Well first, we need to change our perspective on what disability is and is not by understanding that to make a family event more inclusive, one does not need to be an expert in disability. Then know you can easily add disability entertainment services or activities to the event you are hosting whether its a children's birthday party, or a large social gathering. In this article we will go over practical tips and questions to evaluate your entertainment services to become more inclusive. If you are hosting a small event you can always contact families directly, and for larger events have a note on your event poster and/ or page stating that you are openly accepting feedback, suggestions and requests from parents for activities that would be best suited to their child.
Families with children with sensory or physical disabilities already feel isolated and at times stressed, so promote inclusivity by making the unique needs of their family just as important as all other guests. In addition, you can also offer ticket subsidies, and ticket giveaways to organisations that serve families or people with disabilities.
So before we begin, let's open the table to understand what a broad term of disability is, not relying solely on institutional models of accessibility, labels, or harmful clinical stereotypes. For the purpose of this article we will define disability as:
- mobility impairments (congenital, developing, or acquired)
- people of a sensory minority
- people who are neurodivergent, people who experience psychic difference or mental illness
- people with emotional disabilities
- people with chronic illness, chronic fatigue, and/or chronic pain
SENSORY DEPRIVATION AREA
Why its important: It is vital for children with sensory stimulation challenges to feel like they have a safe place to degress from sensory overload. Many parents avoid large events especially if they have children with sensory challenges under the age of 5 because it will be too difficult for them to manage a challenging moment in a large crowd.
How to Create One: You can purchase a large standing tent, metal or wooden shed that can be safely secured into the ground. Even easier yet you can purchase a mobile dream tent which is simply a mini collapsable tent capable of holding one child and has a zipper on the outside for safe exit and entry. A benefit to a dream tent is you can buy a few of them and place them in different areas of the event.
Your tent should be equipped with headphones, a padded area on the floor such as a gymnastics or gym matt. The most important aspect of a deprivation area is the absence of hearing, visual, and touch stimulation. So ensure there are no chairs or lights in the room and that there are no chords present from staging. Place your sensory deprivation room away from the speakers and any noisy areas. Place sound insulation in the inside and outside of the shed as well. This shed should not be able to be locked from the outside or inside in case of an emergency.
Ensure there is a staff present and available to show a family where the sensory deprivation area(s) are, and also add them to your event way-finding map.
SENSORY ACTIVITY TABLES
Why its important: Sensory activities are extremly inclusive activity for children at events regardless of whether or not they have sensory challenges. When considering activities remember you NEVER want to isolate children from others, so planning activities that use the integrative method as much as possible is important.
What type of activities can you do:
Sensory Tubs for Kids
- Dry Pasta.
- Corn Meal.
- Cloud Dough.
- Play Dough.
- Happy Birthday Sensory Tub.
- Treasure Box.
- Dish Soap Foam.
SENSORY TRAINED ENTERTAINERS (CLOWNS/ MASCOTS/ BODY ARTISTS/ DANCE EDUCATORS)
Why its important: Entertaining children and youth is not just about having talent and experience, it is about having an outstanding ability to listen and respond to childrens needs effectivly. Besides having a great personality, it is recommended that you seek Entertainers who have training in disability studies, teaching, or early childhood education. This is because they will have a thorough knowledge base to work from to be fully inclusive at your event.
What you need to do differently or be mindful of when interacting with a child who may have a sensory/ and or physical disability:
Children and youth with sensory sensitivities may respond differently to lights, sounds, textures, and other sensory stimulating anomalies. This is why consent, respect, asking, and listening is very critical when approaching any child at an event. Often parents will not engage with a face painter, mascot, tattoo artist, or balloon artist at an event because they are worried the entertainer will not know how to respond to a sensory over stimulus. These types of situations can be easy to navigate if the entertainer knows how to work with the parent/caregiver when engaging. This goes for adults with sensory challenges as well, respect and dignity in conversation goes a long way. So do not hesitate to ask questions before jumping to conclusions, but be sure to respect every child you interact with by maintaining their dignity AT ALL TIMES. If a parent chooses to dis engage or the child takes longer to adapt to the sensory stimuli be patient, and encourage other guests to do so as well. Meet the child at their level. If that means getting out of your chair, getting on one knee, or sitting in chair, IT DOES NOT MATTER. They are just as important as all other guests at the event, and its NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make them understand that.
Often parents are stressed from waiting in a long line to get to the entertainer so if you see a child in distress, do your best to accommodate them by acknowledging their presence respectfully and asking the parents if there is anything you can help them with.
SENSORY DISTRACTIONS TO BE MINDFUL OF
- Are there alternatives to fluorescent lighting? (Fluorescent lighting is often a major cause for headache, dizziness and other symptoms.)
- Has wifi been banned or restricted in the space? Is there an option for using an ethernet cable access, not full-scale WiFi?
- Are cellphones restricted or banned in the space?
- Can people be asked at events to turn off / airplane mode their cellphones?
- Is there an identifiable, confined WiFi or cellphone zone for checking non emergency messages, making calls, using WiFi laptops, etc.?
- If so, how do people locate these? Are they noted?
- Where are the nearest cell phone towers? See map: www.ertyu.org/steven_nikkel/cancellsites.html
- Is the venue located away from dense wifi hotspots?
- To make your event/venue more EMS accessible: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B81n0augDG8kLXQ4Z2FQcnhxWjA/edit?usp=sharing
PHYSICAL DISABILITY INCLUSIVE GAMES
As the purpose of this article is to provide you with knowledge to get you started, it is important to consider what type of activities you will have available for children with limited to no mobility. This can be accomplished by providing activities that can be done on a table, as well as some that can be done on the grass.
Here are some great games for outdoor fun on grass and cemented areas:
- Ball Tag
- Stealing Sticks
- Catching the Dragon’s Tail
- Protecting Eggs
- Bear Pit
- Insect Soccer
- Fly Casting
- Scavenger Hunt
- Can people hire or borrow a wheelchair or other equipment at the venue? If so, how is this arranged?
- How many do you provide?
Having an ASL Interpreter on site for all music acts whether you are using a DJ, a live Band, Comedian, etc.,should always be worked into your budget. There are several organisations dedicated to helping event planners, and event venues have better access to Interpreters. Better yet! Learn the language. Take courses on it, and encourage your staff to as well. Even if you have only one staff on site at all your events that can Interpret make that a top priority, and ensure you advertise on your event posters that you will have one on site at the reception and/or beverage areas.
You can also purchase or create ASL Language Training Manuals for staff through consultation with disability related organisations.
TABLE ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS WHO ARE DEAF/ HARD OF HEARING
- DIY Moon Sand.
- Sensory Bags.
- Glitter Bottles.
- Sensory Blocks.
- Colored Spaghetti.
- Edible Sensory Balls.
- Wash the Dog.
- Sand & Rock Box.
HOW TO ACCOMMODATE KIDS WHO ARE DEAF/ HARD OF HEARING- VENUE EVALUATION
- Can the speaker be easily heard from any place in room?
- Acoustics check: Clap. Is it free of echos or dead spots?
- For acoustics: is there carpeting, padded tiles, upholstered seats?
- Adjust-able microphones available?
- Can loud fans and other equipment be turned off when not using?
- Can there be unobstructed views for interpretation and lip-reading?
- Can front row seating available to Deaf, HoH, low vision at no extra charge?
- Is that front row seating wheelchair accessible?
- If a mic or lectern is used, can the speaker's mouth be visible for lip reading?
- Infra-Red system?
- FM system?i.e. a personal receiver worn by the person with the hearing loss & a transmitter worn by the speaker. The amplification provided by the person with the hearing loss allows them to participate in a large audience setting as the speech is transmitted directly to the personal receiver blocking out other environmental sounds)
- Are there signs to indicate availability of the system and where it's located?
- Minimal internal noise from heating / cooling systems?
- Limited number of angles/ walls/ pillars to reduce sound bouncing?
- If this is an event, is sign language interpretation provided?
- How is this arranged?
- Free & timely copies of program/ agenda/ speech/ etc available.for interpreters?
- If interpretation isn't covered by the venue/event, can someone bring their interpreter to the event / into the venue free of charge?
- If interpretation can be arranged, is it culturally and otherwise appropriate for the event/venue? Explain.
- Closed Captioning capabilities? Give details.How is this arranged? Is there a fee?
- Are Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) services offered?If so, how is this arranged? Is there a fee?
- Any other services offered for those with barriers to acceding audio?
INCLUSIVE ACTIVITIES FOR THE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED
Why Its Important: The age old mindset that a person who is visually impaired or blind can not see the entertainment there for they can not engage with the event is simply not true. Children who have a visual impairment CAN engage through other sensory stimuli, so planning appropriate Table Activities at your event is a great way to start. Here are some games to get you started:
- Lego card holder perfect for little hands. ...
- Capture the Treasure. ...
- Texture Match Game. ...
- Let's Play Math! ...
- Creating Braille Board Games. ...
- Tactile Bingo. ...
- Braille Literacy Games. ..
But what about their companion if they have one? If a person will be attending with a guide dog it is important to make sure you have the following for them readily available:
- Is water available for guide dogs?
- Is there an area where a guide dog can be toileted?
- Is there a quiet area where a guide dog can rest?
SMOKE FREE/ SCENT FREE AREA- FOR RESPIRATORY CONDITIONS
People who have severe allergies or scent sensitivities from a respiratory condition may be isolated from an events core activities due to people smoking, people wearing strong scents, and general environment pollution triggers. Now although you can not not control all of these elements as an event host, you can have areas with clear signage that states that the area is a smoke free/ scent free area. Better yet! Before the event you can place a blurb on your poster, your venue wall, and event listing requesting that people be mindful of the scents they bring with them.
Ensuring your event venue whether it is outside or inside is free from chemical pollution from cleaning, or dust and mold from not cleaning or environment pollution is really important. Here's how you can access whether or not your venue is doing all it can to ensure its doing as many preventative measure as possible:
- Do you have a policy in place?
- What does it cover? Reduced or free? All events or only some? Etc.Describe:
- In what formats do you provide info on the policy?
- How / is the policy enforced?
- Is the space free from air "fresheners"? If there are "fresheners", can they be moved/ blocked/ removed?
- Is the space free from any other scents? (e.g. incense, sage, paints, etc) If not, can use of those scented products be stopped/ alternated use/ altered?If yes, how can this be arranged?
- Are there air purifiers/filters available for use in the space? How?
- Are animals regularly in the space? If so, what kind?
- Are steps taken to reduce hair, dander, bird dust, etc?
- Are there any areas or times where/when no animals are allowed?
- Is or has mold been a problem in the space?
- If so, describe any efforts to deal with it, and outcomes.
- Is the venue dusty?
- Is regular dusting / vacuuming / filtering / etc done to reduce dust?
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBILITY/ OTHER PHYSICAL CONDITIONS:
Often those who have difficulty standing for short or a long duration of time require seating. It is a general good measure to have seating that is accessible to all. This means grouping the seating so that no one is forced to sit in a high traffic area, or away from people they came with or came to see. They should not be shoved into a corner, or forced to sit in non-designated areas that were never intended to accommodate any guest. Having a light, portable wheelchair, fold up chairs, and even lower-to-the-ground stools are a great place to start.
SAFE TRANSPORTATION/ ACCESSIBLE LOCATIONS
People often dont consider general transportation accessibility and what that entails in terms of cost or reliability of transportation when planning an event. Whether it is a small home bbq childrens birthday party, or a party in a busy area with high amounts of pedestrian traffic, safe transportation should always be considered. Furthermore, the consideration of how a person will get home after a late evening party safely is also another factor that can deter a person with a disability to attend your event.
If a person has to catch several buses, walk or ride through trecherous sidewalks or roads (especially in rainy or winter seasons), or the cost of a cab would be exponential, they may opt out in attending. Emergency/Fire Evacuation Safety for a Person with a Disability is an important consideration EVERY event planner and EVENT VENUE should consider for all events they host.
Tips On How To Ensure Your Guest Has Accessible Safe Transportation To From Your Event
1. Create an accessibility map and post it to your event, even if its hand drawn. This will allow the person to prepare and make independent transportation decisions well in advance.
2. Offer ride-share, or safe transportation options from people you know and trust that does not put a person in a compromising decision, especially later in the evening.
3. Ensure that there is a clear path on the sidewalk or road to get to your event, and provide adequate signage with directions so the do not get lost or stuck in some area.
Evaluate Your Event Signage Accessibility By Asking Yourself These Questions:
- Signage is in a clearly visible location?
- Highly visible w/large, thick lettering 22 size font?
- Non-glare finish so it's easier to read?
- Letters & background high contrast for easier reading?
- Is it in Braile or Tactile?
- At a good height (5’ above floor to centre-line of sign)?
- Can a person approach within 36” of sign without standing within door swing?
- Directional signage large & consistent (colour, height, placement)?
- Well-lit at night?
Public Transportation Analysis
- Transit near accessible entrance? How near?
- Are there curb cuts leading from transit to the venue to ensure those using wheelchairs & others unable to climp a step can access the space?
- Transit accessible? Bus? Train? Other? Route #s and other information
- Bike lockups? Where?
- Are transit tokens available?
Evaluate Your Event Lighting By Asking Yourself These Questions:
- Is lighting even throughout the venue?
- Are there well-lit areas for people who use sign language to lip read and/sign?
- Are any hazards well-lit?
- What kind of lighting: fluorescent, incandescent, halogen etc? Describe
- Can fluorescent lighting be turned off and other lighting used instead?
- Strobe lights restricted, banned or simply not available in the space?
- Are warning signs used if strobe light/ smoke/ explosive sounds are used (as any one of these can pose danger to some?
ACCESSIBLE ROUTE THROUGH VENUE
No guest should have to worry if they will be trapped in your venue in an emergency or is its over crowded. Ensuring they are not locked in a serious situation, and are able to get out of your venue in a timely situation is critical. Often a person who has mobility issues and for example used a wheelchair is one of the last people to leave an event due to the fact that they simply can not get through the crowd. Ensure you have a safe, dignified exit and entry to your venue that is not the back door, or leads them into a over crowded parking lot, or back alley.
Evaluate Your Venue With These Questions
- Is there an at least 48" wide accessible corridor through the venue from the accessible entrance to the bathrooms (to ensure safe passage for those with mobility access barriers to and from washrooms, fire escapes and so on)?
- Is it marked and/or monitored? How? (tape? rope? attendant? etc)
FOOD/ BEVERAGES CONSIDERATIONS
Ask yourself this simple question "If you had to fight through a crowd of people to order food/ drink, or self-serve how likely are you to consider attending the event more than once, or at all? Guests who have a disability should not have to bellow at a hostess to get service, or be forced to wait much longer for service than other guests.
Have common courtesy and ensure that food allergies are made important to your servers and cooks. Have all menus list ingredients and potential allergies. Setting up accommodations in advance can prevent this.Here are some questions to evaluate what you can implement in your food and beverage service:
- Can people have food etc delivered to their table?
- Can people bring their own food & beverages into the venue, if required?
- If food is served, what is the price range?
- Are there a variety of options? Vegan, halal, vegetarian, kosher, gluten free, etc?
- Are common allergens noted?
- Are ingredient lists available?
- Is staff available to clear off the tables?
- Is free water available?
- Service counters (ticket booths, bars, cutlery/condiment stands etc) easily accessed by someone using a wheelchair? I.e. barrier free? Dimensions?
- Automated bank machine buttons < 48"high?
- Enough clearance to access ATM? Things blocking the way?
- Is there a coat check available? What is the cost?
- Is the coat check wheelchair accessible?
- Is the coat check mandatory? For what items?
VENUE SAFETY/ PREVENTING HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS:
With an ever aging population, and many grandparents taking on the lead of helping to raise their grandkids, as well as ever changing family dynamics, now more than ever we must consider all bodies at our events. The best way to ensure the physical safety of those attending your event weather its a winter day, or a rainy afternoon is to evaluate your venue with this quick checklist:
HALLWAYS & FLOORS
- Are hallways 59"w?
- Fire doors have magnetic hold-opens?
- Fire doors clear of obstacles?
- Door edges painted contrasted colour as warning if door is slightly open?
- Carpet tightly woven, non-static, level loop with direct glue-down?
- All floors non-glare?
- All floors non-slip?
- Does it seem like the floor would be easy to move around on?
- Are the halls and common areas free from obstructions? Please detail.
- Are there ramps inside the venue? Where?
- Easy to find / well posted?
- Marked by access sign?
- Gradient no more than 1:12? (less than 1 foot of rise for every 12 feet of ramp)
- Textured, non-slip surface?
- Detectable warning surface so people can prepare for an incline/decline?
- Continuous & sturdy handrails?
- Handrails 36” above ramp? width apart?
- Handrails extend 12” beyond top & bottom of ramp?
- At least 32" from door edge to ramp edge to ensure enough space to open door?
STAIRS & STEPS
- Is the publicly available space stair-free?
- If there are any stairs, how many are there, and where are they? Exact count.
- Is there a ramp nearby? Where is is in relation to the stairs?
- Do the stairs have a non-slip surface?
- Tactile warning strips on stair edges so folks know where a step begins & ends?
- Good lighting?
- Contrast lines on steps (top/bottom yellow, rest white) to indicate start/end?
- Closed risers? (They are safer because they limit chances of tripping)
- Maximum step height 7” & uniform?
- Tread size is at least 11”?
- Suspended stairs have sufficient warning devices (planters or railings)? For example, so folks don't hit their head on the underside.
- Continuous handrails? Height?
- Width between handrails. Can you grasp both securely going up/down the stairs?
- Rails extend 12” past top riser & bottom tread to assist past the last/first step?
- Handrails 1 ¼” to 1 ½” in diameter & easy to grasp?
- Handrails in contrasting colour for better visibility?
Most venues realize the importance of having a fire evacuation procedure posted on the walls of their business for the public to view, and have trained their staff in it as well. Unfortunately, many venues or event planners have not considered how they will provide an inclusive fire evacuation procedure for their guests with sensory challenges or physical disabilities.
Creating informational videos, and pictures that you post online to your event page or website should be done before the event. Whether it is a staff walking through your venue recording the step by step fire evacuation procedure to create an informational video, or pictures/ pdf of the fire evacuation procedure, both should be considered a must.
Here is an evaluation to see how inclusive your Fire/ Emergency Evacuation plan is:
- Emergency evacuation plan posted?
- Does it fit requirements for accessible signage?
- Audible alarm signals?
- Visible alarm signals? flashes <5 flashes/second?
- Refuge area available, or accessible exit doors?
- Fire alarms within reach (5’ from floor)?
- Emergency doors clearly marked?
- Fire extinguishers? How far from ground?
- Sprinkler system?
- Smoke detectors?
- Is there a first aid kit anywhere? Where? Is it accessible?
SETTING GROUND RULES
Let your guests or people who intend on coming know that oppressive behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Post this in any advertising materials and at the party itself. Make sure that you and your team have an agreed upon protocol for how to respond to any given situation. And apply those rules towards yourself – and the organization of the party. Bullying should never be okay at any event. Even simple actions like a person refusing to wait for a person who uses a wheelchair to go through the door. Often large events bring about a chaotic mess of people stepping on each others boundaries that can be very over whelming for a person with a sensory or physical disability. Being able to de escalate the situation in a dignified, and timely fashion can not be overstated.
I do fully believe that every entertainer and event host should equip themselves with a basic minimum ASL courses, and training in sensory and physical disabilities. We need to realize that it is just as important as learning about culture and being cross-culturally inclusive at our events. Isolation of vulnerable groups in social gatherings isone of the largest reasons why vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities face depression. It is our duty as event planners and entertainers to provide a safe, inclusive environment for all our guests, as all humans were created equal.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have staff undertaken any disability awareness trainings?
- Staff have experience assisting people w/a range of disabilities &/or needs? If so, are staff available to provide assistance to patrons?
- Do any staff members have sign language skills?
- Is there a staff member with responsibility for access or for patrons with a disability? Who? Provide contact info.
- Are people encouraged & enabled to discuss issues around accessibility & ableism in the space? How?
- Are conversations currently underway re: increasing access & awareness?
- Is there currently an anti-oppression or human rights policy in place?
FINDING INFO ABOUT THE SPACE / EVENT
And, finally, how does a potential guest/ patron find information about how inclusive your event is. Here are some questions you should answer:
- Is information about the venue & event available in a range of formats (e.g. Printed material, large print, audio, website)? Which formats are used?
- Is information about goods and services (programs and menus) available in a range of formats? Which formats?
- Is printed information easy to read?
- Is information available in multiple languages? Describe.
- How are multiple formats/ languages accessed?
- Is accessibility information posted online & in promotional material? Specify.
For a more thorough evaluation of your venue's accessibility please see enclosed google doc: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1HKw_g2NDxoZAc7otQUOlEq17CZskLK7EB5afDYHmt1E/edit#gid=0'
Remember, nothing beats politely asking someone what accommodations they need.See a need, fill a need. If ever in doubt ask questions, seek answers, and do your best to accommodate.
DID YOU KNOW DDSP EDUCATORS & ENTERTAINERS ARE TRAINED TO BE DISABILITY INCLUSIVE?
To book one our Educators to teach or entertain at your next event, please contact us more more information.