friendly person with a disability who is also an access expert and get them to help you work out if what you believe is accessible really is. Some venues will say that they are accessible, and they may be by certain government standards but every disability is different which means that every access need is different too.  We’re more than happy to talk about our needs and how to make the experience at your event as enjoyable and accessible as possible. 

4.    If by chance a person with a disability turns up to your event and from the outside, it looks like it’s not accessible, don’t let the first thing you say to them be ‘Oh, we just didn’t think about it.’ Seriously, it’s 2017, one in 5 people have a disability. You must have someone who knows someone with a disability if you don’t know someone yourself. Make it part of your events checklist. Move with the times. If someone said that to you, how would you feel?

5.    If you’re running a competition on social media where the prize is a ticket to an event, mention that the venue isn’t accessible or post a link to the venue so people with disabilities can decide for themselves if it’s worth entering the competition. I’ve had two experiences now where I have won competitions on Instagram but have had to miss out because I have a disability. The organisers of the event then just told me to give the ticket away so I miss out on it all together. #sadface

People with disabilities are more than happy to talk to you about what you may need to include in your events to make them as inclusive as possible. In my experience, people have been too scared to talk to me about what my needs are, but if there was just an initial conversation then everything would be perfect from the get-go. 

People with disabilities just want to be treated like everyone else, be able to experience everything like everyone else, be seen as the same as everyone else. 

Need help to make your event more accessible, email me and I’ll help you work out all the finer details.