Increasing participation: Using the principles of universal design to create accessible conferences
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) mandates the inclusion of individuals with disabilities to a broad range of facilities and public buildings. One overlooked area is access to conferences. Conferences are held in a range of buildings, including purpose-built venues, hotels, and stadia. Often, the focus is on access for people with mobility limitations, but access for people with other disabilities, such as vision or hearing loss, or mental ill-health, can be overlooked. This is a significant oversight since around 19% of the population experience a disability (Brault, 2012): it makes sound business sense, as well as a sense of social justice, to ensure more people can access conferences. This article uses a literature review methodology to highlight key considerations to make conferences more accessible to a broad range of people with disabilities. A theoretical framework of Universal Design is proposed to support the ideas. A holistic approach is taken to inclusion, including online booking, transport, and parking, since, without these being accessible, the event becomes inaccessible. Other aspects considered include registration, seating, restrooms, catering, and communication aids. Creating accessible conferences can help promote equity and inclusion and bring people with diverse perspectives together to enrich a conference.
This accepted article is published as Irish, J. E. N. Increasing participation: Using the principles of universal design to create accessible conferences. Journal of Convention & Event Tourism Sept 2020, 21(4: Special Issue on Creating Meetings and Events that are Diverse, Inclusive, and Accessible ; Guest Editor: Dr. Eric D. Olson);308-330. Doi: 10.1080/15470148.2020.1814469. Posted with permission.