Ease of access is important to consider on many levels. You want to be sure everyone can attend your event. Consider whether your attendees, volunteers and presenters are likely to be driving or using public transportation to get to the venue. In larger metropolitan areas or in a community made up of several cities, try to choose a location that is central to the majority of people.
Depending on the length of your event, it is important to consider access to food and beverage throughout the day. Celebrations often provide a lunch break of an hour or more so people can eat, have time to talk, and meet new people. Ensure the venue has space for people to comfortably eat lunch and carry on conversation.
Additionally, some location organizers cover the cost of lunch for their attendees and others do not. If you do not plan to pay for lunch, consider the following when selecting a venue:
Ensure there is access to restaurants within a 5 minute walking distance of the celebration. You may want to speak with local restaurants to see if they would consider providing a coupon as an incentive to your attendees.
Consider bringing food trucks on-site ensuring there is enough space for attendees to easily access them.
TIP: If you do not plan to cover the cost of lunch for attendees, it is customary in most situations to cover the cost of lunch for volunteers, presenters and sometimes sponsors.
To hold a celebration that anyone can attend, it is important to select a venue that is accessible. Below, Whitney Quesenbery, Director of Accessibility for World IA Day [2015 & 2016] shares some advice and resources to help ensure your event is inclusive to all.
Think about whether a venue will have enough parking and whether it will impose an additional cost to your attendees, volunteers and presenters. Be sure to also consider public transportation too, because people with disabilities may not drive. Being aware of construction projects that may impact the use of sidewalks, public transportation, or roads is another important factor to consider.
Look to see whether a person using a wheelchair can easily navigate to the entrance and enter the building. If the main entrance is not accessible, make sure there are clear signs posted, or at least space to post your own, to help provide directional guidance to the building entrance for your attendees, volunteers and presenters.
Check the path from the entrance to the gathering spaces used for your celebration. Look for good directional signs, ideally with Braille labels, that clearly mark pathways to gathering areas, elevators and stairs and bathrooms. If you determine the venue is ideal but the signage is not, plan to create your own directional signs and place volunteers at crossroads to help direct people.
Check the restrooms near the areas of the venue that will be used and make sure they are accessible. If they are on a different floor or a long way away, check for directional guidance, as you did with the building entrance, and plan for signage or volunteers to direct people.
The National Federation of the Blind has directions that include great instructions for someone coming to a new place for the first time. The details are tailored for the blind, but are helpful for everyone. It is a good model for your crafting directions, covering driving, cabs, and public transportation.
The ACM SIG-ACCESS Accessible Conference Guide covers all aspects of event planning, based on their experience running an annual conference for about 130 people that is attended by people with disabilities. In a typical year, there might be attendees who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or hard of hearing, use a power wheelchair or an electric scooter, have limited dexterity, and limited mobility. ASSETS strives to create an environment in which all attendees can participate and socialize together.
As you might expect from lawyers, the Accessible Meetings Toolkit (pdf) from the American Bar Association covers requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but they are relevant everywhere.