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|Creating Inclusive Experiences and Events for Travelers with Disabilities|
Tourism is a key driver to a successful economy and can bring people from all parts of the world into your place of business. By learning how to serve people with disabilities, businesses can attract more customers, build customer loyalty and improve their services for everyone. To get your business ready for any patron to access your facility or services regardless of their ability, accessibility needs to be at the forefront. Here are things to consider as a first step to creating an inclusive experience for travelers with disabilities:
1. Put the customer first
Develop policies that require all staff and volunteers to be trained on accessibility to know what’s expected of them when they communicate with customers with disabilities – that’s the training piece. For example, if someone approaches a service counter and is having difficulty hearing the person behind the counter, that service provider might pull out of a pad of paper and a pencil and begin communicating with the customer by writing.
For free online accessibility training, visit accessforward.ca.
2. Learn about existing barriers
A good way to learn about barriers that exist in your workplace is to collect comments from your customers with disabilities. Invite customers to give feedback on how you provide accessible customer service and let them know how to do this. Part of this is ensuring your feedback process is accessible by providing or arranging for accessible formats and communication supports on request. For example, after hosting an event, invite attendees to rate their experience through an online feature on your website.
Planning Accessible Events: So Everyone Feels Welcome is a guide that you can use to integrate accessibility when planning an event.
3. Use your website as a communication tool for accessibility
In today’s day and age, your website is really the first thing many tourists actually visit. How many people go on a trip without researching things to do first? If your website isn’t accessible for a person with a disability, they may think your business won’t be either. Having information available to visitors before they come into your place of business lets them know what level of accessibility to expect. For example, pre-visit information could describe the distance from the parking lot to the main entrance.
Use the achecker.ca tool to assess your website accessibility, or click hereto go to the Registered Graphic Designers website for various online resources on web accessibility. Accessible Event SignageHave you ever noticed how busy and crowded events can get? What about how difficult it is to get around one? Perhaps some of the challenges were based on the signs at the event. Good signage and exhibit design, as well as placement, can help everyone get the most out of the event.
If you’re hosting an event, good signage will help people find important points. Once inside, well designed and placed signage will help attendees find the specific vendors or presenters they are looking for. It also helps with identifying a place to rest, finding a snack or the washrooms.
A great starting point for accessible signage is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for onscreen information and communications. Add to that, general graphic design best practices and principals, and you should have a great set of guidelines to kick-off your project. Researching what experienced sign and wayfinding experts have done is also a great resource for your projects.
Large signs with higher contrast, large text, and graphics all help make your signs more legible. Make sure your messages are concise and in plain language. The use of photography or graphics behind text may not be a great idea for event signage. However, you should make sure your signs are well branded with the logos of the event or its host, as well as identifiable fonts and colours.
Placing the bottom of signs 2.1–3.0 metres above the floor is a good height for viewing from a distance. Eye level, about 1.2–1.5 metres above the floor, is a good height for general viewing. Remember to keep the interval of signs as frequent as possible, as well as at any turns and intersections.
Remember to include signage to help people with disabilities. This could include but is not limited to, accessible entrances, ramps and elevators, registration, information or assistance and, specific seating areas.
If you are going to use maps, use linear paths that are complete and explicit. The map placement should be orientated to the correct direction and at a “You Are Here” location. Simplicity will get people to their destinations quicker.
We hope these guidelines help your event be more navigable, and therefore more enjoyable and successful.
Here are some event signage resources: The Association of Registered Graphics Designers Accessibility initiative features several resources that will help you get started on creating a more accessible event.
The Rick Hansen Foundation features a variety of excellent examples to help you, from their Accessibility Certified winners to their Accessibility Team’s activities.
“5 Key Elements of Effective Signage Design” are featured at How Design, an online magazine.
Wayfinders.ie has a wealth of visual samples of well-designed signage. Accessible Festivals in Ontario
Ontario has always been a leader in accessibility, and you can see its commitment to remove barriers and foster inclusivity through the types of events hosted in its communities.
The Stratford Festival is North America’s largest classical repertory theatre company. Stratford, Ontario is home to this internationally renowned festival that focusses on recreating William Shakespeare’s plays. Select dates feature American Sign Language interpreters and have live, descriptive captioning of the performance. The festival also offers “relaxed performances” with fewer restrictions to noise and movement within the auditorium, and reductions in stimuli in the actual performance (e.g. the intensity of light, and sound would be reduced).
In Morrisburg, Ontario, the Upper Canada Village is a popular living history attraction. It goes without saying, however, that we didn’t always have a lot of the accessibility tools that we do today. Upper Canada Village’s Accessibility Weekend aims to ensure that people who are blind or partially sighted, deaf or have hearing loss, or who have limited mobility still can interact with the rich multisensory environment of the attraction.
The International Plowing Match and Rural Expo is a five-day agricultural celebration. The most prominent feature of this event is the plowing match itself – which is a competition in a farmer’s field. This traditional event has been taking place for more than 100 years, and it does present some accessibility challenges to overcome, such as soil streets and access to the field where the event takes place. The event’s accessibility committee has implemented numerous accessibility initiatives, including accessible viewing areas by constructing sturdy boardwalks around the plowing, and they make it a priority to advise attendees that a number of accommodations are available to them. How Ontario Handles Large Accessible Events
Whenever large events are being held, it’s important that adequate planning is done to ensure that it is accessible. In the last several years, Ontario has hosted several large accessible events including the 2015 Pan Am/ Parapan Games and the 2017 Invictus Games. Both events saw a large influx of visitors into the province and in preparation, several initiatives were undertaken which have become the blueprint on how to create experiences that can be fully inclusive so that everyone can share in.
These included providing accessible transportation options which included web-based and mobile trip planning tools;Accessible parking spaces were made available at or near ticketed competition and ceremony venues;Accessible entrances and exits;Accessible amenities such as washrooms, concession stands and merchandise kiosks;Accessible seating and adjacent companion seating;Accessible medical services;Complimentary wheelchair services;Personal wheelchair storage;Service animal relief areas;Assistive listening devices and the in-venue narration of several events for spectators with visual impairments. The Invictus games also saw the unveiling of a mobile fully-accessible washroom designed for people with disabilities
The legacy of the events included the fact that the sports equipment used during the events were distributed to Indigenous Communities, ParaSport Ontario and other sporting organizations. The surplus of medical supplies and equipment was donated to Sunnybrook Veterans.
The organizing committees also encouraged business to be inclusive hosts by creating a clear path of travel to their business, offering no-step entrances, a display showing how their business meets with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Customer Services standards and providing accessible documents and communication materials.
Having a plan that is fully inclusive was vital to the success of both events and creates an environment that all can participate in and enjoy.ReelAbilities Film Festival
The Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre is hosting the fourth annual Toronto ReelAbilities Film Festival. This festival runs from May 29 to June 2. Now in its fourth year, the festival showcases Canadian and International shorts, features, and documentaries about Deaf and disability cultures. Some of the films are created by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf. During the festival, there will be a comedy night and dance performances.
During the festival, there are several activities designed to educate youth about equity and inclusion. There will be free matinee film screenings open to school groups in venues across Toronto. Also, Accessible Media Inc., Toronto Animated Image Society, and Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre will partner to offer hands-on film making workshops for students. In addition, Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre together with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital will offer a leadership day which will focus on advocacy to create student champions and advance inclusion within schools. The ReelEducation program, launched last year, has brought films and lesson plans about equity and inclusion into 118 schools across the province. The ReelEducation program is now going national by offering the programming to schools across Canada. Some of the films showcased at last year’s festival were picked-up by other film festivals across Ontario.