A stick figure celebrating an event with their arms in the air, throwing confetti

Accessible events: A guide

This guide will get you started on planning events that are more accessible, inclusive, equitable—and enjoyable—for everyone

When you’re planning a professional event—whether it’s a conference or a cocktail party—the scale and scope might change, but the goal is always the same: give your guests an experience that they’ll enjoy, remember, and associate positively with your brand.

A major factor in creating that kind of experience is prioritizing accessibility.

What is an accessible event?

A great event gives every attendee equitable access to the same content, connections and conversations. If you’re open to prioritizing what your guests need to achieve that, you’re already on your way to planning an accessible event.

And don’t worry: making an event accessible isn’t about changing your entire plan. It’s simply about thinking ahead and doing your best to design an event that makes it possible for anyone who attends to feel considered, comfortable and safe.

How to start with accessible events

Consider your guests—without making any assumptions. While some disabilities are visible, there are many that are non-apparent, situational, or temporary—including some visual, auditory, mobility, and neurocognitive disabilities. As examples, think of someone who is living with a chronic health condition (non-apparent), someone who is sensitive to loud noises or bright, pulsing lights (situational) or someone who recently broke their leg (temporary). These guests may or may not disclose their specific disabilities but may require—and request—accommodations to make the event work for them.

And we’ll acknowledge this right up front: it’s hard to get accessibility right for 100% of the people 100% of the time. Attendees will have different needs. There will be things that you couldn’t have anticipated. And that’s ok. The key is being open to addressing and accommodating what you can (as quickly as you can) in the moment, and then being willing to listen, ask questions and learn so that you can continue to improve going forward.

Because event attendees are not ultimately responsible for ensuring that the content and opportunities at your event are accessible to them—the ideal event would be designed that way, for everyone.

The good news is that planning accessible events comes with a bonus: often, the accommodations that are considered “disability friendly” are modifications that benefit everyone. (It’s called the “curb-cut effect,” and we’ll call out examples throughout the checklist. ⭐)

Accessible event processes and communications

Accessible event space

Accessible event materials

Accessible presentations

Inclusive dining experiences

I planned an accessible event. Now what?

Congratulations! And thank you for prioritizing accessibility. With folks like you on our side, we’re on our way to building a more accessible world.

Now that your event has wrapped, touch base with your attendees to ask about their experience—did they have everything they needed? Are there things they would change? Were there things they particularly appreciated? This feedback will help you shape and improve your events going forward.

Because accessibility is a journey—and if you’re willing to ask, learn and improve along the way, every event you plan will be better than the last.

Want more accessibility, inclusion and innovation?

Join our innovation community.

The Howe Innovation Center sits at the intersection of innovation and disability, connecting the entrepreneurial and disability communities to create solutions for a more accessible world.

Dive deeper into digital accessibility.

Perkins Access partners with organizations of all kinds to create digital products, services and experiences—websites, apps, multimedia and beyond—that engage and include everyone.

Get empowered—in your inbox.

We’re all about accessibility and disability inclusion—and you can be, too. Our monthly #FridayForward newsletter delivers the latest news, events and insight—plus simple actions you can take to help.

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