4 minutes read
Ensuring everyone on the invitation list can access the event you’re planning shouldn’t be an afterthought: it’s the foundation of best-practice event management.
The Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols, produced by The Little Red Company and supported by Aruga and BonBon, is an excellent example of an event that integrates accessibility from the very start.
The premier annual carols event has dedicated access for wheelchair users, on-screen captioning, audio description, an Auslan-interpreted carols platform and its impressive on-stage line-up includes a d/Deaf performer.
BonBon Co-Founder and Events & Activations Director Kirsty Adams shares her expertise and insights to ensure the next event you’re planning is welcoming and inclusive for everyone on the guest list.
Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned party planner, Kirsty warns that true accessibility is so extensive it’s unlikely you will meet every need for every event.
True accessibility is never-ending but it’s essential to do as much as you can. Working to that philosophy, accessibility will improve every time you run an event.
You don’t have to be the expert on accessibility matters because there are plenty of established consultants who can help you grow to become a fully accessible event planner. There are also courses you can do to improve your knowledge.
The best event management professionals understand the importance of being flexible and working on the fly to solve problems as they arise. You need to think on your feet and troubleshoot where you can.
There is a growing expectation that all events tick off essential accessibility targets such as wheelchair access, on-screen captioning for visual presentations, an Auslan interpreter for speeches and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.
Don’t be afraid to ask guests what they want and need. After all, they are the experts. Tell them about the scenarios you have thought out so they can see you’ve worked to ensure their needs are met.
Accessibility problems will pop up at events and the trick is to solve them quickly. For example, if you’ve forgotten to put out low chairs and older adults are struggling to sit on high stools, you need to make finding the appropriate chairs a priority.
Forward-planning is a critical event management skill. It’s about being prepared and ready to work out problems and issues before they happen. For example, you may need to prepare a quiet room for someone with sensory needs.
Having open and frank conversations with clients and event hosts about what has been done previously and any accessibility targets they’ve missed will help you build a more accessible event. Work with them to understand the invitees’ needs to reduce surprises on the day.
Having a master accessibility plan can help event organisers ensure their event is genuinely accessible as they make sure nothing critical is missed. It won’t take long to build up your list so there are fewer surprises and challenges that pop up during the event.
Ask questions about the venue and anticipate issues that might arise before they happen to ensure you are ready for any scenario. Most venues list their accessibility features but don’t rely on what you read, ask appropriate questions or make an effort to do a site tour.
The more events you run, the better you will become at true accessibility. You will realise things like the importance of not just reserving the end of tables for people in wheelchairs but offering them the option of sitting in the middle.
If you are catering for someone with specific accessibility needs, then you create the event around that person’s accessibility needs but you don’t need to shout it from the rooftop and risk making them feel uncomfortable.
Surveys for guests can ensure you meet what may seem like a minor accessibility issue. For example, someone who is long-sighted will prefer to sit at the back of the auditorium so they can read the screen. Don’t make them feel like an afterthought.
See accessibility in action at the 2022 Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols on Saturday 10 December at Riverstage in the City Botanic Gardens from 4pm. The beloved annual event is broadcast in its entirety on Friday 16 December 2022 at 7pm on 9 Queensland and again on Christmas Day morning. It is also available to watch nationally on 9Now.