Accessibility when planning an event
When planning an event, you are legally required to provide access for people with disability.
Key considerations of an access plan
“As a wheelchair user, this is one venue that I never hesitate to book tickets at. That's because I know I'm always able to sit with my friends to enjoy the game, rather than by myself.”
“As a person with a vision impairment, the increased lighting and audio announcements about where to catch buses and taxis were a great help as I was leaving the event to get home. These little things can help to make an event so much more enjoyable and stress-free.”
“As an event organiser for a popular local community event, we have tried to incorporate access considerations into our planning over the last few years. We have noticed a significant increase in attendance by people with a disability and their families and friends, as well as parents with prams and older members of the community. Our event now better reflects our community.”
Choosing a venue for your event is likely to be one of the first things you do.
You should only consider a venue that allows people to enter, exit and move around with ease, and has accessible facilities including toilets.
You should also consider whether your preferred venue has:
- accessible public transport services nearby (so you can provide information on accessible routes from railway stations or bus stops to the event or refer patrons to the Transport for NSW Trip Planner)
- accessible parking bays and drop-off zones located on flat ground and a well-lit route to the event which is clear of obstruction
- accessible public transport services
- accessible toilets that can be used by people with disability and their carers, who may be of the same or different gender
- accessible facilities such as public telephones and food and drink counters marked with clear visual signage
- resting spots at regular intervals along entrance and exit paths
- well-lit footpaths and ramps that have non-slip surfaces, are wide enough to accommodate people using mobility aids and are clear of obstruction
- clear external signage to the event which includes visual symbols
- a main entrance that is on the accessible route or a clearly signposted alternative
- special viewing areas for people with disability, as well as adequate space for wheelchair users to enter and move freely around (particularly for events where there is no spectator seating, such as parades or music festivals)
- a ramp or lift to all levels in the venue, including VIP areas
- large doorways with colour contrasting door frames and trims
- lifts with audible information and buttons with a raised tactile surface and braille markings
- captioning and hearing loop technology
- adequate lighting
- battery recharge station facilities for electric wheelchair uses
- quiet spaces
- drinking water and shade for guide dogs for outdoor events.
A venue should also have evacuation procedures that take account of people with a disability. You should ensure:
- all parts of the accessible route to and within the venue remain clear of obstruction and well-lit throughout the event (as sometimes accessible routes become blocked by refuse or equipment)
- both visual and audio fire alarms are installed and working
- clearly marked accessible emergency exits
- a mobility map of the facility showing accessible paths, entrances and other features is available before and during the event.
Communicating your event’s accessibility features
Pre-event planning is particularly important for people with a disability. Knowing that accessible facilities are available can be the difference between someone being able to attend your event or not. Therefore, you need to ensure information about your event's accessibility is readily available before and during your event.
A website can be a great place to provide detailed information on event considerations for people with disability, such as accessible travel options to and from your event.
Your event website should feature information about how accessible the surrounds and physical structures are and link to any useful resources, such as the Transport for NSW Trip Planner.
It is also helpful to publish detailed information about the event site or venue, such as seating plans or photographs of accessible features, to help your access customers identify any problems they may encounter.
Where not all facilities at an event are accessible, it is helpful to identify those that are. You might consider publishing a mobility map of the event venue on your website or app that show accessible parking, drop-off zones, toilets, paths, entrances and exits, lifts and other features. This can also be distributed to staff on the ground at the event itself.
When providing event information on your website, consider designing it so it can be accessed by people with disability. This can be as simple as ensuring text is displayed in an accessible electronic format such as HTML and all functionality is available from a keyboard. You may also consider producing information about your event in plain language formatting. This is useful for people with intellectual disability, as well as for older people and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
For information on designing accessible websites, including the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, visit the Web Accessibility Initiative website. Some best practice access and inclusion websites include Be. Lab and Inclusion London.
Communications during the event
To ensure any communications during your event are reaching the broadest possible audience, consider providing:
- signage in and around the event with clear, visual symbols to indicate accessible toilets, public telephones, and food and drink counters
- signage installed at a height visible to wheelchair users
- key information available in large print and/or braille.
If you are providing live updates at your event through social media or variable message signs, consider including real-time information about accessible routes or when wheelchair accessible viewing areas have reached capacity. As wheeling to an area can involve considerable effort, this will save wheelchair users from unnecessary trips.
Staff play a key role in ensuring that your event is as accessible as possible, from the initial planning phase to the day of the event.
If your event is likely to attract a large number of people with a disability, it may be useful to appoint an accessibility officer to develop and implement a comprehensive access plan.
Educating your staff about accessibility will ensure they are able to identify limitations and opportunities in your event’s access plan.
Customer service staff should be briefed about both the accessible and inaccessible features of the event and be able to provide detailed information, such as the seating plans, if required. If your event is ticketed, staff need to be aware whether ticketing arrangements include admission for people with a disability and their carers, as well as whether a venue can accommodate a wheelchair user and companions in its seating format.
On the day, staff are crucial in ensuring that information on accessibility is readily available and effectively communicated to attendees. You should brief staff on:
- locations of viewing areas, accessible facilities, paths, ramps, entrances and exits, lifts and other features
- whether captioning or hearing loop technology is available
- information about both the accessible and inaccessible features of the event
- emergency evacuation procedures for customers of all abilities
- details of a designated contact person for any queries relating to accessibility.