How to make sure your event venue is accessible
How to make sure your event venue is accessible
A major aspect of organising events is finding a great venue that’s accessible to anyone who might want to come.
This is often harder than it sounds: the way our society is organised makes things easy for some people while putting barriers in the way of others. In fact, 75% of disabled people report that they've walked away from a UK business due to poor accessibility or customer service (source: Purple).
This reality is often reflected in the choice of venues for hire; the fact that most buildings have steps rather than ramps or lifts is just one example.
That’s why planning ahead is key to ensuring your venue is as accessible as possible – it gives you time to scope out what your potential attendees require from a venue and then find one that works.
Here, we cover a few key factors to help you to consider what makes a venue accessible and ensure all your guests have a positive experience.
Getting to the venue
The accessibility of a venue isn’t limited to the building itself: you’ll need to ensure that all your guests can get to it easily.
This can be a particular challenge in central London, with limited parking space and the fact that many underground stations are not wheelchair accessible. Are there accessible parking options within a reasonable distance of the venue – ideally disabled bays on the premises? Is it close to accessible public transport links?
At Senate House, arrival is hassle-free. On-site parking is available for anyone with access needs, and we’re just a few minutes from Tottenham Court Road tube station, which is step-free from train to street.
For guests coming from outside London, we’re around 20 minutes from Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras International train stations, which serve the rest of the UK and mainland Europe. All three offer step-free access from street to platform.
Getting around the venue
While modern buildings are required by law to be wheelchair-accessible, historic buildings are less likely to have all the necessary adjustments in place. Ramps at the entrance are of little use if the building itself is full of steps with no alternative route.
We're proud that Senate House offers the best of both: the iconic skyscraper is a Grade II listed heritage site featuring original Art Deco features and has step-free access throughout.
Ramps are in place at each entrance, and lifts provide access to every floor of the building. All our meeting rooms are fully accessible, including the impressive Chancellor’s Hall on the first floor, which has a wheelchair lift.
Of course, accessibility is about more than just mobility. There are many different types of disabilities which require different adjustments. Part of finding an accessible venue is ensuring it can facilitate these.
If your event involves speeches or presentations, there are many ways you can make sure these are understood clearly. Sign language interpreters can be hired for live events or virtual presentations, and you can hire a professional captioner for accurate real-time captioning.
While less accurate, auto-captioning and transcription are also available on most virtual platforms. You may want to consider sharing slides with participants beforehand, too.
Lighting in venues can also make a big difference in accessibility – for example, for those that lip read. Dimming lights can also cause problems for those with visual impairments, so ensure there is sufficient lighting.
You might also consider hosting a hybrid event to ensure attendees who don't feel comfortable or able to attend in-person are not excluded and can still engage with the event.
Sufficient accessible toilets are a necessity for any event venue. However, not all accessible toilets are created equal – even though they all must comply with an agreed set of standards, the quality of provision varies considerably.
For example, not all accessible toilets are not large enough to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair, or for a wheelchair to manoeuvre. When you go on a site visit, remember to check these facilities.
Spacious, modern accessible toilet facilities are available at Senate House.
Communicate about access needs
Above all, be sure to keep an open dialogue with attendees – and potential venues – about any requirements and take on board their suggestions. If you’re unsure whether a particular accommodation or adjustment will be possible at your preferred location, it’s always worth asking.
If you’re interested in hosting an event at Senate House and want to make the experience as comfortable and accessible as possible for everyone present, we’ll be more than happy to help.
Whether you’re organising a corporate party, a conference or a meeting, we’ll do our very best to make sure your guests enjoy their time here safely and comfortably, whatever their access needs.