Things to consider to help make everyone feel welcome
When planning events for your nonprofit, you’re surely hoping to have a large turnout. Not only will it help you to raise money for your cause and boost your mission, but it’s also much more fun that way.
So, how can you ensure that all of your guests feel welcome at your event? One of the most fundamental ways is by removing enough barriers so that all guests, regardless of whether or not they have identified a disability to you, can have a frictionless experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make your nonprofit events accessible to all guests. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive guide. When in doubt, the best thing you can do – both when planning for and hosting on the day of the event – is to ask guests how you can help them!
Educating your organization
When your organization is trying to figure out how accessibility for disabled guests can be improved at the events you host, one of the first steps you can take is to get educated. Not only are there countless resources available online about how to make your events both accessible and inclusive, but there are also many experts who are trained in and educated about accessibility issues. You can collaborate with a disability education professional on a regular basis so that the members of your staff and volunteers can be prepared to welcome guests with disabilities.
This Forbes article about how to make workplace environments more welcoming for people with disabilities is a great place to start when considering the changes your organization can make in order to introduce accessibility considerations at your events and beyond.
Invitations and ticketing
When setting up your online ticketing page or sending out your invitations, you may want to consider adding survey questions that will help you identify how you can best accommodate your guests. Again, the best thing you can do is to ask guests if they will require any additional considerations from your organization. Some questions could include:
- Do you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?
- Would you like to request accessible transportation?
- Would you like to request interpreting services or assistive listening devices?
It is also important to consider the atmosphere of and itinerary for the fundraising event, and how these things could affect disabled guests. Your invitation should also let your guests know if any of the following will be present at or part of your event:
- Flash photography, flashing images, or strobe lights
- Loud sound effects or music
- Chemical smells (like those produced by fog machines) or fragrances
Choosing the venue
When choosing the venue for your nonprofit event, be sure that you are considering certain factors to ensure that the location will be accessible:
- Parking that is close to the venue and can be easily accessed by folks using wheelchairs, walkers, or other assistive devices.
- Surfaces and pathways that are smooth, flat, and can be easily cleared of cabling.
- Doors that are easy to open or can be left propped open.
- Restrooms that are close to the main action at the event and can be easily accessed by folks using assistive devices.
- Lighting that can be adjusted based on the sensitivities of guests.
- Good acoustics with minimal echo.
At the event
The key to a successful fundraising event is full participation – and having a good time, of course! In order to empower all guests to participate in the activities you have planned, consider including the following:
- Assistance available: On the day of your event, designate a few trained volunteers or staff members to ensure that pathways stay cleared, and anyone who needs assistance can easily access it.
- Service animals: Service animals should also feel welcome at the event. Be sure to provide water bowls for them to rehydrate, and easy access to areas where they can relieve themselves when needed.
- Setup: When setting up at the venue, make sure that any tables you set up are at a height that will allow mobility aids such as scooters and wheelchairs to fit underneath so that guests can sit comfortably. Also be sure that there is enough room on pathways and between tables and chairs for folks with mobility issues and service animals to pass through comfortably.
- Reading materials and signage: Ensure that those with visual impairments can easily read the signage and any additional reading materials you will have at your event. You can do this by printing signage with fonts that are both large and easy to read.
- Meals: Even if you think you have everyone’s food allergies and restrictions accounted for, be sure to clearly label all of the different food options at your event, and provide ingredient lists if possible. You should also provide bendable straws and cups with handles.
- Performances and presentations: To better accommodate members of the Deaf community and folks who are hard of hearing, be sure to have a sign language translator at your event. In North America, American Sign Language (ASL) is commonly used among folks who are part of anglophone communities, and Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ) is used among those who are part of francophone communities. Another helpful tip is to caption any videos, performances, or presentations that you can to allow them to read along.
- Virtual alternative: You may want to add a virtual component to your event to allow immunocompromised folks, and their friends and family to attend at a distance. Despite the world having mostly re-opened, gatherings are still not possible for some. Make sure that you are including all the supporters of your cause in your fundraising event.
Get started making your next fundraising event accessible
Now, you probably have a good starting point for accessibility considerations you should be making when planning for an event. Don’t forget the most important thing, which is to ask guests how you can make your event more accessible and therefore comfortable for them. This will ensure that everyone has a great experience and will be willing to come back to support your cause.