Access for All: Follow these steps to opening doors

By Halie Frahm

Not only priority seating, priority standing room:

Events like the women’s marches that have taken place in the last few weeks have brought this vital accommodation to the forefront of protests, a designated ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) space for soapbox speeches. This area is at the front of the crowd so that those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time, are in wheelchairs or those with affected vision can adequately view the presentation. The area is also where deaf and hard of hearing individuals can have equal access to ASL interpreters. This principle could be applied to many event situations and make the experience more enjoyable.

Double check accessibility:

Just because some building accommodations have the blue access sticker on it does not mean it’s actually accessible. Many times the stickers indicate bare minimum compliance, which is not necessarily of a level that is needed to function. Make sure automatic doors, elevators and stair lifts actually work before the event. Double check that ramps are stable and there are safe and equal access points. This will save both the event coordinators and attendees a lot of time and embarrassment.

Check the lights:

Lighting in venues, especially those for formal events, tend to be dim. This can make lip reading or communicating via sign language virtually impossible for deaf and hard of hearing attendees. Low lights also make navigating the venue for some blind or visually impaired attendees extremely difficult. Lighting can also add stress to those with affected mobility, as dark settings make detecting or sensing visual cues from the environment for safe mobility challenging. A way to adequately address this is to leave venue lamps on or to close window curtains while still leaving main lights on.

Pay special attention to space:

Events like comic-cons or conventions tend to be jam packed with people and merchandise, making the experience of delighting in total geekdom more of a chore than a pleasurable excursion for those with mobility assistance devices or service dogs. A way to make safe and effective mobility, navigation and browsing more attainable is to leave more than ample room between tables or aisles. Also, take into account the amount of people attending the organized event. Will there be enough room for multiple people to comfortably engage while still maintaining polite degree of personal space? If the answer to this question is no, consider changing venues or floor layouts to a location which has more room in order to give everyone the opportunity to have an enjoyable experience

When all else fails, consult Title III:

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act has all of the basic guidelines for public accommodations. These are the basic rights guaranteed to every single American disabled or chronically ill person when participating in public events or forums. This act is the ultimate baseline guide to public access and is a great resource to look upon for what is required to have an accessible event.

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