Conference News July/August 2017 - Page 45

45 Disability The NEC group says all its venues fully comply with the Equality Act and are accessible for all visitors. Customer feedback led to the installation of the Changing Places accessible toilet in the Hall 20 Atrium and in Block 12 in the Genting Arena. Both facilities include a changing bench, a ceiling host, adjustable washbasins and automatic toilets, allowing those with little body strength to remain independent. Such venue improvements can attract repeat business, says management, especially events that have a higher attendance rate for visitors with disabilities, such as craft shows, BBC Gardeners’ World and Motorhome and Caravan. The Genting Arena introduced a licensed radio frequency hearing system that offers 100% coverage, meaning hard of hearing customers can book any seat. Guy Dunstan, Genting Arena GM said: “Using a radio frequency rather than infra-red or an induction loop, provides enriched sound quality.” Jockey Club Venues London says it complies with the ‘Access-for-All’ policy to offer complete access to its racecourses at Epsom, Kempton and Sandown Park. All JCV venues welcome assistance dogs and provide disabled parking spaces close to the racecourse entrances. Sandown Park Racecourse is part of the National Key Scheme (NKS), which offers independent access to disabled toilets at the venues via RADAR key. JCV London head of ops Stuart Dorn says the biggest challenge is preparing for the unknown. On occasions delegates may not flag a specific requirement prior to arriving. However, our staff will find a way to deliver the best service.” Historical approach Sarah Byrne, director at Mosaic Events offers some insights into doing the right preparation for choosing a venue to suit an elderly audience e organise the Historical Association Annual Conference and a large percentage of the audience is elderly, disabled or has mobility issues. Our challenge is that the association likes to use an old venue, but these are not always ideal for delegates with limited mobility and, if a venue publicises that it has ‘disabled access’, it doesn’t always mean that it actually has. Always have your disabled delegates in mind when you do a site visit, don’t assume that one venue’s accessible bedroom will be the same as another’s – they vary wildly. Also consider the knowledge and attitude of the staff – they can make or break a disabled delegate’s experience of your event. Most venues don’t consider the whole experience – they may have a few tailored facilities but they are not clued up and don’t offer advice or information on a show round. I have developed own points to consider based on experience: • Look at the steps into the venue – how easy is it to get from the accessible parking to the front entrance? • How good is the entrance? Some are out of the way, hard to find and take the delegate to a completely different part of the venue to the conference room. • Does the venue have an accessible toilet on the same level as the main plenary? • How many lifts are there? Consider how long it will take somebody in a wheelchair to get around. Ensure your events team is on hand to help, because venue staff probably won’t be there to help delegates. • Are all the meeting rooms actually accessible? If not, how do you communicate this before the event? • Are the doorways into the public areas able to take a standard wheelchair? • A venue has to have hearing loops as standard in all rooms - even in small syndicate rooms. • How good is the on-site team in terms of awareness of those that have mobility/specific requirements? What provision is in place for those who can't walk up to a buffet station? • Anybody with sight difficulties should be asked in advance if they require a pack produced in larger font/braille.