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Your conference should be accessible for all of your possible attendees and speakers, including people with disabilities. By preparing for accessibility, you can make it easy for anyone to attend your conference.

Conferences that are accessible to people with disabilities are inclusive to many more audiences, including people who are not fluent in the language or people with different learning styles. Many countries have legal requirements about accessibility. Be sure to follow the laws and policies for your conference location.

 

Understand types of needs

Some conference attendees or speakers might have:

  • limited or no vision and need electronic versions of printed materials;
  • limited or no hearing and need audio support or sign interpretation;
  • limited mobility and need access to the conference facility and rooms;
  • learning disabilities and need easy-to-read signs and directions;
  • medical conditions (such as diabetes) and need special meals.
 
 

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Consider other special needs

Not all special needs are for people with disabilities. Other types of special needs are:

  • language;
  • religious observances;
  • travel;
  • accommodations;
  • dietary;
  • smoking.
 
 

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Ask about special needs

Required Task for Conference OrganizersMake it easy for your attendees and speakers to let you know that they have special needs.
 

  • Provide fields for special-needs requests in advance-registration Web sites and forms.
  • Include an e-mail address on your conference Web site. Encourage those with special needs to contact you.
  • Ask speakers and participants if they have accessibility requirements.
  • Assign someone on your committee to address special-needs requests.
 
 

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Look for accessible conference locations

Required Task for Conference OrganizersWhen selecting a conference location, ask the facility manager about accessibility. They often have solutions available. Be sure to look for the following:

  • availability of disabled parking located close to the major entrance;
  • a graded or flat entrance;
  • proximity of accessible washrooms to your meeting space;
  • strategically placed signage;
  • accessible sleeping areas;
  • elevators with Braille or floor-calling ability;
  • availability of a TTY (telephone or telephone typewriter) unit and kit available for people with hearing loss.


Required Task for Conference OrganizersAllow plenty of space for individuals with wheelchairs and other mobility devices in all areas, including:
 

  • registration area;
  • meeting rooms;
  • exhibition halls;
  • dining facilities.


Required Task for Conference OrganizersInclude preparations for individuals with disabilities in your emergency and evacuation plans. They may not hear announcements or may need extra time or help to evacuate a room or building.

 
 

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Plan for accessible speaker sessions

Required Task for Conference OrganizersArrange for easy access, an adequate sound system, and good visibility of the speakers.
 

  • Give speakers accessibility requirements and guidance for preparing slides and for speaking.
  • Plan enough time in the schedule, as some people may need extra time to get from room to room.
  • Reserve seats at the front of the room for people who need unobstructed views of the speakers or slides.
  • Arrange for assisted listening devices (ALDs), hearing loops, or induction loops to amplify sound from the speaker's microphone.

If requested:

  • Provide sign language interpreters or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) so that your speakers can be appreciated by all.
  • Provide material ahead of time in electronic or large-print format, if requested.
 
 

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Communicating with people with disabilities

When interacting with people with disabilities, treat them with respect and dignity.

  • Focus on the person's ability, not his or her disability.
  • Speak to the person, not to his or her companion or interpreter. Face the person when you speak.
  • Do not raise your voice, as shouting won't make you more understandable.
  • Ask how you can help. It is understandable not to know what to do.
  • Consider this an opportunity to learn.

light bulb“Addressing the Needs of Your Attendees" (PDF, 32 KB) has an overview of accessibility planning. This presentation by Ashfaq (Kash) Husain, Chair, Region 07 Conference Advisory Committee, is from POCO 2008.

 
 

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Who do you talk to at IEEE?

IEEE is ready to help. If you have questions about holding an accessible conference, please contact IEEE Meeting and Conference Management (MCM).

Do you have other questions about organizing a conference? Please see IEEE Conference Organizer Contacts.

Do you have feedback on the information on this page?

  • Is there missing or incorrect information?
  • Do you have a tip to share?

Please send your feedback to Conference Services.

 
 

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