Countless conferences take place across the globe every single year, bringing academics, retailers, medical professionals, scientists, artists and more together.
But a good conference has to welcome all guests equally — otherwise, certain people may be denied the opportunity to take part. While wheelchair access has become increasingly common, those living with visual impairments may still find they’re not accommodated to by organizers.
So, what can you do to accommodate guests affected by different degrees of sight loss? And why is it so important?
Catering to All Conference Guests
More than 3 million people in the United States live with visual impairments or blindness. They have as much of a right to visit conferences and learn as anyone else. If they’re neglected, ignored or forgotten about, they could miss out on important occasions. If they’re due to deliver a presentation, others will be unable to hear what they have to say too.
Conference organizers must take any steps necessary to ensure their venue — regardless of size — is safe and comfortable for all.
Does this sound daunting? It may be, but some of the solutions are more simple than you might imagine.
Taking Steps to Accommodate Guests with Sight Loss
Here are a few key ideas you can use to increase accessibility during conferences.
1. Take advantage of Braille
All signs and information points should feature Braille. This is essential for those visiting the conference alone, who may be unable (or unwilling) to ask for assistance from other attendees.
All Braille used in your signage and information points must be formatted properly and placed within easy reach. Anything else may lead to confusion and potential misunderstandings.
2. Provide audio information
Issue audio announcements at key times to accommodate people affected by blindness or impaired vision.
For example, if a presentation or debate is due to begin shortly, don’t rely on signs to guide attendees alone: audio announcements give those unable to read signage the essential details in an accessible way.
3. Implement cutting-edge smartphone tech
Ever considered using indoor orientation solutions?
Innovative smartphone app RightHear is one such option. This works with state-of-the-art sensors installed throughout interior locations — such as a conference center — and provides users with audio directions that help them navigate the area safely.
RightHear takes over from GPS once users enter interiors: they will be able to understand their surroundings, important routes, potential risks and more all through this app.
If you’re organizing one or more conferences, consider how helpful indoor orientation solutions could be to help those with blindness or impaired vision find their way.
4. Enroll staff in the appropriate training
Make sure all members of staff working the conference know how to assist attendees with blindness or visual impairments. They should be given sensitivity training to avoid unintentional offense and know how to follow procedures if issues arise.
Guide dogs can range from Labradors to Cockapoo colours and sizes across the spectrum. So long as they are trained to help visually challenged guests move seamlessly from point A to B in the venue, the objective is met. Similarly, other support staff should be given sensitivity training to avoid unintentional offense and know how to follow procedures if issues arise.
Take the steps explored above to make any conference more accessible for people with sight-related problems. Just a few changes here or there can make a world of difference and empower them to enjoy the conference comfortably, safely and independently.