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Venue accessibility

New Zealand Standard 4121 sets out the accessibility requirements for many public buildings. It is a useful resource to help understand accessibility requirements for a venue and when looking to confirm if a venue meets these requirements.

Some key points to consider when choosing a venue are as follows.

  • When planning events with an open invitation, ensure the venue is accessible for all people with disabilities.
  • Often an accessible venue uses the International Symbol of Access (the symbol of a person in a wheelchair) to indicate that it meets this standard and can be used by people with disabilities (not just by people who use wheelchairs).
  • Allow time to secure an accessible venue for your engagement. Before you book a venue, visit it to ensure that it meets the needs of your intended participants. If you are unsure, consult intended participants themselves.
  • Consider availability and cost of transport to and from the venue. Venues should be accessible by public transport. Provide directions and transport information. This is likely to include public transport options, the availability of mobility/accessible parking and kerb ramps, and whether there is a telephone in the venue for ringing taxis. It may be appropriate to organise accessible transport if several people require it.
  • Check whether venue, the toilets and the dining areas, are wheelchair accessible.
  • Ideally, door widths should be 850 mm, to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and should be easy to open. Doors should be light, preferably sliding, and with low door handles. If doors are difficult to open, consider having someone to assist people to open them.
  • Plan and communicate emergency evacuation procedures. Ask people if they require assistance in an emergency, and be prepared to provide the necessary support. Note how many people indicated that they would require such assistance, and make sure you have a plan to provide it to everybody.
  • Ideally, if there are stairs at the venue they should have handrails.
  • Check the venue has toilets that are able to be accessed by people using wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Note toilets are not accessible if they are up or down a flight of stairs.
  • Preferably, the venue should include a lawn area for guide or assistance dogs, or one should be available close enough that the handler can safely toilet their dogs.
  • Ideally, the venue should have high-contrast signage on entries, exits, and toilet facilities for people with vision impairments. The signs should include pictures, as well as text, for people who find reading difficult.
  • Make sure the venue has appropriate lighting for people with vision impairments and for users of New Zealand Sign Language. Sign language interpreters need to be well positioned, so that their face, hands and body can be easily seen. Reserve seats opposite the sign language interpreter(s) for Deaf people. Ensure there are no barriers, such as poles, that may obstruct the Deaf person’s view of the interpreters.
  • Many people who use wheelchairs prefer to sit at tables in meetings.
  • Check the venue has sufficient space for people using wheelchairs and mobility scooters to enter, exit and circulate easily. Ideally, hallways should be able to accommodate 2 people using wheelchairs side by side.
  • Check whether the venue has a hearing loop; if not, consider hiring one. Set it up in advance, and test it before the event to ensure it is functioning.
  • Some people with disabilities use electronic equipment such as laptops and tablets for communication, and will need access to a multi-plug power outlet.
  • Provide participants with the name of a contact person (and their phone number and email address) who will be available to answer questions or address issues on the day.
  • There may be people unable to attend a venue regardless of its level of accessibility. In this case, consider using teleconferencing facilities. Bear in mind that teleconferences do not work well for people with learning/intellectual disabilities and Deaf people, and do not work at all for people who use hearing loops.
  • If you are planning a standing-only event, provide some seating for those who may require it.
  • Consider how to accommodate people who benefit from a quiet space free from a lot of people and noise.
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