Chris Cashman, sales and events manager at LSO St Luke’s, urges event organisers to make sure their site is fully accessible
A 2014 study by the University of Surrey found that the European tourism market misses out on up to €142 billion each year due to poor infrastructure, services and attitudes towards people with special access needs.
Ensuring your site is fully accessible is an essential requirement of good business practice and is something that should always be in the minds of a venue’s events team.
Venue staff must strive to create an inclusive environment, ensuring that the site is accessible and welcoming to the widest number of people. Being a heritage building is not without its challenges however, and often a delicate balance must be struck between providing equal access for all without compromising a venue’s unique characteristics.
Being mindful of the needs of a diverse audience is something venue staff must consider. It is important that staff are well versed in a venue’s accessibility practices and are able to offer help and advice where needed. It is also essential to be able to respond to access requests that only become known on the day and it can help to designate a member of staff as the point of contact for people with disabilities, ensuring they have received disability awareness training.
Venues need to ensure they are accessible to people with a wide range of different needs. These can be physical needs such as wheelchair users, people who tire easily/may find stairs difficult or have visual or hearing impairments. However, you should also carefully consider the access needs of those with learning disabilities, which may affect the way people understand and absorb information. Consideration should be given to clear signage and PA announcements as well as the way in which the stewards choose to communicate.
In the events industry, it is important to remain aware of improvements that can be made in the area of accessibility and endeavour to deliver an inclusive and enjoyable programme for all event-goers as this fosters an environment which provides an equal level of service and accessibility for all. Having an open and honest conversation about what your venue is lacking and what it can do to improve its service will go a long way in encouraging good relationships with patrons, as well as improving the overall experience for your guests. It is often the case that small, carefully considered adjustments can make a huge difference to guests with specific access needs. Installing automatic doors as alternatives to push ones, for example, will make a considerable difference to someone with a mobility issue.
Finally, once you have developed good accessibility, it is essential to advertise it. Ensure your venue is well signed and tell guests where the nearest accessible toilets, lifts and entrances with ramps are. Sometimes, just letting guests know that you have considered their abilities and have made provisions to accommodate them is all that is needed to show that accessibility is a prominent factor in a venue manager’s mind.