12/10/16

IS THE EVENTS INDUSTRY ACCESSIBLE TO ALL?

The heading of this post "Is the Events industry accessible to all?" reflects the continuing lack of access in general to the range of events one can attend including exhibitions, meetings, shows, theatre productions, etc if disabled. Organisations within the MICE industry as it is commonly refered to consistently offer only the most basic of facilities to the disabled, if any are offered at all that is, without it seems reference to their legal obligations (venues it has to be noted are also failing in far too many instances to engage in compliance practices). This is not only short sighted but a situation that ignores the huge commercial gains to be made by engaging with the disabled market.

Quite why the MICE industry is dragging it's collective heels in addressing the needs of attendees and delegates with disabilities is difficult to fathom or understand as the industry collectively is missing out on the spending power of potentially thousands of disabled business people and for events open to the general public the spending power of millions of disabled people.

Between the EU and the USA there are effectively 300 million registered disabled adults with differing levels of spending power, if only 1% are business people they represent buyers with a fair chunk of change to spend!

It was therefore refreshing to attend once more, as a supplier of accessible services, to the Barcelona based Event, IBTM World which each year seeks to improve access for all. This excellent Event is succeeding with an annual increase in the numbers of disabled business people attending and they are doing so because it is accessible. Sadly IBTM is an oasis operating in a desert of events that make no effort to engage with disabled buyers.

Surely the adoption of Universal Design concepts at even a basic level such as building each exhibition base with a ramp as standard to enable access to any and all exhibitors stands is not beyond those in the MICE industry, ditto the adoption of accessible websites (a legal requirement in many countries) is long overdue (those without accessible sites should be worried if regulators start to get tough and crack down first on major corporations before moving onto SMEs for not being compliant).

Having spoken many times with industry bodies that organisations are members of in the MICE industry about this situation I am disappointed at the general lack of interest in bringing members attention to the possibilities offered by engaging with the disabled. There have been exceptions with IAPCO being very active in promoting access and inclusiveness and Eventbrite also have published articles on this topic including a useful Guide based on the USA ADA legislation.

The MICE industry as with the Leisure industry has a long way to go before the blinkers are removed and they see the possibilities of engaging with the disabled.