Creating Inclusive Corporate Meetings: Prioritizing Accessibility for All

Key Considerations for Inclusive Meeting Planning

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an important law protecting the rights of people with disabilities, as well as preventing discrimination against them.

It’s an important rule for meeting and event organizers to understand, as it means you must take the necessary steps to accommodate disabilities in your meetings to ensure they’re inclusive and can be attended by everyone who wants or needs to come.

Before you organize your next event, let’s take a look at some of the key ADA considerations to make sure your meeting is safe, compliant, and inclusive for everyone.

Offer support for hearing-impaired attendees 

Deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees are often overlooked in event planning, meaning they can struggle to get the maximum value out of your event or feel excluded from certain activities.

Think holistically about the needs of your hearing-impaired attendees by considering what they might need throughout the event. This includes closed captioning for video feeds, sign language interpreters (either provided by your organization or allowing attendees to bring their own at no additional cost), or assistive listening devices, such as hearing loops or FM systems, that transmit sound directly to hearing aids or headphones.

Another consideration is your seating arrangements. If an attendee is hard of hearing, they may prefer to sit at the front of the venue close to the presenters, or near a speaker to help them avoid background noise.

Choose accessible venues

Accessibility should always be a consideration when making your event venue selection. This includes things like wheelchair ramps, elevators, accessible restrooms, accessible parking, and suitably wide doorways to allow access to mobility equipment, such as scooters or wheelchairs.

For visually impaired or blind attendees, ensure there are suitable railings around the venue, and that signs and important information are available in braille. Ahead of the event, check that the lighting is sufficient for navigating around the venue, and that there are no trip hazards, such as cables or uneven flooring.

Many venues are becoming more aware of attendees with sensory sensitivities who may need quiet spaces to take a break from noise, crowds, and busy environments. A designated room to allow attendees to take a breather will help accommodate these guests, and providing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones will help you go the extra mile.

Provide content or trigger warnings

Think carefully about whether the content of your event, or any of the specific sessions, contains topics some could find sensitive or triggering. “Triggering topics” can vary greatly, but could include discussions around health (including mental health), politics, current affairs, crime, violence, or graphic content.

It’s better to include a trigger warning that isn’t needed than to not include one and hope for the best, so err on the side of caution if you believe your event’s content could veer into triggering territory. This will likely mean carefully reviewing all event materials, including presentations, talk tracks, and printed materials, to ensure that attendees are aware of any potentially sensitive content.

These content warnings should be provided ahead of the event, such as on the registration page or in your event promotion emails, as well as on the day before any sessions your attendees could find triggering, giving them the option to step out if they prefer not to be exposed to certain topics.

Comply with all ADA regulations

All event organizers in the US must adhere to ADA regulations to avoid falling foul of the law and to offer attendees an inclusive, enjoyable, and safe event experience.

The ADA website provides a comprehensive overview of everything an event organizer will need to consider, but the key areas to think about before your next event include:

  • ADA scope – The ADA applies to all events and venues that are open to the public, including conferences and trade shows
  • Accessibility requirements – Event organizers must ensure that events are accessible to people with disabilities by providing reasonable accommodations, which may involve making physical modifications to the event space
  • Venue selection – Event organizers must select venues that are accessible to people with disabilities
  • Attendee communication – Promotional materials, signup forms, and event signage must be accessible to people with disabilities, whether this is ensuring web content is compatible with screen readers, providing printed materials in braille, or including closed captions on video content
  • Service animals – Event organizers must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into events, such as medical alert dogs or guide dogs

For more practical advice on adhering to the ADA’s guidelines, take a look at the MPI’s ADA guide for meeting and event planning.

If you’re looking for help adhering to ADA guidelines for your next event or meeting, help is at hand!

We have 20+ years of experience organizing ADA-compliant events for companies throughout America, so our team of meeting professionals would love to help you get it right.

Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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