Mass Cultural Council logo
Home / Blog / Communities / 10 Ways to Make Your Community Event Accessible

10 Ways to Make Your Community Event Accessible

Charles G. Baldwin, Program Officer

eight dancers in modern dance garb are positioned across an outdoor stage. In the background is the John Hancock Tower and a clear, blue sky.
Sayat Nova Dance Company perform as part of a Boston Landmarks Orchestra event. Photo: Michael Dwyer.

Warm weather is here (finally) and with it comes a multitude of festivals and cultural events to be hosted in communities across Massachusetts this summer.

To help ensure your events center access for people with disabilities, here are 10 ways to think about providing an inclusive experience. This is by no means a comprehensive list – or legal advice – but merely a first step in the direction of access by design.

  1. Budget check
    Think of your budget as a moral compass. By anticipating a variety of needs, you understand that access, by design, is an act of inclusion. Will your event welcome all people? Have you accounted for making accommodations? Not every accommodation comes with a big cost, and some actions you are already accounting for in your budget (e.g., digital maps, printed fliers, or microphones) may indeed fall into the category of “Access”. Listening with intent to your patrons, staff, and volunteers will set a path for continuous access improvement. Direct your initial investments in the accommodations most requested.

  2. Transportation check
    Where are you? Think of the site of your event as dynamic and not static. How people arrive and leave your event is critical information, and sharing that type of information (e.g., FAQs or registration page) will alleviate my anxiety and get me out of my house.

  3. Landscape check
    What will I find when I arrive? Think surface, slope, grade, and width, smooth sidewalks with curb cuts, or cobble stones and asphalt patches? Can I get through the door if I use wheels or have no strength in my arms? The more information I have, the more choices I have. What I don’t need is a surprise barrier that prevents me from participating. Even one small step could be one too many.

  4. Communications check
    How are you informing the public about your event and any accommodations provided? Think about communication in a holistic manner so that you are providing text, visuals, and audio modes for the various aspects of your work. Before the event, include accessibility icons to promote the services to be provided (e.g., audio description or wheelchair accessibility). During your event, are there microphones and amplifiers? Printed or digital maps? An emergency or medical tent? Clearly designated volunteers? Information during the event is as important as the marketing info that gets me to attend.

  5. RSVP check
    By providing an RSVP, you can create the opportunity to request an accommodation. Whether there is a cost to participate or not, knowing who your patrons are and what they need is a critical step towards centering Access and continuous improvement.

  6. Attitude check
    Staff training and education on awareness, bias, and assistive technologies, will go a long way to making guests feel welcomed. Not everyone with a disability needs or wants help. How can you keep your front-line crew informed and empowered to make decisions?

  7. Vendor check
    You may be working with vendors to provide food or merchandise. Are they aware of your accessibility vision? How high is that food counter? Are the ingredients listed? Everyone involved in your event execution needs to be aware of and acknowledge the need to modify actions to create the inclusive event you are designing.

  8. Toilet check
    Where are the accessible toilets? Is there a changing station in the room? (Extra credit if you remember service animals for this category!)

  9. Chill out check
    With all the excitement at a festival, if it gets to be “just too much”, is there a designated space of respite?

  10. Gut check
    Access is best achieved when you keep in mind you are working WITH people with disabilities, not FOR them. Working with people with disabilities at the start of your production, event, or festival will ensure policies and programs attain not only access but usability too.

Watch the recorded webinar, Accessibility 101 for Community Arts Events, to learn more:

Back to Top