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IAU100 Initiative

Running an Accessible and Inclusive Event

Here are some general pointers for organizing, promoting, and running an inclusive event. If you have questions or seek advice tailored to the specifics of your event or audience, don't hesitate to reach out via the Contact page.

Planning and Promoting Your Event

Language

  • Consider using gender neutral language where appropriate.

  • Consider the language of your event. Might there be interested participants who would benefit from communication in a language other than English or the dominant language in your area?

  • Where needed, consider producing information about your event in Large font print, Braille, audio formats or Plain English.

 

Advertising Your Event

  • Think about how to effectively publicize your event, both online and offline. Social media posts, local news coverage on TV or radio or in newspapers, and fliers placed in community spaces such as libraries or schools will all reach different audiences. Consider what combination of communication channels will work best to reach your target audience.

  • Be mindful that some online content, including Facebook, Twitter, and some websites, may be difficult to access by visually-impaired users. Make sure information about your event online is easy to read by Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) and Text-to-Voice software.

 

Event Registration

  • Will your event charge a registration or participation fee? Keep costs as low as possible and consider providing fee waivers, discounts, or scholarships for students and underrepresented groups.

  • Consider having registration available in multiple formats, such as online, by phone or text, and on paper.

  • If your event requires registration or sign up, include a place for people to submit accessibility and dietary needs, where relevant.

Location and Accessibility

General accessibility and safety

  • Know beforehand and inform participants of the locations of emergency exits and have these clearly marked.

  • Where applicable, know the appropriate phone numbers for venue staff, security, janitors, your local police, and emergency medical teams.

  • Is your event in a venue that is safe for women, children, and racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities?

  • Could a blind or wheelchair-using participant access the space independently? If not, consider having volunteers on site to assist.

  • Is there a Hearing Assistance system in your venue? Can individuals with Hearing Aids access the appropriate technology to facilitate their full participation?

  • If resources and budget allows, could you provide sign language interpreters for your event?

  • Are there chairs, benches, or other places to sit?

  • Will free drinking water be available?

  • Will free food or snacks be available?

 

Wheelchair accessibility

  • Is the venue or location accessible for wheelchair users and individuals with limited mobility? Know ahead of time the location of ramps and elevators and make sure accessible routes are clearly marked with signposts.

  • Are there accessible bathrooms on location? Make sure these are clearly marked.

  • If your venue has seating or you will set up chairs, insure a minimum of 95cm (38 inches) between aisles for wheelchair accessibility.

  • Make sure wheelchair accessible seats have full views. Avoid clustering wheelchair users into a “disability section” at the back of the venue.

 

Accessibility for individuals with service animals or guide dogs

  • Plan ahead if a participant arrives with a service animal or emotional support animal. For example, designate an area for service dogs and have water bowls available.

  • Make sure your event complies with service animal laws in your country or region.

 

How will participants get there?

  • Locations that are only reachable by car may be inaccessible to those who use public transportation. Conversely, locations that are difficult to access by car may pose a challenge to individuals who must travel by car for safety or accessibility reasons.

  • Identify the closest accessible parking places and accessible public transportation stops with escalators or elevators, and inform participants ahead of time.

  • Events that are only accessible on foot or that require significant walking or climbing stairs may not be accessible to children, elderly folks, or individuals with limited mobility.

  • If your event may be difficult to access, consider providing transportation for those who need it or volunteers to help individuals navigate the space.

 

What time of day is it taking place?

  • Events that take place late at night may not be suitable for children or people who must get up early the following day for work or school.

  • Certain groups, including women, children, and people traveling by public transportation may not feel safe or have access to transportation following late night events. Consider providing transportation or holding events within daylight hours or while public transportation is still running.

  • Events that take place during the time of day when children are picked up from school may be difficult for parents to attend. Consider holding your event outside of common work and school hours.

Running Your Event

Speakers and presentations

  • If your event includes speakers, panels, or audience participation, use microphones. Require speakers and audience members to use microphones even if they personally prefer not to, as this will ensure all can hear and participate.

  • If your event provides a podium for speakers, have options available that do not require standing.

  • Ensure speakers are well-lit in the case that your event may be in a dark or dimly-lit space (such as in a planetarium, theatre, or nighttime observing event). Individuals who rely on lip-reading to understand speakers must be able to clearly see the speaker’s face. The same follows for sign language interpreters.

  • If your event includes presentations or slides, encourage speakers to orally describe images and figures, even if they are on the slides, as this will aid those with visual impairments. Consider having printed versions of slides available for the audience to read.

  • Avoid slides with white backgrounds in favor of light grey, off-white, or dark colors with high-contrast text in a suitably large font - this will make it easier for light sensitive and migraine prone audience members. Avoid italics and use common sans-serif fonts as these are easier to read.

  • Make sure any colorful content, such as posters and slides, are clear and understandable to color-blind individuals.

 

Event schedules, seating, and accessibility

  • Reserve seating at the front of the venue for individuals with visual and hearing impairments. If your event includes interpreters, make sure they are situated in high-visibility locations and not off to the side, far from the speakers or projectors.

  • Be mindful of how long your event(s) will run. Will there be scheduled breaks with enough time to use the restroom and access food and water? Keep in mind that long talks or sessions packed back-to-back may strain audience members who would benefit from an opportunity to stretch their legs or rest.

  • If your event includes signs or posters, be mindful of the font size and height at which they are raised. Consider that children and wheelchair users may have difficulty reading materials hung at a high height.

 

Event content and appropriate warnings

  • If your event may touch upon potentially sensitive subjects, such as dealing with racism, sexism, harassment, and other forms of discrimination, as well as politics or sensitive events in history, think about the appropriate content warnings or trigger warnings. Err on the side of caution - if you are unsure if a topic might be sensitive, go ahead and mention it. Better to provide more warning than too little. Even if a particular issue may not seem sensitive to you, it may be to others. Best to consult a diverse group of individuals to fully assess the content of your event. Read more about common triggers and how to communicate them here.

  • Warn the audience if any material, such as videos or images, may be sensitive to those with epilepsy or who experience migraines.

 

Atmosphere and sensitivity

  • Be mindful that particular activities or programming might cause a “sensory overload” to some participants, such as through the use of loud music, bright images, flashing videos, or a combination of sounds, visuals, and movements. Have a quiet space where participants can go to decompress if they feel overwhelmed. This is critical for individuals on the autism spectrum and for young children.

  • Run a scent- and smell-free event. This means discourage all participants from wearing perfumes, colognes, or scented deodorants. Avoid using venues or rooms that smell of cleaning fluids. This will make your event friendly to individuals with allergies or who are prone to migraines.

 

Diversity, inclusion, safety and harassment

  • Pay attention to diversity when inviting speakers. Do not organize all-male panels and speakers. Make a concerted effort to invite minority women, Indigenous, and disabled scientists and community members. If you do not know any off-hand, reach out to your network or consider contacting us for shortlists of potential speakers. There are many diverse scientists and astronomers committed to inclusive astronomy; ensuring this diversity is reflected in your event(s) is not difficult.

  • Have safety and harassment policies set before your event begins and inform volunteers and participants. If an incident occurs, have sensitive, trained individuals available to respond and inform participants to whom they may go to report an incident. Encourage transparency in communication both with the affected parties and all participants at your event.

Image description: In a classroom, a girl peers through a telescope while a boy takes notes, behind them a teacher and student look at a globe. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons