a group of people are talking to each other in a crowed at a launch event. in the centre is a wheelchair user
Launch Night of Southbank Centre's Unlimited Festival 2016. Photo by Rachel Cherry

Access Behind the Scenes: Creating an Accessible Event

Running an event? Want to make it as accessible as you can? So do we! We’ve started thinking about access for Unlimited: The Symposium in September, and decided to share the process we are using in case it’s useful for others too…

Nothing can be fully accessible to everyone – each person’s needs are different and many needs conflict. Someone might need bright light in which to lip-read, another softer lighting to prevent migraines, for example. Equally, any event works within a set of restrictions, for example, capacity, budget and existing buildings and existing transport infrastructure. So how do you plan what access to offer?

  1. We published the first version of our Access Statement for the event, which can be downloaded here in Word and here in PDF, setting out our initial intentions six months before the event itself.
  2. We published the second version of our Access Statement for the event, which can be downloaded here in Word and here in PDF, setting out our initial intentions four months before the event itself.
  3. We published the third and final version of our Access Statement for the event, which can be downloaded here in Word and here in PDF, with a month to go, outlining as much as we know and our approach.
  4. We published a fourth, retrospective version of our Access Statement, which can be downloaded here in Word and here in PDF which includes feedback from delegates on our access provision.

For us, access starts by thinking about the Social Model of Disability. Through this approach, we recognise that it is our responsibility, as event organisers, to make this event as accessible as possible. But how do we use that to make decisions about what to provide?

We’ve got three principles that we are using:

  • Inclusive design – this means that we ensure that we build inclusivity in as much as we can as part of our planning process
  • Least restrictive access – where we have to make choices, we will make those that restrict fewest people, and that fit with our other priorities such as sustainability
  • Reasonable adjustments – where there are still barriers, we will work to see what additional access we can provide, based on specific requests from people attending arrived at through direct conversations with the individuals themselves, within the boundaries of our budget

So far we’ve got sections on representation, how people book tickets, getting to the event, access at the venue itself, the specific access we are putting in place for the symposium, online access, evaluation and feedback and more. As we get to versions two and three, we’ll be filling in the details, adding in more photos and responding to individual requests, and if you want us to provide something not yet in the plan, please email us on symposium@weareunlimited.org.uk to see what we can do.

We know we won’t get everything right for everyone, but we really want to get it right for as many people as we can – and by sharing our planning we hope that many more events can be made more accessible too.