Inclusive Event Guidelines
4.1. Accessible venues
The first step to hosting an accessible event is to choose venues which are accessible to people with as many different access needs as possible. The conference venue itself should be accessible, but so should the venues for any dinners, social events, and accommodation. Also, it is important to consider the journey between these different locations, as well as availability of public transport and accessible car parks; do not make the assumption that everyone will be able to walk between venues. In considering the journey between locations, it is useful to collect data as to rough distances and gradients for routes. Note that this should not be in terms of ‘walking time’ (e.g., ‘…is a five minute walk from…’) or vague/relative terms (e.g. ‘…a brief walk…’). This is because these sets of phrases make a normative statement regarding the bodily capacities of participants, which can be both alienating and hard to decipher for those with e.g., mobility issues. For example, what is a brief, or five minute, walk for one person can be prohibitive to another (at least without assistance or transport). Thus, we recommend that you provide this information such as ‘the route between [venue x] and [venue y] is roughly 1.5km including a steady/sharp incline’. We suggest that you make it clear to delegates that those needing transport between locations should approach you, either before or during the event. You might consider budgeting to cover this expense, in order to equalise the personal cost of all delegates’ participation.
Regarding the venues themselves, there are a range of accessibility measures that you should consider. Consider mobility needs (e.g., step-free/ramp access, lifts where necessary) alongside measure relating to visual and hearing impairments (e.g., induction loops, space near the presentation area(s) for a British Sign Language interpreter). Additionally, consider the needs of those with fatigue syndromes and fluctuating health conditions, as well those with young children (e.g., providing quiet room(s) for rest breaks and breastfeeding during the event). Finally, you should consider the inclusive of those with non-binary gender identities (e.g., access to gender neutral toilets at all venues).
There are a number of resources which can help you to identify and to avoid, remove, or minimise the effect of, barriers to those with such needs:
Building managers for main venues should be able to tell you basic access information and the facilities/amenities nearby; this should include emergency evacuation procedures (which may vary out of hours or during holidays)
Restaurants and hotels should also be able to provide you with similar information, though this may be incomplete
DisabledGo is a website which offers detailed access guides for many venues; this can be used to find accessible venues, as well as to assess venues that you are already aware of
Your host institution should also have a student disability service (or similar) that can help you to identify and remove potential barriers to access
MAP UK has a large number of chapters in UK institutions across the country: if you’re stuck or would like additional input, consider contacting your nearest chapter (details available here)
The second step to hosting an accessible event is to communicate detailed access information to your (potential) delegates as early as possible. The primary aim of this is to enable potential delegates to assess whether or not they will be able to attend and participate in your event. This means that you should provide as much information as you can, even if you are aware that your event is not fully accessible.
It helps to present this information in a variety of ways. You should include links to any building maps on your website, and write a short description of the route from the building entrance to the venue (based on our recommendations in §4.1). Where possible, information should be provided about step free access, lifts, door widths and opening, accessible toilets, induction loops, and details of any rest spaces that can be set aside for delegates. Also, you should include the route from any accessible parking spaces, as well as from public transport (with maps if possible).
Again, there are multiple resources available to help you communicate this information.
Universities in the UK are legally obliged to have accessibility information building by build, and should be available on their website – linking to this material in all event communications would be a way of distributing some of this information
For venues listed on DisabledGo, you can use the information available on the relevant venue guides, and link to them directly from your website
Your institution’s student disability service (or similar) should be able to suggest any improvements to your CFP/CFA/CFR
To give you some idea of how some of this information can be effectively communicated in the context of a CFR, we provide the following two examples of recent philosophy events:
MAP KCL ‘Identity and Underrepresentation’ conference, 2015
BSA ‘Race and Aesthetics’ conference 2015
This non-philosophy conference also has a very thorough accessibility guide:
CCCC 2016 Accessibility Guide (Houston, USA)