Hybrid events became popular once Covid-19 entered our lives and, although restrictions are being lifted and in-person events are returning, this event format is expected to stick around. The adage “the more, the merrier” should come to mind when planning your hybrid event and direct you to create an inclusive event. You want everyone to have a positive experience.
You should aim to accommodate attendees with disabilities not only because the ADA requires it but because it’s the right thing to do. For being conscientious, you’ll be rewarded with increased attendance which translates to higher revenue from registration fees. You can also tout your attendance rate when promoting future events (similar to a promoter boasting prior sold-out concerts).
Here are ways to make your hybrid event more accessible for both virtual and in-person attendees.
Attendees with Mobility Challenges
For those who prefer to attend your event in-person, ensure that your venue can accommodate physical limitations. Consider the following:
Is there an elevator or ramp access? When researching venues, some will indicate on their website whether they can accommodate visitors with physical limitations. In addition to an elevator, a parking lot with a cut curb or ramp will give those in wheelchairs or scooters easy access to the building. The building entrance also needs to be wide enough. If it’s not included on the venue’s website, a quick call or email should yield accessibility details.
Is your venue easy to access (for all attendees)? If your event will take place in a bustling metro location, what’s the best route for attendees to take? Is construction taking place nearby? Provide this information in your registration materials to save attendees time and make it easy for them to reach the venue. If some attendees use wheelchairs and will be arriving by subway or train, provide the link to Google’s Wheelchair Accessible Routes.
Is there nearby parking? For attendees using wheelchairs, canes, and walkers, available parking needs to be close to the venue entrance.
What’s the seating set-up? Is there enough space in the seating area to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, canes, walkers, and service animals (this is important, as other attendees may be uncomfortable being near animals)? Having a designated area for those with physical disabilities is ideal to ensure that their needs are met.
Accessible hotel room options: When reserving a hotel block, include rooms that accommodate persons with physical limitations.
Attendees with Hearing Challenges
For deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees, you’ll need to accommodate both those who attend virtually and in person.
Will you provide an interpreter? For hearing-impaired attendees, will you employ the services of a sign language expert? Will you provide assistive listening devices? American Sign Language (ASL) includes signs for many words; however, there isn’t a sign for everything. Provide interpreters with written program materials in advance so they can decide how best to express unfamiliar terms to hearing-impaired attendees.
People born with the ability to hear may rely on other forms of communication besides ASL, so captioning video content (for both virtual and in-person attendees) will be helpful. Insist that speakers and attendees use microphones and always face forward to allow for lip-reading. If you’re planning to have background music, this could be distracting to hearing-impaired attendees trying to hear what speakers are saying.
Attendees with Visual Challenges
For visually impaired attendees, ensure that sufficient lighting and print materials are easy to read (minimum 16pt sans serif font on gloss-free paper). Blind attendees may request handouts printed in Braille or screen-reading software (virtual attendees).
Double-Check Access Before the Event
As earlier communicated, you don’t want attendees showing up to the venue only to find out that an elevator is broken or something else isn’t in place. A few days before your event, call the venue and make sure everything is good to go. If not, you’ll have time to devise a plan B or let attendees know about any changes. They may then opt to attend digitally (formally virtual).
Let Attendees Know They’re Covered
Make sure attendees know the steps you’re taking to make your event accessible to all. To do this:
- Include accessibility information in event promotion materials.
- Ask about the following during registration: (1) dietary restrictions, (2) need for an interpreter, (3) need for accessible parking or seating.
- Mobility, hearing, and visual impairments are often accommodated at events, but what about those sensitive to event elements like flashing or strobe lights that could cause seizures? Sudden loud noises may affect veterans with PTSD. Ask about these conditions as well during registration.
Ensure Website Accessibility for All
All digital (formally virtual) and in-person attendees to your hybrid event should be able to access event information and registration easily. To create an accessible website:
- Ensure all website text is easy to read. Don’t replace text with graphics.
- Provide larger buttons and plenty of space between buttons for those with low vision.
- The website should be accessible via keyboard instead of via mouse.
- Use descriptive link text.
- Provide video captions and transcripts.
- Eliminate CAPTCHA (spam discourager); it’s not easy for attendees with low vision to access.
Master Your Platform
To ensure that your hybrid event goes off without a hitch, take the time to become well-acquainted with your digital event platform of choice (Zoom, YouTube, etc.) Conduct run-throughs of any technical and audio-visual elements ahead of the event to smooth out any glitches.
It will take more thought and work to make your hybrid event more inclusive, but if it makes your special-needs attendees more comfortable, it’ll be worth it. Always gather feedback after your event to see if you hit the mark. Did attendees feel they were able to participate fully? Use their responses to continually improve on your accessibility efforts.
Consult disability groups and resources such as the ADA for planning guidance and solutions. Use the information gathered with eShow’s interactive Exhibit Sales & Floor Plan Management module to create an accessible floor plan.
At eShow, we can help with all aspects of your hybrid event – from planning to execution. Our interactive online tools put successful and memorable events within your grasp. Contact us today for a no-obligation demo, and we’ll show you how to ensure that all attendees benefit from your event and much more.