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How to Make Public Events Accessible to All

Hosting a public event takes significant planning—advertising, location, safety, participants, and more. There are numerous details that must be considered to make an event successful. One thing that is too often overlooked during preparation is creating abundant accessibility. Accommodations should be available so no one is faced with limited participation or difficulty getting around. This applies not just to event attendees but those working the event, too. Making public events accessible may require some preplanning, so we’ve outlined helpful information to keep your event on track. 

Public Events and ADA Requirements

According to the ADA’s website, “People with disabilities must be able to obtain or enjoy the same goods, activities, services, and benefits that are available to other members of the public.” The ADA’s dedicated page for temporary events notes that participants with disabilities must be provided the ability to:

  • Obtain information and directions prior to the event and get additional information on arrival
  • Have accessible parking 
  • Get to the event entrance from the parking area
  • Navigate the venue without restriction, including using concessions 
  • Attend performances, participate in and enjoy activities, and enter exhibits
  • Use common amenities such as public restrooms, telephones, water fountains, shelters, and first aid stations

While most people’s first thought is about having an ADA access ramp available, you can see that the requirements go beyond that. It’s about making every aspect of the space accessible and frictionless. Imagine using a wheelchair or walking device and being able to get into an event only to be faced with barriers beyond the entrance. 

Proactively anticipating and addressing these issues encourages a better experience for everyone. 

How Do I Create an Accessible Event?

Making your public event accessible comes down to understanding applicable ADA requirements and how you can go a step beyond them, as well as physically preparing your venue. Once the location of the event is set, it needs to be evaluated against the standards to see if the requirements are met. A public event can take place anywhere from a closed-off street to a large convention center, and each will have different regulations as well as accessibility needs that should be accounted for. Depending on the site, the venue may have pre-existing solutions in place to meet the required standards, but meeting the minimums does not guarantee a truly accessible event. Any organization, person, or group planning a public event should do their best to make it as accessible as possible by being thoughtful about the details. 

Start by planning your event early—the more time you have, the more runway there is to make changes happen. Take time to look at the area through the lens of the event and different participants. Walk through the space as if you are an attendee; would you be able to get to the ticket booth or registration table? Are the parking lots easy to navigate? If it’s outdoors, are there areas where mud or gravel would make it impossible to use a wheelchair? Is there an accessible ramp for those who cannot use the stairs? Are there seating areas throughout the space for those who can only walk for short spells? Would booths or other structures need to be spaced out for wider aisles? One option is to hire an accessibility coordinator who specializes in considering all of the details and developing accessibility options for all facets of the event. They can help you consider both potential issues and solutions that you may not have considered. Some events will have advisory groups made up of individuals with different abilities who can also advocate for solutions to consider. 

What Are Some Common Ways to Increase Public Event Accessibility? 

  • Parking: The ADA defines the number of accessible parking spaces required in a lot or garage based on the total number of spots. Of those accessible spots, at least one in six has to be van-accessible, meaning there’s an additional three feet of width for the van’s ramps or lifts. Beyond the number of spots, the path from parking to the entrance of the event should also be accessible. Consider any curbs, uneven ground, dirt, mud, or steps that could prohibit someone’s access. If there is a level difference between the parking lot surface and the walkway to the event, a wheelchair access ramp may need to be present. 
  • Entryways and Exits: Once attendees reach the entrance of the event, they will need to be able to enter without a barrier. If the event is inside a building, are there stairs? Is there a ramp that meets the ADA grade requirements, and are there handrails? Is the doorway wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walking devices? There may also be secondary entrances for large events or other egress points used for those exiting the venue to improve traffic flow. Each should be equipped with accessibility solutions to provide maximum options, so no one ever has to be sent to another entrance. Solutions like the EZ-ACCESS® PATHWAY® HD Code Compliant Modular Access System are easy to install, meet ADA requirements, and have the ability to be customized to meet the unique needs of any space. 
  • Floorplan and Spacing: Once past the entry point, the need for accessibility doesn’t end. There should be pathways of travel wide enough for people to get around without knocking into one another or nearby objects. Someone propelling their wheelchair shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they will fit in an aisle or if they can navigate booths. If parts of the event take place on different levels or there is a platform that attendees will be accessing, they also need to be accessible. Whether by using a ramp with handrails or an elevator to another level, heightened spots shouldn’t be out of reach for someone with mobility differences.
  • Seating: Another consideration in the venue is seating. For concerts, there will need to be both spaces for wheelchair users and pathways wide enough for the person to use them. For any event, there should be public seating throughout the space so those who walk with a device or have limited endurance can sit to rest when needed. Taking in a trade show or bazaar can be a long day, and providing places for people to rest can be the difference in someone’s decision to attend. 
  • Outdoor Spaces: When a public event is taking place outdoors, there are extra factors to look at to improve accessibility. Uneven ground or potentially muddy pathways pose a hazard for everyone, regardless of their mobility. Providing a level, slip-resistant surface over those areas increases the ease for anyone to get around a festival, show, open-air market, or other event. The EZ-ACCESS PATHWAY HD Code Compliant Modular Access System can be configured to create solutions of all kinds: level walking surfaces in place of uneven paths, raised platforms, ramps for numerous access points, and stairs with handrails. The durable aluminum is ideal for an outdoor venue since it can handle the elements without degrading or corroding. Easy assembly makes short work of installation just prior to the event’s kickoff. 
  • Make Information Available: Be proactive and help your attendees plan by detailing your accessibility on the event’s webpage or communications. People considering whether or not to attend will be looking for this information to determine if they’ll be able to get around. By outlining different accessibility features such as the layout, widths of walkways and doorways, parking configuration, and where accessibility ramps are present, they’re able to see your consideration of their needs. Being able to plan ahead helps those with mobility differences commit to attending because they know they will be able to participate like everyone else. 
  • Staff Training: Anyone working the event should be aware of basic accommodations and ADA requirements so they can help assist attendees. They should know what access solutions are in place and where accessible ramps are located. They should also be ready to assist in the event of an emergency, including helping those with limited mobility evacuate if necessary. 

A public event is most successful when everyone is welcome and able to enjoy their time. Using a mobility device or having different abilities shouldn’t exclude someone from an event. Enjoying an outdoor summer concert, a massive craft show, or an industry conference shouldn’t be blocked just because of mobility. If you’re planning a public event, creating equal access takes planning and dedication but yields immense results. The smile on a child’s face when they’re able to participate in a children’s festival with their siblings or the chance for a person using a wheelchair to traverse the state fair with friends is worth every ounce of preparation. 

Make your next event one that allows people to live without barriers. The EZ-ACCESS Customer Service team is ready to help you customize the access solutions you need, no matter what kind of event you are planning. With 40 years of experience in the access industry and an in-house R&D team, we are ready to creatively break mobility barriers regardless of setting. Get in contact with EZ-ACCESS and make your event truly open to all.

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