How to build accessibility into corporate events

Featured Articles

A photo of a multiracial team sitting around a table discussing how to build accessibility into corporate events. The group is multiracial and diverse, including a Black woman wheelchair user having discussions with colleagues

How to build accessibility into corporate events

All too often, people are inadvertently excluded from events because they have a disability. Accessibility is often an afterthought, only brought up because someone with a disability mentions it. This can make people feel unwelcome and unable to take a seat at the table - both literally and figuratively. With over one billion people thought to live with some kind of disability, according to the World Health Organization, overlooking accessibility can mean that you are disregarding the needs of a huge number of people. 

When planning a corporate event, you need to make sure that every single person attending can participate and get value from the event, which means ensuring accessibility is at the very forefront of your mind from the moment you start planning the event. Here, we will take a look at some of the things to do to build accessibility into corporate events. 

What exactly is accessibility? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of accessibility is accommodating the needs of disabled people when planning or designing. This means that services and establishments are adapted for the use of everyone, including those with impairments or physical limitations

Choose a venue that is accessible

If your venue is accessible, you are halfway there, so booking accessible corporate retreats should be a priority. When looking at a potential venue for your corporate event, make sure it can accommodate every one of your guests. Some things to think about when assessing the accessibility of a venue for corporate events include the following:

  • Making sure the venue has ramp access and/or elevators, as well as doorways and entrances that are wide enough to accommodate wheelchair access

  • Making sure there is enough space - people who use wheelchairs need additional space to be able to move around, and other disabled people may need to bring medical equipment, assistants and carers, and interpreters. 

  • Ensure the flooring is safe with no slippery or uneven parts or big dips and bumps.

  • Ensuring the restrooms are accessible with easy-to-open or automatic doors, grab bars, and emergency pull handles.

  • Ensuring there is accessible parking for those with mobility issues. Can they get to and from the event easily, preferably with drop-off and pick-up points covered in case of poor weather conditions?

  • Are there sufficient power points for guests to be able to charge things like motorized wheelchairs and scooters and plug in any medical devices?

  • Are there quiet and calm spaces for people to go to if they are feeling overwhelmed?

Give all of your potential venues a rating for their accessibility, and then shortlist the ones that are most accessible to choose from.

"Knowing how to build accessibility into corporate events begins with asking participants what their needs are?"

Make accessibility a priority right from the beginning of the planning process

If you want to know how to build accessibility into corporate events, you must factor accessibility and inclusion into the planning from the beginning. It is much easier than trying to fix problems that you have overlooked later on down the line, so make sure that when you are designing your event, you have accessibility in your mind. This means that any adjustments needed to make it accessible are considered within th budget as well, rather than scrabbling around trying to cut costs or find more money at a later point. It can be worth hiring a disability consultant to help you with this process or assigning the role of ensuring inclusion to a team member so it is factored into the event from the beginning.

Ask your guests what does an accessible corporate event look like?

You can't always plan for every possible accessibility issue that could arise at your corporate event, but with feedback from attendees, you can ensure that everyone feels comfortable, included, and welcome.

Reach out to your attendees many weeks before the event to ask for any accessibility requirements they might need tp fully participate in the event. Ensure this information is handled discreetly so as not to compromise attendee safety or privacy – attendees should be able to provide this information anonymously if they want to. Ensure you ask your speakers for their accessibility requirements, too, as this will significantly impact their ability to participate in the event.

Adjust the design of your corporate event accordingly

Inclusive, accessible planning will likely entail adjustments being made to give everyone an equal experience. For example, where possible, all attendees should enter the event through the same entrance rather than having a separate route for wheelchair users. This may necessitate the construction of an additional ramp or requiring all visitors to use the entrance designed for those using wheelchairs.

Some essential accessibility considerations include the following:

  • Make sure all microphones and lecterns can be adjusted for different heights of speakers.

  • Make sure there is a ramp on the stage or that one can be erected quickly if necessary.

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting and sound for people with sensory impairments.

  • Wheelchair users should be able to easily access all exits and safety routes.

  • Provide a sign interpreter or note taker if requested by guests (this, of course, should be paid for by your business, not attendees)

  • Make sure the seats for all of the speakers are at the same height so that people in wheelchairs are not at a disadvantage.

  • Have seating reserved near sign interpreters for hearing-impaired guests and near the stage or visual aids for visually impaired guests

  • Make sure there is space in the seating area for mobility scooter and wheelchair users and those with service dogs.

  • Avoid imposing overly strict rules and dress codes on people (Some autistic people can get overstimulated with lights and sounds, so some of them adopt a coping mechanism by wearing a cap or headphones).

Physical areas to take into consideration for accessibility

Check if ramps and lifts are available at the venue to ensure accessibility as attendees would need them when moving between floors, and checking for uneven floors or carpets as well as differences in floor level between rooms is important to ensure accessibility of all areas at the event for wheelchair users and those with mobility scooters.  Double-check that there are accessible restrooms that are available to disabled individuals.

Make sure the signs are clear and readable for all visitors, and if an attendee requires Braille signs make arrangements to have some available.  Brightly lit navigational aids, including signs and pathways, can assist visually impaired individuals in finding their way.

Those who participate may face difficulties related to nonphysical accessibility needs, such as managing the effect of sensory stimuli, including bright or flashing lights and loud noise. Still, an option to enhance participant experience could be providing a tranquil retreat within your event venue where guests can recharge or attend to their health.

Think about how you will communicate with guests

A key part of knowing how to build accessibility into corporate events is having a mission to make everyone feel comfortable attending your event. On way to do this is to inform them what accommodations will be made for disabled people. It's important to include the following in your communications:

  • Whether the venue has a hearing loop (or not).

  • If there will be a note taker or sign language interpreter available. If feasible, consider posting slideshow presentations in advance to give all guests more time to be ready.

  • Where to find accessible parking and entrances to the venue

  • Locations of accessible restrooms and exits are marked on the floor plan.

One option is to have a team member meet speakers and attendees with special needs at the entry and act as their point of contact for the duration of the event.

Distributing the corporate event's content in many formats thereafter is recommended; for example, a video recording with closed captions and a written transcript that can be utilized with screen readers, and the text size can be modified as needed.

Train staff in accessibility

All of the event support staff should be well aware of the particular accessibility needs for the event and how they will be met. For example, the staff should know how to interact with a guest with a speech disorder, or a wheelchair user, or how to react in case of an emergency. Their support role in making sure disabled guests can participate is vital for the success of the event.

Consider dietary requirements and catering arrangements

It is important to accommodate attendees with special diets if you want your event to be welcoming to as many people as possible. Whether it is religious or allergy-related, all attendees have the same rights to enjoy a good meal. 

Staff at the event should be thoroughly aware of all conceivable eventualities to avoid cross-contamination (e.g., for people with celiac disease or nut allergies), which could damage your event. Also, remember the lunch or dinner rooms should be accessible, too. If you're planning a buffet, be mindful of people who use wheelchairs for example.

Become an advocate for accessibility

You can start a much-needed dialogue about accessible event marketing and advocacy by making your event more accessible and inclusive. This may involve some thought and preparation since it will force you to reconsider how you generally host events. And you need to also think about the DEI swag for the event (i.e., diversity and inclusion promotional gifts) that you will give attendees. 

As a part of this reevaluation, you may want to check in with participants before, during, and after the event to see if they had a good time and felt welcome, well-informed, and able to contribute fully. Gather feedback on the accessibility of every corporate event you organize and use it to further your approach to inclusive event design.

Achieving accessibility at corporate events requires taking action and making changes—don't let fear of mistakes hold you back; gathering your attendee's opinions will enable you to deliver an experience that is both welcoming and inclusive. The move towards accessibility in events requires determined actions from businesses despite the potential hurdles, so inquiring about the requirements of your attendees is the first step towards creating an inclusive and pleasant experience for everyone.

Article by
Jessica White

Jessica White describes herself as a "very private person," which is why she uses a pseudonym. Jessica holds a MA in feminist literature, and an MBA. For a long time she wrote a successful personal mental health blog on Blogger, and yes, she used a pseudonym. Jessica also established and managed a successful e-commerce store for over ten years before selling it.


"Knowing how to© build accessibility into corporate events begins with asking participants what their needs are?" | ©MandriaPix / Adobe Stock