Hosting inclusive events

Estimated read time: 5 minutes 20 seconds

Plan events where everyone feels welcome.

This checklist outlines a range of easy to take steps to help make your next event accessible and inclusive.

Who does this affect?

  • Jamie is deaf and wants to attend a tech conference for their work. The conference organizers don’t offer sign language interpreters or speech-to-text. So Jamie has to pay out of their own pocket for an interpreter. 
  • Alain is attending an information session on a new transportation project near his house. It’s in the evening, so he needs to bring his daughter with him, she’s in a stroller. When he arrives, the venue is not accessible, so he has to leave.
  • Surjit is blind and wants to attend a public announcement by the Attorney General. When she arrives, she is unable to read the event signage and the venue has no ushers to guide her. Surjit ends up seated in the wrong room and misses the announcement. 

Steps to take

Plan events where everyone feels welcome.

This checklist outlines a range of easy to take steps to help make your next event accessible and inclusive.

Event invitation or registration

  • When participants register or RSVP for an event, provide confirmation of session details
  • Provide contact information for registration or accommodations
  • Provide event information at least 4 weeks in advance so people can plan their participation (transportation, supports, assistants, etc.)
  • Give participants the opportunity to identify any accommodations they may need in your invitation or registration. This gives you time to arrange for any requests. You can use something like:
    • To make this event as accessible as possible, please let us know if you require any accommodations to participate.
  • Allow participants to identify other supports they require such as child care or assistance with transportation
  • Consider providing a parking map with your invitation and information on public transportation (routes, stops etc.)
  • If requested, send electronic meeting agendas or PowerPoint slides in advance
  • If serving food, ask participants to identify any dietary requirements and allergies in advance
  • Include a request for attendees not to wear scented products

Meeting materials

  • Use plain language: simple words and short sentences
  • Use high contrast colours
  • Use at least a 12-point sans serif font such as Arial or Verdana
  • For digital documents, provide alternative text on all images used
  • Use the Accessible Gov Toolkit to run accessibility checks on all materials

Including Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples

  • Work with your GCPE Communications Shop to determine the appropriate territorial welcome
  • If you wish to ask an Indigenous community member to offer a territory welcome and/or blessing, make sure you reach out to them well ahead of time.
    • Ensure someone is designated to meet them, escort them within the venue.
    • Ensure there is an honorarium or gift. This should be provided before the event
  • If an Indigenous community member is providing a welcome or blessing, ensure their transportation is taken care of
  • Consider using a round table rather than a rectangular table. Circles are more inclusive in Indigenous cultures, meaning there is no hierarchy, so everyone gets a chance to speak

Transportation

  • Is parking provided? What is the cost?
  • Are there accessible parking spots? If not, consider a way to provide short term accessible parking in a location not normally designated as such for attendees who require it
  • Is the venue close to public transportation?
  • Where are the drop-off areas? Are they close to an accessible entrance?
  • HandyDART users require at least one week’s notice to book a trip. Allow enough time for attendees to arrange their transportation and accompanying assistants. It can take one to three weeks to arrange for assistants

Pathways (indoor and outdoor)

  • Ensure they’re available, fully accessible and well-marked
  • Are the surfaces firm, stable and level?  Do they have good traction or are surfaces slippery? Avoid loose mats and thick carpets
  • The pathway should be at least one-meter wide to allow for easy travel for mobility aids or strollers
  • Are there any barriers that may cause difficulty for someone using mobility devices and/or guide/service animals travelling from the front door to the meeting location? These may include: stairs, narrow or cluttered hallways, heavy doors and hard to reach key fob readers

Signage

  • Are accessibility features like entrances or washrooms clearly identified? If not, use temporary signage
  • Place signage at eye level for people using mobility devices

Venue

  • Are there automatic doors available? If not, can you prop the doors open wide enough?
  • Are the washrooms accessible?
    • Where are they?
    • Do they have a grab bar and low sink, soap & paper towel?
    • Is there a gender-neutral option?
  • Is there a service dog relief area nearby?

Lighting

  • Does the building have good lighting? Shadows or glare create difficulties for those who are visually impaired. Lighting helps people who are deaf or hard of hearing read lips or use sign language
  • Don’t use flashing lights

Audio and acoustics

  • Does the room have good acoustics? Echoes can create barriers for those who are hard of hearing
  • Discuss audio options with the Audio-Visual team (if using one) or venue coordinator re: speakers, direct lines, microphones
  • Use microphones, speak slowly and describe images or words projected on the screen or written on white boards, chalk boards, flip charts etc.
  • Don’t use light coloured markers on white boards or flip charts
  • Use Closed Captioning for presentation of videos
  • If a speaker or presenter has mobility issues, they may require the use of a lapel mic instead of a handheld mic
  • Have people introduce themselves when speaking. Speak in a clear voice and position teleconference systems where they will best pick up sound
  • If you have a speaker or presenter using a mobility device, ask if they prefer an adjustable height podium or table with mics
  • Is there a stage at the event? If so, ensure there is a ramp available

Setting up

  • Arrive early to do a walk through of the venue
  • Clear floor space: leave at least a one-meter aisle, including access to refreshments and amenities. Cover and tape down electrical cables or cords
  • If an event is mostly standing, provide some seating for those who can’t stand for long periods
  • Have a water bowl on hand for guide and service animals
  • If you know ahead of time, reserve seating for people who need it. For example: seniors and parents with small children. For people who rely on lip reading it is better to sit closer to the presenter
  • Ensure you have spaces reserved for those attending using mobility devices and/or service dogs
  • Put materials within easy reach for those utilizing mobility aids

Staff Roles

  • Know the emergency evacuation procedures for all individuals including people with low mobility, or any other disability that may alter emergency procedures
  • Designate a person trained on accessibility as a point person and identify them to participants
  • Provide orientation to all staff and volunteers on accessibility features so they can assist attendees
  • If a barrier is identified, ensure staff work quickly to remedy the situation

Food and drinks

  • Have identified staff available to help out. Be observant, some people may need assistance carrying food, drinks and utensils back to their table and/or serving themselves
  • Provide bendable straws and cups with handles. These are easier to grasp for those with limited dexterity and/or use of their hands. Try to choose environmentally friendly options
  • Clearly label food for those with dietary requirements and allergies
  • Provide water, help pour it when needed

Providing interpreting services

  • Consider your audience and whether you will need language translation
  • If needed, provide real-time captioning. Ensure the site has the technology to support this. Give as much notice as possible
  • If you’re using an ASL interpreter, allow at least two weeks ahead of your event to arrange for the service. Position sign language interpreters in an unobstructed and clearly visible location

Post-event:

  • After using a venue, rate how it was for accessibility. This allows you to track which venues worked well and which ones didn’t
  • Ask for feedback from participants