Meetings

Accessibility for All: Toolkit Ensures Better Meetings For Every Attendee

By / Aug 26, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A new resource from the Event Service Professionals Association helps meeting venues, hotels, CVBs, and destinations ensure they are accessible to everyone and that all attendees have the information they need.

Prior to our Annual Meeting here at ASAE, we have a staff preview meeting where our meetings team, along with a number of other departments, give us a rundown of logistics, details, and need-to-knows.

In other words, we get inundated with information—but I mean that in the best way possible! I always leave that meeting better prepared to answer questions attendees may have onsite, and, more important, knowing where the staff lounge is (i.e., where to find food and snacks).

Because our meetings teams is awesome, in addition to the preview meeting we each also get a copy of Quick Tips.

It’s basically an A-to-Z guide to Annual. The information included covers everything from the expected (schedule at a glance, staff shirt colors for each day, room numbers for every session and lounge, hotel and convention center maps) to the unexpected (locations of nearby pharmacies, hospitals, and urgent care facilities). Even though it stinks if you’re under the weather onsite, at least you know the closet places to go to help you feel better.

With that same idea in mind of providing people with lots of information and ensuring all attendees have the best onsite experience possible, earlier this week the Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) introduced a new resource called “Project Access: Accessible Meetings FAQs.”

Project Access is a downloadable form that hotels, convention centers, CVBs, and venues can customize with their accessibility information and branding to provide to meeting planners.

The goal is to give event service professionals a tool that will allow them to answer questions that attendees may have. Among them: Which 24-hour pharmacy is closest to my hotel? Does your convention center have an EpiPen and someone who knows how to use it? How is your event or venue accessible to all?

“Accessibility is key to every attendee fully experiencing the benefits of an event,” said Denise Suttle, CMP, assistant director of convention services at Visit Albuquerque and ESPA’s immediate past president who chaired the Project Access initiative, in a statement. “Our ESPA members regularly field questions from meeting planners about access. This new tool will help venues and destinations evaluate their own accessibility and will make event planners’ search for resources easier. Having the answers readily available will help meeting planners with site selection and event planning.”

The template includes checklists that are designed sequentially—from a guest’s airport arrival, to ground transportation and lodging, to meeting venues and offsite venues—and a resource list that destination marketing organizations can customize to fill in state and local agencies. It is available to ESPA members as well as the general public.

“The time is right for ESPA to take the lead on this project to address critical questions for successful meetings, and this is a great addition to our members’ toolkit,” said Madonna Carr, CMP, president of ESPA and vice president of destination services at Meet Minneapolis.

ESPA is not the only association to realize the importance of such a resource. The American Bar Association has a Planning Accessible Meetings and Events toolkit [PDF]. In addition, the Professional Convention Management Association offers a list of websites and resources [PDF] that help meeting planners create events for everyone.

How does your association make sure not only that your meeting attendees have all the information they need but also that your venues and everything else are accessible to all? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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