Conferences

It is good to follow the same Listen Include Respect guidelines for meetings when you are planning a conference. 

However, there are some extra things to think about when planning larger meetings. 

A tickbox next to a man with an intellectual disability sharing his ideas
An arrow point from money to a woman, more arrows pointing from the woman to a ticket, bed and a bus
A tick next to a sandwich and a cup of coffee
Conference invitations with arrows pointing to the map, food, ramp and signpost pictures
A map
A tick next to a woman in a wheelchair using a ramp and a building with a sign
A cross next to an email, a tick next to a phone
A cross next to a credit card, a tick next to cash
A group of people talking together, another group sitting together
A clock next to a sandwich and a cup of coffee
Two people talking and sharing ideas
A person explaining to someone about the meeting participants
A person running training about disability discrimination
An agenda with an arrow pointing to two weeks before a meeting on a calendar
A man handing tickets to a person with a disability and her support person
A tick next to laptops with search and read aloud functions
A person with a disability sat in a meeting, remembering someone explaining the agenda to her
A bus, a train and a map next to a sign pointing to a building
A sign pointing to a building
A tickbox next to a woman in a wheelchair using a ramp
A woman pointing at flipchart with CRPD written on it
A tickbox next to a man with an intellectual disability sharing his ideas
A cross next to a man speaking very fast, a tick next to a man speaking slowly
A confused woman next to a man speaking, a happy woman next to a man sharing examples
Three people doing a craft activity
A man checking that a group understands while doing a presentation
A man and a woman introducing themselves
A feedback survey

1

Make your planning committee inclusive.

 

The best way to make sure that your meeting or conference will be accessible is to include someone with an intellectual disability on your planning committee. 

 

When planning conferences and large meetings, organisations should ask people with intellectual disabilities about the barriers they face and listen to their recommendations.

2

Attending conferences can be expensive. This is a barrier for people with intellectual disabilities. 

 

Plan to pay for costs such as registration fees, data for online meetings or travel and hotel costs for in-person meetings for participants who need it.

 

Support people should also always take part in conferences for free.

3

Check the conference invitation is accessible.

 

Make sure it is short and easy to understand. It should  include: 

  • the purpose of the event and the key topics that will be discussed

  • the registration information

  • any costs that participants will need to pay for themselves

  • if refreshments or meals are included 

  • venue and location

  • accessibility information, for example does the building have ramp, or clear signs to follow?

  • travel and accommodation information 

4

Communicate well.

 

Make sure any communication about the event is clear, short and accessible.

 

Think about other ways to share the meeting invitation, for example through other organisations. 
 

5

Keep registration simple

 

Provide alternatives to online registration in case people can’t access technology.

For example, phone call registration.

Provide alternatives to online payment, for example paying cash on arrival.

6

Plan an inclusive agenda.

 

Allow time for each agenda item or session. Build-in breaks and time to speak with other participants.

 

Make sure there are: 

  • short sessions, no longer than 2 hours

  • regular breaks

  • if sessions are in different rooms, enough time to move between sessions

  • small group discussions and other interesting activities 

  • opportunities for people to get to know each other

7

At large conferences, people with intellectual disabilities can experience discrimination from other participants or venue staff. ​

Make sure all other participants understand that your conference is inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities. 

 

You can plan an accessible event but if other participants exclude people with intellectual disabilities during the conference it is not inclusive.  

 

Role modelling inclusion and accessibility will help other people taking part in the conference understand they must respect the participation of people with intellectual disabilities.

8

Share information in advance to help people plan their time and understand what will happen.

 

Provide information in an accessible format, at least two weeks in advance. This should include:

  • an agenda,

  • information about public transport to the conference venue

  • speaker information, 

  • an easy to understand map of the venue

  •  some guiding questions that people should think about before different sessions. 

9

Involve support people or personal assistants.

 

Check during the registration process if anyone attending needs a support person.

 

Support people should receive all the same  information as the participant.

 

Support people should not have to pay to attend a conference.

 

10

Think about accessibility and technology needs if your conference is happening online. 

Take a look at our online meetings section for more guidance. 

11

Offer a pre-meeting before the conference  to help people to go through the agenda and understand what the meeting is about.

 

Have a contact person available if people have questions before the meeting.

12

Consider transport to the conference venue,  including public transport.

 

Share easy-to-follow maps,  put up temporary signs that point to the venue or share videos showing routes. 

13

Check physical accessibility of your venue.

 

People with intellectual disabilities may also have physical accessibility requirements.

14

Train the conference venue staff to make sure they are respectful of people with intellectual disabilities.

 

Awareness training led by people with intellectual disabilities works best, and training should always be based on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

 

Organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) representing people with intellectual disabilities and their families can help with training.

15

Include speakers or facilitators with intellectual disabilities to model inclusion at the event.

 

Make sure they have good support and enough time to prepare - ask speakers at least one month in advance.

16

Guide speakers and facilitators on being inclusive. 

Often during conferences, speakers do not use accessible language and information can be presented in complicated ways 

 

You can offer to train speakers or share a speaker brief. This should be done well in advance - if you wait until close to the conference to brief speakers, they may have already made their presentations in a non-inclusive way.

 

The brief or training should be making sure presenters are:

  • using clear, everyday language and avoiding jargon and acronyms

  • speaking slowly and sticking to time, including not running into break time 

  • making information like PowerPoint slides clear and easy to understand 

  • explaining difficult information with stories and examples 

  • including small group discussions or activities to give people space to ask questions and share their ideas. Activities involving stories, art or role-plays can be helpful. 

  • checking in with the audience to make sure they understand 

  • leaving time for questions and for support people to explain ideas or discuss difficult information.

17

Make sure there is always a place to go for help or a clear person to ask for help during your conference.

18

At the end of your conference make sure there is a way to give feedback.

 

For example through an accessible feedback survey or a feedback session. 

Useful resources

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Example of a Plain Language Agenda

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Example of an Easy Read Prep Document

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Example of briefing for chairperson