With the increase in remote work and non-traditional working arrangements, how will in-person meetings for events or conferences be held to ensure that everyone can participate? What message will the way an event or conference is organized or hosted send? This article will discuss how to make events both welcoming and accessible for everyone.
Since every business has a different workplace culture, organizational structure, purpose, and size, this article will examine and suggest broad ideas that can be tailored to fit how a business wishes to operate. Some decisions will be out of a company’s control and may not be applicable.
The first or subsequent impression a person gets of a company might be at a company function or a corporate event rather than in a standard office setting. A successfully accessible environment ensures everyone feels welcome and included, which fosters a positive impression and can be beneficial for continued performance. When individuals feel unreasonably excluded, singled out, or like an afterthought, their perception, disability-related or not, can result in people seeking better opportunities elsewhere.
Events can differ in size, scale, and cost, resulting in different types of accommodations that may be provided. In providing accommodations, consider feasibility and whether an event is part of the duties of the job or a form of a gift. For informal, small gifts, less accommodation may be required, but thinking about a feasible way to accommodate may also be appreciated by the recipient, especially if there is prior knowledge of their disability.
For a small event involving food, such as a gift, feasible accommodations for small occasions can include more choices, individual packaging to prevent shared contact, or having ingredient statements available. These solutions may resolve many issues connected to disabilities. Another possible solution may involve limiting or avoiding the use of food as a reward. In some cases with remote work, this scenario will not be as much of an issue as it would be in an office setting.
Small events by their nature may be less formal and less organized, therefore the types of accommodations provided may be more limited since less advanced notice may have been given. These events are more likely to happen in office settings, rather than with a group that would work remotely. It is more likely that in-person meetings of a team that works remotely, if these events ever occur, will be at a public venue which is required to follow ADA requirements and accommodations will be made by the venue, acting as the host of the event.
For team events, a company may be less involved. In a rare case, involvement may entail intervening to stop exclusionary or offensive behaviors that arise. Make sure that any complaints are heard, documented and resolved to avoid negative actions of a smaller group from being interpreted as condoned behavior by an outside observer.
Conferences, Conventions and Large Events
Companies without a physical office space are more likely to meet in a shared public venue. Public venues are required to meet ADA requirements and quality event spaces should be able to provide reasonable accommodations for attendees who may have a disability or other reasonable needs. Therefore, selecting an accessible venue may include other factors such as being able to easily access a venue from an airport or other means of transportation, particularly if individuals are arriving from multiple locales or countries. Allowing for flexibility and understanding where applicable can also cultivate a positive impression, particularly if unforeseen circumstances occur such as travel delays or interruptions.
Corporate functions, larger events or conferences will quite likely have very specific accommodation requests related to the event. Requests may include individuals declaring food allergies to be accommodated, requests for ADA accessible lodging, or requests for accommodations related to deaf/hard of hearing such as interpretation.
A possible solution involves referring those petitioning for accommodations to the organizer or venue where the event is being held. The event host will likely have the most knowledge of how to feasibly accommodate an individual with a disability. Possible responses may range from an accommodation has already been made, to providing notice or alternatives that would work with a disability, such as alternate access to a venue. Other options include allowing for flexibility and transferring most responsibility back to an individual by reimbursing incidental expenses.
Ultimately it can be up to a company to determine what accommodations are feasible since accommodation does not mean special or preferential treatment. However, if feasible accommodations can be easily made, these changes can send a more welcoming message to anyone and foster a positive impression.