Practical Considerations to Make Meetings Accessible to All

An estimated 54 million Americans ages 16 to 65 have a disability that they were either born with or acquired. Many are active members of the workforce who want to participate in offsite meetings and conventions. Legally and morally, event planners must make good-faith efforts to accommodate them. An article in the March issue of Smart Meetings magazine examined this issue in more depth. Click here to read it. Below are some other tips:

Make preparations to accommodate those with hearing loss by arranging for assistive listening systems, interpreters and/or real-time captioning. For those with vision challenges, have printed materials available in Braille, large print or on CDs.
In advance of the meeting provide interpreters and captioners with the agenda, background information and a list of participants.
Before the meeting begins, check the technology to ensure that assistive listening systems have sufficient battery power to last for all sessions. Adjust the lighting for those with low vision.
Ensure that registration tables are accessible, with handouts in easy reach.
Make sure there are several paths through meeting rooms so the blind and those with wheelchairs or crutches are not relegated to the outer positions. Aisles must be at least 36 inches wide and have several 60-inch diameter circular turning spaces.
Instead of simply placing a microphone in the middle of room where those in a wheelchair can’t reach it, supplement with a roaming mic.
Beware of tables with central stems that wheelchairs can’t fit under. Avoid high tops, which exclude wheelchair users and little people from social interaction.
At buffet tables avoid billowing tablecloths that could be hazardous, and arrange items within easy reach. Provide standard glasses instead of stemware for those with hand mobility issues, and straws for those who need them.
Include personal assistants in all seating and meal arrangements.

More information can be found at http://www.ada.gov/business/accessiblemtg.pdf

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