This section provides guidance that is most relevant for in-person or hybrid events.

The location of your event plays a pivotal role in supporting or hindering how accessible and inclusive your event will be for people with lived experience. As with all planning, reflect on how you will get input and feedback from your attendees with lived experience in order to identify the best venue for your event.

Choosing a Venue#

Before deciding on a venue it is recommended to have an organizer or member of the team visit potential venues to do a walk-through and check that all rooms in the venue will work for your event’s needs. This can be an essential step in ensuring that the venue will be suitable for your community and event. Include people with lived experience in this process as they can have expertise in identifying barriers such as inaccessibility for wheelchair users, poor lighting, or sensory overstimulation. Understanding the venue can be helpful to both check the maintenance and layout of the space, and can also help you plan your event set-up such as where to put signs directing attendees to your event.

Through a Universal Design lens, a venue that is able to support a diverse attendee list will be best for any event that involves both a research and general public audience.

When reviewing potential venues, consider the ventilation of airflow, lighting and acoustics, and ensure that they are appropriate for the number of attendees at your event. A large hall with high ceilings may cause echoing and may not be suitable for discussion-based sessions. Similarly, a small room with limited ventilation may not be suited for long sessions with a large number of attendees. These considerations will benefit all events, however may be more important to consider for events that are intended for people with lived experience. It is important to ensure that a space can support the involvement of all its attendees. This can be considering how to lay out tables (circular is best) so that all those seated are able to listen and contribute equally to the discussion, ensuring that there is enough seating for attendees, and can also be considering how the space itself will be laid out to ensure ease of movement and also sufficient places to sit and rest.

Check with a venue’s child policy before booking and ensure that there are suitable arrangements made if a venue area does not allow children to be present. For example, some museums and botanical garden greenhouses do not allow children to be present for private events. This may mean that attendees with child-caring responsibilities are unable to attend and engage with your event.

Depending on the size of your venue, you may consider if there is space available to use as a multi-faith prayer room or a quiet room that reserves a space away from the event to relax, take medicine privately, and take a sensory break for those who need it. These spaces can help make an event more inclusive and enjoyable for your attendees.

Finally, consider if your venue is hosted in a space that is “dual purpose”. For example, a University Hall may also be used for lectures or by students as a thoroughfare to get to class. If there will be people other than attendees using the space, identify how will you differentiate between staff, attendees, and others who are present in the space. You could use name badges or have staff and organizers in a shared uniform which could help to avoid confusion of an attendee asking a bystander for event assistance. Please also be mindful of how your event will use the spaces provided, for example, if your poster presentation space will also be used to serve food in, try to ensure that food smells are dissipated and plates cleared to support attendees engaging in the session.

If your event will be attended by people with disabilities, it is important to consider both the Universal Design suggestions made here, and also to ensure that access requirements are sufficiently met.

Venue Planning#

Signs and Navigation#

Consider how you will direct and guide people at the venue. If you plan to have banners that will displayed near parking and transport links that can direct attendees to the event registration, will you also have staff members who will be able to guide attendees with low vision or blindness.

Consider where will you put signs at the venue to indicate where the sessions are taking place, and also where any facilities such as restrooms, elevators, kitchen space, and all breakout sessions are located. Signs should be clearly visible and identifiable to your attendees. Try to place signs and information before and at junctions so that people do not take a wrong turn down a corridor, and if there are locations at your venue that may be difficult to navigate, consider having staff visible to help direct attendees. Use directional arrows, and have signs distributed regularly along paths.

Although they may help some individuals, remember that signs and visual information may not be accessible to all attendees and consider how to provide clear guidance at the venue to attendees with visual impairments. When assisting a disabled person, ask them how you can do this because it varies between individuals. Do not touch, grab, or move people with disabilities, their mobility aids, or service dogs without permission.

It is also important to be cognizant that attendees who are more familiar with the layout of university campuses may feel more comfortable navigating university-based locations. Please consider how you will make members of the public feel comfortable in these spaces. This may mean putting up posters or banners and decorating areas of the space to allow attendees to feel a sense of belonging and identifying where your event spaces are located within a larger venue.

If you are able to provide attendees with a map of the venue, make sure to identify how to navigate the location, where parking and restrooms are located, where to find staff members, and where all important locations will be (such as kitchen, break out rooms, and registration). Also ensure that the location of any emergency supplies such as an automated external defibrillator (AED), epi-pen, first aid kit and a member of staff who will be able to act in the event of an emergency is marked on the map. Although it is not expected for staff and organizers to be medically trained, it is important to know who needs to be contacted in an emergency.

Setting up the event#

If your event is held at a venue where you are unable to alter the seating layout, avoid dedicating an entire row or completely separate seating area for these attendees. Segregated seating and single areas can make attendees with lived experience feel separate from their colleagues and singled out. By distributing the seating throughout a space you can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for attendees.

During the event#

Consider having printed maps for attendees to pick up and refer to during registration.

Any maps and schedules of your venue should have been included in the invitations to attendees, but you should also consider having printed copies of the maps and schedules, with any important features or sessions highlighted.