Chapter 8: Accessible event planning

8.1 Essential domains to be considered

  • There is a large variety and number of campus events, such as:
    • Registration day
    • Information day, orientation camps
    • Inauguration ceremony, White Coat ceremony, prize-giving ceremony, graduation ceremony
    • Academic conferences and seminars
    • Non-academic activities such as sports, cultural, and arts programmes
    • Job recruitment fair; career talks
    • Activities organized by student societies
  • Accessibility arrangements should be incorporated into every step of the process of event organization to ensure the event is accessible to all to the greatest extent possible. Below is the list of essential domains that organizers must consider as early as when they start planning for an event.
    • Diversity in the composition of the organizing committee members
    • Promotional materials and channels
    • Communication with stakeholders such as speakers and audience
    • Handling of individual accessibility requests
    • Venue location, set-up, facilities
    • Transportation
    • Enrollment and registration
    • Event programme rundown and materials
    • On-site manpower
    • Language and simultaneous interpretation
    • Gender pronouns preferred
    • Catering
    • Washrooms
    • Accommodation
    • Enquiry contact
    • Emergency evacuation plan
  • Event organizers must inform the participants about how to make request of accessibility accommodations by including the enquiry contact and announcing a call for accessibility requests in all the promotional materials explicitly (e.g. website, emails, posters). Below is a sample of the announcement:
    • “If you require any accessibility accommodations, you are welcome to contact (person/office), at email: <[email protected]> or phone: 23452345. Accessibility requests should be made by (a specified period in advance of the event).”
  • Event organizers are highly encouraged to go through the following examples of recommended guidelines in detail to incorporate accessibility in event planning.

8.2 Prize-giving ceremony as an illustration

8.2.1. Points to note

  • The following illustrative practices do not represent an exhaustive list of accessible arrangement for a prize-giving ceremony.
  • These practices can be broadly applied to a number of similar campus events such as prize-giving ceremony, inauguration ceremony, White Coat ceremony, and graduation ceremon

8.2.2. Before the ceremony

  • Include an accessibility statement in the ceremony enrollment notice and
    • “To obtain accessibility arrangements at the ceremony, staff and students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Accessibility Service Coordinator at 23452345 or <[email protected]> as early as possible”.
  • Ensure the venue accessibility, particularly the front stage, backstage, audience area, seating arrangement and accessible toilet.
  • Some students with disabilities may have difficulty in handshaking, bowing, and/or holding the certificates. The Accessibility Service Coordinator and the staff-in-charge of the ceremony work out the accessible procedures with the students.
    • Notify the Presiding Officer about accessible procedures before the ceremony.
    • Make gentle reminder before the ceremony commences and by putting a reminder notice on the Presiding Officer’s Rostrum (or other appropriate methods).

8.2.3. During the ceremony – Accessible seating arrangement

  • The ideal arrangement is that the accessible seats are interspersed at different locations of the audience seating.
  • However, prize-giving ceremony is commonly held at auditorium where most of the seats are fixed on the floor and on tiered platforms. Student awardees usually take the seats on the main floor, near the orchestral area.
  • It is common that the accessible seats are grouped and located mainly at the corner or the back of the tiered seats or balcony but not the main floor. This may create segregation. Students with disabilities who take these accessible seats might be clueless about what is happening among students on the floor. They are separated from their peers. It might also take them relatively longer time to come to and return from the stage.
  • Try to arrange non-segregating seating in order to create a more inclusive atmosphere. For example, explore the possibility of modifying the original seating of students without disabilities and to make the accessible seats part of the “seating area of students”.

8.2.4. During the ceremony – Procession and Conferment process

  • Ensure the accessibility of the route from the audience to the front stage to make the prize conferment process smooth and inclusive to guests, teachers, and students with disabilities.
    • It is common that the route may involve stairs, so wheelchair users usually come to the stage from the backstage directly. Although it is an alternative solution, it may cause segregation.
    • Try to set up an accessible and “mainstream” route. For example, explore the possibility of setting up a “portable loading ramp” so that all students can use it.
  • Visual cues to notify deaf or hard-of-hearing students of the time they go onto the stage and other steps of the conferment process
  • Sighted guide and live audio description for participants with visual impairment
  • Sign language interpreter for deaf or hard-of-hearing participants who uses sign language
  • Remind the Duty Officer and Presenting Officer that some students might come out from the backstage.
  • Remind the Presiding Officer and/or guests that some students may have difficulty in handshaking, bowing, and/or holding the certificates. Arrange helpers on stage for ready assistance when needed.
  • Refer to Chapter 5.5 Inclusive terminology for preferred wordings.

8.2.5. During the ceremony – Live video-broadcasting and photo-taking

  • The live video-broadcasting and photo-taking should focus on multiple angles in order to capture all students coming from both the “mainstream route” and the “accessible (but separate) route”.
  • Some students with disabilities (e.g. wheelchair users) may come onto the stage from the other side or location due to the inaccessibility of the “mainstream route”.
  • Notify the live video-shooting crew and camera operators that there will be students coming from a separate route.
  • It would seriously affect whether and how these students are included in the live video-broadcasting which partly manifests the degree of inclusion. The angles and fields of the video-shooting and photo-taking are important part of the accessibility of the whole process of the ceremony.

8.2.6. During the ceremony – Other points to note

  • Arrange more volunteer helpers.
    • However, do not feel being offended if students with disabilities reject assistance.
    • Do not force students to be accompanied by helpers on stage all the time. Avoid uninvited help.
  • Respect individual preference for gender pronouns.
  • Print Braille on the certificates, medals, or trophies for students with visual impairment.

8.2.7. After the ceremony – Tea reception

  • Ensure accessible venue, tables and chairs and seating of the tea reception.
  • Indicate the availability of any food choices, e.g. vegetarian food, Halal food or gluten-free food.
  • Provide tables which have clear leg space and reachable height for wheelchair users.