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Welcome disabled event attendees

All hands in together
We asked Penny Melville-Brown of Disability Dynamics to provide some tips on how to plan an inclusive event. Penny formed Disability Dynamics in 2000 following a career as a naval criminal barrister and Commander until the onset of visual impairment. Her business provides diversity training at every level - for strategic decision makers through the line managers to front-line teams.

1. Why?

  • Being inclusive makes good business sense and enhances reputation. 
  • Successful events let everyone take part - dissatisfaction spreads like wildfire.
  • If the event is for your staff or members of the public, you have a legal responsibility to address the needs of disabled attendees.

2. Choosing the venue. Use this simple checklist:

  • Is the venue served by public transport?
  • Are there adequate, well-signed, disabled parking spaces close to the entrance?
  • Is signage at arrival point and throughout venue clear?
  • Is lighting at arrival point and throughout venue clear?
  • Will a hearing loop be available, if required, at reception and for the event?
  • Is there level, lift or ramped access to reception, the event and other areas to be used?
  • Do lifts used take a large wheelchair, have Braille buttons and voice announcements?
  • If using stairs or ramps, are handrails available?
  • Does the seating plan need adjustment to accommodate wheelchair users, visually or hearing impaired attendees, BSL interpreters, support workers, assistance dogs?
  • If using additional rooms/ refreshment facilities, do they also comply?
  • Is the stage/lectern accessible to disabled presenters?
  • Are there accessible toilet facilities adjacent to the venue?
  • Does the venue have clear and specific evacuation procedures for disabled people?
  • Are venue staff trained in disability awareness and assistance?

3. Planning ahead.

Anticipating the needs of disabled attendees makes your job easier and costs less than making changes on the day. Our guide to success is Ask Questions.

When issuing invitations, include questions such as:

  • Do you have any special dietary needs?
  • Do you have any individual needs for accessing and taking part in the event?

Presenters. Ask them:

  • About their individual needs.
  • For advance Word versions of material and presentations so you can provide accessible copies.
  • Advise them of any relevant individual needs.

Event information.

  • Be prepared to supply documents including feedback sheets in alternative formats, both before the event and on the day.
  • Use bold large print on badges.
  • Often it will be helpful to advise disabled attendees of named staff who will assist them on the day.

4. On the day.

Individual needs. 

  • Check that requirements have been met where reasonable.


  • Venue Staff. Receptionists/security staff should be aware of disabled attendees, be able to welcome them, direct them to the event and assist with signing-in (where needed).
  • Catering staff. Dietary needs should be met and disabled people assisted with refreshments if needed.
  • Management staff. Those responsible for emergency procedures must be aware of any disabled attendees.
  • Event Staff. Remind staff of any individual needs and to assist: on arrival (with signing-in, badging, guidance to facilities and seats, describing the venue layout including positions of speakers and emergency exits), during the event (changes in location, feedback forms) and departure (gathering belongings, finding the exit and transport). 
  • Presenters. Alert them to disabled attendees. Where appropriate, remind them to describe visual aids, to allow hearing interpreters sufficient time to translate the presentation and to speak within range of the hearing loop microphone.
  • Key Players. Alert those chairing discussions to disabled attendees and their needs. They may need to assist disabled people to take part e.g. indicating by word or gesture that their wish to speak has been seen and when to do so. 

5. Promote your inclusivity.

  • Use every opportunity in planning, advertising and delivering the event to demonstrate that you are leading the field and setting the standard in best practice.

6. Data Protection.

  • When you are informed of any special requirements, this information should be treated with the appropriate level of confidentiality.

Visit their own website for further information about Disability Dynamics.

Event Training

We call it the Knowledge Audit. Critical must-know information when planning and managing events. A training course. An assessment tool. A knowledge audit. If you're not sure what you don't know then this will probably be the best training investment you have ever made. Priced from £25.  Find out more »

"The process and policy recommendations were relevant, precise and simple to implement by our Tournament Director; so an excellent service delivered perfectly".

John Simpson, CEO, JSA Ltd.
Chairman of The Duke of York Young Champions Trophy

Speaker? Lecturer? Presenter?

Guest speaker at Bournemouth University. Lecturer at Regents College. Presenter for Chartered Institute of Public Relations. If you would like us to also assist your organisation on the topic of risk management at events, or simply event management with a risk bi-line please get in touch.

Contact us to discuss what you need and when.

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