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Planning Events with Accessibility in Mind

Experts estimate roughly 40 million Americans have some form of disability. Given this high percentage, it’s a safe assumption that every event will have some participants with disabilities.

While difficulties with walking impact more than 20 million people, according to the Pew Research Center, a disability isn’t necessarily obvious. Around 13 million people have invisible disabilities such as cognitive and sensory issues. Others are living with food allergies or chemical sensitivities. Attendees with these conditions should feel welcome and included at an event.

Meeting planners have a lot to think about when it comes to their event’s accessibility. It’s up to planners to be aware of their attendees’ accessibility needs and work with venues and destinations to address those needs. For instance, does your property offer rooms that have been cleaned with unscented products?  Do you know which all-night pharmacy is closest to your hotel?  Does your hotel have an emergency Epi-Pen and someone who knows how to use it?  How do you make your event accessible to everyone?

Your guide to accessibility

To assist planners with answers to key questions, the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) collaborated with service professionals and meeting planners to create “Project Access: Accessible Meetings FAQs.” This document is a useful Q&A template for hotels, convention centers and CVBs to customize with their own accessibility information and provide to planners and the meetings industry as a vital resource.

“Accessibility is key to every attendee fully experiencing the benefits of an event,” said Denise Suttle, CMP, assistant director of convention services at Visit Albuquerque and ESPA’s past president who chaired the Project Access initiative. “Our ESPA members regularly field questions from meeting planners about access. This tool helps venues and destinations evaluate their own accessibility and makes event planners’ search for resources easier. Having answers readily available will help meeting planners with site selection and event planning.” 

The comprehensive FAQs are ordered sequentially from a guest’s arrival at a destination airport to ground transportation, lodging, meeting venues and offsite venues. The document also includes a resource list that destination marketing organizations can customize to fill in their state and local agencies.

“It’s the best thing since motorized wheelchairs,” said Joan Eisenstodt, a meetings and hospitality consultant, facilitator and trainer who served on the independent review board for Project Access. “It creates awareness and provides necessary resources. It goes a long way to making hospitality hospitable.”

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