It’s easy to assume that accessibility in our post-covid world will somehow surpass past ones; the reality is that accessibility is on the back burner. With the focus on virtual events (which are inherently more accessible vs. live events), accessibility has become an “effortless” accomplishment – something expected to change post-covid.
Pre-covid, live events related to accessibility in a way that “feels like an afterthought” (Lawrence Orr), often leaving disabled attendees to either fend for themselves or to stay home. Luckily, the re-introduction of live events is the perfect opportunity to rebuild the “norm” of events.
Events are not accessibility friendly, despite the changes made during covid. Virtual events opened the door by conquering some of the problems that people with disabilities experienced when attending or even thinking about attending events.
Free events allowed less discrimination based on income, as disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed. Virtual attendance options and fully virtual events allowed attendees to participate – even if their disabilities would have prevented them from attending a live version. Replays and recordings gave another opportunity to those disabled people who might have missed the original due to unexpected complications, appointments, etc. Even the ability to watch events in-home rather than traveling increased the number of people who could potentially attend!
And, although those are huge steps in creating an event space with equal opportunity for all, it doesn’t solve all the problems. We’re still skipping over a large portion of the disabled community, for example, blind and deaf people.
As we’re moving back to live events, the biggest part of continuing our path to accessibility is hybrid events. Hybrid events provide accessibility to those who need it while allowing others to participate in the live events they missed.
Additionally, making adjustments to become even more accessible for more communities is necessary. This may look like this:
- Adding subtitles or closed captions
- Opting for an easy to use platform
- Offering optional video attendance
- Voice-overs during presentations
- Virtual interpreting services
And so much more. Still, while hybrid events offer an amazing solution, live events should still take steps to be more accessible such as adding water bowls for service dogs or interpreters for deaf attendees.
Listening to the community and thinking about what’s next. Many accessibility solutions are easy to implement and cost very little – we just don’t think about it at the moment. We have to push ourselves to think outside of our norm and provide opportunities to attend for people who are not “just like us.”
Listening to the community is the final step towards developing accessibility-friendly events – the disabled community knows what they need; they’re just waiting for us to listen. Gathering feedback on past and current events, asking attendees what they might need beforehand, and having open discussions upfront is key to developing long-lasting accessibility improvements to the event space.
If you’re unsure what steps you should take for your business to get back into hosting events, connect with Stellapop today to learn more.