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Accessible & Inclusive Events – Taking Cues from Colleges

Higher education is on the front line of tackling issues of inclusivity at events. What can we learn from their progress?

Most colleges and universities are progressive entities, making grand statements pertaining to diversity and inclusion. Historically, these establishments have served as sanctuaries for expression and platforms for protest. College students and faculty are arguably the most socially aware and impassioned citizens, making them a good case study for how to successfully prioritize inclusivity at an event.

Let’s first address what should be considered before planning an event. To maximize inclusivity, planners must consider elements like race, ethnicity, language, country of origin, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, ability, diet, class, and age. Accommodating for all of these differences seems challenging, right? Don’t worry – it’s very achievable.

It’s necessary to go beyond simply accommodating or acknowledging people’s differences. Instead, try thinking of this process as creating events that are universally designed—accessible to everyone. When there are barriers to participation, it can make attendees feel unwelcome and less likely to return or recommend the event to a friend or colleague. This is exactly what we want to avoid!

Establishments like Syracuse University [1], Skidmore College [2], and The University of Arizona [3] have introduced proactive approaches to campus inclusivity and accessibility. They have created their own guides which explain the steps one must take to successfully host an inclusive campus event. Below are some of the most helpful tips (gleaned from the guides of the universities listed above) which are applicable for any event whether it be campus, corporate, ceremonial, or casual.

Transportation
Communication
Presentation
Accommodations
Staff

After the event has commenced, find out how inclusive your event truly was through a survey. Did attendees feel welcome? Were they able to fully participate? Do they have feedback on how to make the event even more accessible next time? Take time to reflect on any accessibility-related issues and how to design differently in the future. This inclusive thinking will improve your events over time.