Nearly one in five Americans live with a disability, an impairment that affects their ability to engage in day-to-day tasks. It’s a huge burden that can be overlooked by those that don’t have to think about living life with a disability.
As a Show Manager, you can make the lives of the disabled a little easier by making sure that your show is ADA compliant (per the Americans with Disabilities Act). It’s more than just a requirement, it’s a simple gesture that sends the message that everyone is welcome at your event. No one is going to slip through the cracks while you’re in charge.
It’s important that you understand the requirements of the law. That knowledge will help guide your choices throughout the entire planning process. If you fail to provide the proper accommodations you could face fines.
When it comes time to shop for a venue make sure you select one that will accommodate attendees and exhibitors with disabilities by keeping the following in mind…
Accessible Parking – Assess the amount of parking available for people who need to park close to the venue. If there isn’t an adequate number of accessible parking, consider designating more spaces as disability parking only.
Barrier Free – The venue should be free of barriers that would inhibit easy access to and from the building, as well as inside; ramps with handrails are a must for any venue site. Are there any paths that would be difficult (such as cracked or stone) for those with a cane or a wheelchair to maneuver? Indoor surfaces should be slip resistant and venues with carpeting should be low pile.
Elevators – Check that all elevators are in operation and can be easily accessed. Pick a venue that has more than one elevator in the unlikely (but possible) event that one of the elevators is down during the event.
Restrooms – Visit the restrooms to make sure they will meet the needs of your guests. Things to consider are sink height, grab bars, easy to open doors, and wheelchair accessible stalls. Can a person in a wheelchair easily use the soap dispenser and dry their hands?
Doorways – Make sure that doors are easy to open (automatic doors are even better) and that doorways are wide enough for easy wheelchair access.
Aisles – Widening the aisles might limit booth space but it may be necessary to accommodate those with wheelchairs and walkers.
Registration Tables – Provide adequate room around registration tables for ease of mobility for those using wheelchairs, canes, and walkers. Place informational materials within reach. Tables should also be at wheelchair accessible height.
Seating – People with disabilities often find it difficult to stand or walk for long periods of time. Make sure there is enough seating placed throughout the show floor that way when someone gets tired they don’t have to walk far to find a place to rest.
Service Animals – You want to make sure that all your guests are welcome and that includes service animals. Provide an area for service animals with bowls of water for hydration and a relief area.
Hearing and Visually Impaired – Some of your guests may be visually or hearing impaired. Provide braille for the blind and have someone who is versed in ASL (American Sign Language) on standby for keynote speakers.
Putting other people first shouldn’t be a mentality that is only expressed during events but one that we should live by every day. The Mighty, a popular web platform that provides a voice to the disabled and chronically ill, shares this quote from Christina Ebersohl, “I’m not interested in being an inspiration. I just want the same opportunities as everyone else.” More than just a sentiment, it’s a goal that we can all strive for.
And your event is a great place to start.