Disability and inclusion in meetings and events

inclusion disability inclusive online events

I had planned a different topic for this month`s blog post for eventprofs, but I changed my mind for two reasons. I would like to talk about disability and inclusion in the MICE industry. How meetings and events (online, virtual, online and in reality) can be more inclusive for people with disabilities. But let`s start with these two reasons.

Summer Paralympic Games and #WeThe15 campaign

Firstly because of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games (24 August to 5 September 2021) taking place in Tokyo. This is another global sporting event that allows you to think about a return to pocovid “normality”. Poland is represented in Japan by 89 male and female athletes. So far, Polish Paralympians have won 19 medals – 3 gold, 6 silver and 10 bronze and have brought us touching moments and reasons to be proud.

What all athletes and disabled people have in common, however, is the great achievement of fighting their limitations and weaknesses every day. According to various data and accepted criteria, there are between 4.9 and 7.7 million disabled people in Poland. (Poland has 38 million inhabitants).

disability in sport

The #WeThe15 campaign is worth mentioning at this point. People with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population. In what we do in our MICE industry we too can break down the barriers that divide us. I encourage you to watch the video on the official channel of the International Paralympic Committee.

Read also on my blog: 

Hear me, see me, include me

The second reason was to watch the film Hear Me, See Me, Include Me. Ever since I first saw it I can’t stop thinking about it. The author of the film is Megan Strahle, who has worked in the MICE industry for many years and has a special interest in sustainable events (sustainability in the meetings industry). I had the opportunity to work with Megan in one of our projects, but it was only after watching the material she prepared that I understood how important her voice is. I don’t want to summarise the whole video and encourage you to watch it yourself, but I would like to point out a few things that particularly caught my attention.

In her video Megan talks about invisible disabilities. Why is it important? Some invisible disabilities at first can lead to misunderstandings, negative perceptions or judgments of a person. Just because a disability is not visible does not mean it is not there. Some of the examples of invisible disabilities are:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Brain injuries
    Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Find out more one The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) website.

As Megan says, people with disabilities face new limitations in this pandemic era. We all know that when meeting online, the element of human contact is missing. Networking on Zoom, online seminars, virtual trade shows and conferences, hybrid conventions have opened up new opportunities to participate in global events, but have also paradoxically created new barriers for people with disabilities.

Hearing isn’t just what happens, hearing is something I have to work on.

inclusive online events invisible disabilities

For example, listening and hearing. This was particularly memorable for me. “Listening isn’t just an activity, hearing is something I have to work on,” says Megan. You have to be able to see persons speaking and, in addition, read their lips. Unfortunately, wearing masks also made it impossible to receive the content correctly.

This could be done bettter

The Zoom and Clubhouse apps are two examples of how certain things could be improved for disabled people. Zoom did not have free subtitles for app users, unlike the Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Skype platforms. It wasn’t until a class action lawsuit by hearing impaired people that a significant change was made. Find out more The problem with zoom adding free captions.

In the video, the author shares tips on how to improve the organisation of events in closed spaces and online events. Additionally, you can find out what employers can do to make work easier for disabled employees and improve communication. Everyone wants to be part of groups, society and events of all kinds. And these rights should not be taken away.

Let`s ask ourselves these questions:

  • How can meetings be more inclusive for people with disabilities?
  • Why are inclusive meetings important?
  • How to prepare and run inclusive online events and virtual meetings?

A very good example of how to prepare a virtual event taking into account the needs of people with disabilities was TEDx London Women`s Event 2021.

Summary for eventprofs

Are there more important challenges for the MICE industry in the coming months and upcoming planned real, hybrid and virtual events? Possibly, yes. Can we also take into account needs & expectations of people with disabilities to make these events more welcoming and accessible to a wider audience? It seems to me that yes.

Let us all think about what we can change and improve in the events we organise. Sometimes you really don’t need much. It starts with being aware and listening to the suggestions of people with disabilities. Let’s start by spending 30 minutes watching the film Hear Me, See Me, Include Me. You can also ask Meg directly, she works now as Assistant Sustainability Advisor at The Bulb.

mice industry can be more inclusive

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