Seizing Opportunities: Bringing Invisible Disabilities into the Light
12th November 2019
In the UK, there are approximately 13.9 million people living with a disability, however only 8% of this figure use a wheelchair. Awareness of invisible disabilities is suddenly coming to the forefront of society’s view, and the impact of this is starting to be seen in all areas of general life. How can you, as an event manager, encourage this transition?
Credit: C. Bushell
This change is being fostered from the significant headway that has been made in legislation for people with invisible disabilities. On the 30th August 2019, the blue badge government scheme expanded to incorporate people with less visible disabilities in order to allow for more accessible transport. This is the largest change to affect the blue badge scheme in 50 years. As fundamental steps have already been taken within the events industry to make our experiences more accessible to those with disabilities, we now have the opportunity to expand upon this.
A major advantage that event managers have is the flexible nature that events provide, and this can allow you to reach for that pre-eminent position within the changes in society. This encompasses developments in technology, cultural and social trends, political issues and legislation. This diligence to the needs of your consumers can mean the difference between success or failure.
How is this legislation affecting the UK?
Following this change in legislation, organisations and industries all over the nation are striving to adapt their products and services to make improvements for their consumers with invisible disabilities. In order to comply with the 2010 Equality Act, it is a legal requirement to ensure that all events are accessible to all members of society. Consideration therefore needs to be taken to allow attendees, staff and suppliers to participate and work within events. Without this accessibility and keeping up to date with best practises, legal action for discrimination could be pursued towards the venue or event organisation.
Action already being taken.
All over the UK, organisations are working hard to adapt their products and services to make them more accessible to those with invisible disabilities, and now new ideas are flooding in. Predominantly, these changes are occurring in the retail and transport sectors with many tourist attractions beginning to follow suit.
- Sunflower Lanyards have been introduced in the transport and retail sector. Places such as Heathrow Airport and Sainsbury’s have adopted these to discretely indicate the wearer may need additional support due to an invisible disability.
- Inclusive/Quiet Hours are now a weekly occurrence at places such as Morrisons. During this dedicated time, music is switched off, use of the tannoy is avoided and check out beeps are turned down.
- Sensory facilities away from crowds have been introduced at Legoland, the first dedicated facility of its kind in a theme park, providing a calming environment for guests who require some quiet time away from crowds and loud noises.
What action can the events industry take?
This is an opportunity for event managers to step up and draw upon the action that was taken in the retail and transport sectors to accommodate invisible disabilities.
- Staff training is crucial to ensure the correct care and confident understanding of how to support invisible disabilities. This could be from awareness training to specialist training.
- This could include having specialist marshals who are dedicated to the requirements and needs of this group of people. These staff members should be easily identifiable and easy to locate.
- Accessibility services such as the sunflower lanyards, quiet hours or sensory facilities can also be applied at many events and within venues.
- Marketing material should be as clear and accurate as possible to allow for customers to have as much information as possible before the event. Additionally, this may give confidence to people with invisible disabilities and encourage them to attend.
- Advance information on directions and facilities to be provided considerably before the event.
- Risk assessments must be inclusive of understanding the needs of those with invisible disabilities.
This should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a challenge and will allow for your business to expand even further. By adopting some of the above suggestions, we can reach a whole new audience.
Credit: C. Bushell
Please let us know in the comments your thoughts, as well as any positive or negative experiences you have already had at events.