Making your trade show accessible to those with disabilities

In the U.S., there are approximately 36 million people who have at least one disability, equating to 12 percent of the total U.S. population, and many of those 36 million have multiple disabilities. Nearly 19.4 million are unable to walk or climb stairs, 13.5 million have a cognitive disability, 10.2 million have difficulty hearing and 6.5 million are visually impaired.

When planning a trade show, it’s best to be inclusive to ensure your event is accessible and beneficial to all who attend. For some simple-to-follow best practices on providing better accessibility to those with disabilities, keep reading.

  • Consider print alternatives: Consider offering printed materials or handouts in large print or on USBs for those with visual impairments. Or, offer a magnifier that can double as your giveaway. And, depending on your audience, it may be worthwhile to look into having documents translated into Braille. The National Federation of the Blind’s resource list for Braille transcription can help.
  • Determine the need for assistive-listening devices: To be inclusive of those who are hearing impaired, you may want to budget for assistive-listening devices to enhance sound and/or a qualified sign-language interpreter. Offer printed copies of your PowerPoint® presentations and, if displaying on a handheld device, use amplifiers to enhance sound. They make great giveaways, too.
  • Check for wheelchair accessibility: Many people think this is a given as most public spaces in the U.S. conform to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, it never hurts to double check that meeting rooms, booth tables, refreshment areas and restrooms are accessible. And don’t forget about accommodations for service animals—ensure fresh water and an outdoor area for potty breaks are accessible as well. Giveaways such as a Collapsible Pet Bowl or #2 Bag Dispenser are a great way to show you’re service-animal friendly.
  • Ask: Although following best practice guidelines is a great start toward catering to those with disabilities, it is impossible to predict in advance the needs of all attendees. The most reliable way to make sure you don’t leave anyone out is to ask. A simple statement, such as “If you have a disability and require any accommodations, please contact <insert contact name and contact information>,” printed on promotional flyers and posters, included in emails and on your website can help.

Remember, following these simple guidelines can help provide greater accessibility and benefits for attendees with disabilities. These simple tips help ensure more people can and will visit your booth.

“Latest U.S. Disability Statistics and Facts.” Disabled World. N.p., 06 July 2011. Web. Retrieved 06 Apr. 2014.

“10 steps for making your meeting accessible.” IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Apr. 2014.

“Planning Accessible Meetings and Events Minimize Surprises – Plan Ahead.” ADA Accessible Meetings. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Apr. 2014.

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