Christopher Cashman, sales & events manager at London venue LSO St Luke’s, gives an overview on dealing with disability at venues and events
A key trait of being a good events organiser is an ability to see things from another person’s point of view. Considering what guests may feel, want or require, and anticipating any requests before they arrive is essential for ensuring everyone’s needs are accounted for.
Venues need to make certain they are accessible to people with a range of needs. These can be physical, such as wheelchair users, those with visual or hearing impairments or who tire easily or find stairs difficult.
However, you should also carefully consider the access needs of those with ‘invisible disabilities’. This could be anything from a learning disability, to those with epilepsy.
This is where being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes really comes in handy. It’s simple enough to consider the things that you might like to arrive to, but it requires much more thought when planning for others.
Many factors can make what you see as a relatively stress-free experience, extremely difficult for someone with a disability.
As an able-bodied person, how often do you stop to consider whether a venue will have stairs before arriving or if it will offer braille signage? Have you ever deliberated whether it is worth the effort to even attend an event because of potential challenges with accessibility?
Few know that some of these facilities even exist. The vast majority never has to contemplate these things, but for an eventprof, it’s a crucial part of the job. Invite people with disabilities to test your venue. They are far more qualified to discuss their needs and can offer insights.
At LSO St Luke’s we liaised with charity Attitude is Everything who work to improve disabled people’s access. Following an audit of our venue, the team took us through their charter of best practice and offered advice on areas where improvements could be made. Following their expert advice, we were able to begin implementing some of the points raised and have improved the overall experience for our guests and delegates.
Once accessibility practices have been established, it is essential that staff are well-versed and able to offer help where needed. It is also essential to be able to respond to access requests that only become known on the day and it can help to designate a member of staff for that, with appropriate training.
It’s often the case that small, considered adjustments can make a huge difference to guests with specific access needs. For instance, ensuring your venue is well-signed and shows guests where the nearest accessible toilets, lifts and entrances with ramps are. Sometimes, just letting guests know that you have considered their abilities and have made provisions to accommodate them is all that is needed to show that accessibility is a prominent factor in a venue manager’s mind.