When we think about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), we often think about representation of underrepresented groups and making sure people feel comfortable to be their authentic self and thrive in the workplace.
Yes these things are incredibly important, but what about our external stakeholders? Are we doing enough about inclusion when it comes to those who engage with and use our venues? Whether as a visitor, audience member, guest or client? Below, Gabrielle Austen Browne, Co-Founder of Diversity Ally and the Diverse Speaker Bureau, shares her expert insights on why accessibility is so important and how venues can prioritise this.
Table of Contents
Why is prioritising accessibility important?
Having a truly accessible venue breaks down the barriers of exclusion and makes it easier for disabled people or those with additional needs to participate and enjoy your venue and your events.
Venues should consistently be providing good experiences for disabled people when delivering public and private events. This includes the standard provision of wheelchair ramps, lifts and accessible toilets. But we should also be considering accessibility and inclusion when we are hosting events, performances and other types of entertainment. Are these fully accessible events and performances? Are they audio described, sensory-friendly, captioned and have BSL options as standard? These questions should always be front of mind.
What can we be doing?
It is key to upskill and train venue managers, event organisers, sales and ops teams to have a constant awareness and lens on accessibility, so they know what questions to ask clients when responding to event enquiries and when conducting show arounds.
Top tips for nailing venue accessibility
1. Make sure all of your spaces are accessible
Do a walk around of your venue and put yourself in the position of somebody who may have access needs. Or even better, host an event and invite those with disabilities or additional needs to experience your venue in event mode and provide feedback.
If you find there are elements that aren't particularly accessible, there are ways you can make the space temporarily accessible. If you're unsure of how to achieve this, Diversity Ally has plenty of great resources.
2. Ask clients about their accessibility needs
Create a checklist of questions to ask clients on show arounds to find out in advance if there are any accessibility needs. Share this with the team so everyone knows how to respond to questions around accessibility, and encourage your clients to source this information from their guests too. Not only are you making the client look good, you are instilling confidence in the client that you have this handled.
3. Keep accessibility front of mind when it comes to the agenda
Try your best to ensure the programme includes accessible performances and options in order to nail your accessibility goals. This is applicable if your venue delivers experiences, shows or events for the general public.
4. Share your accessibility credentials online
This is so people can research in advance and have confidence before booking a site visit or attending an event at your venue.
5. Don't forget your post event feedback
When it comes to your post-event feedback surveys, always include accessibility questions. This will help you glean honest insights about your efforts and will help you to continuously improve.
For more guidance on improving accessibility at your venue or events, there are plenty of resources, insights and workshops on the Diversity Ally website.
The Diversity In Events Awards
If you're a venue manager, event organiser, or have experienced a venue that has nailed accessibility or made improvements over the past year, encourage them to enter the 'Most Accessible Venue' category in the Diversity in Events Awards. This category is for venues and sites who want to be recognised for their accessibility features and options. But what are the Diversity in Events Awards?
The Diversity in Events Awards recognise, celebrate and showcase organisations and individuals who have actively incorporated and demonstrated excellence in DEI globally. These are the only industry awards which focus solely on recognising, promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion across all sectors who deliver events in all of its forms.
The Awards will take place at the historic Cutty Sark in Greenwich on 26th April 2022. Enter now!
About the author
Gabby Austen-Browne is a diversity and inclusion expert, delivering consultancy, education and training to the events and hospitality sectors in her role as co-founder of Diversity Ally. Gabby brings her breadth of experience as an events professional producing and delivering B2C events, managing venue operations and developing sales strategies for premium hospitality venues, to inform, support and advise on D&I strategies that are relevant to the sector.
Gabby is also co-founder of the Diverse Speaker Bureau, which is dedicated to nurturing and elevating the voices of people from underrepresented groups and supporting businesses and organisations to diversify their speaker panels at events, ultimately contributing to the wider mission for equality, inclusion and representation.