Choosing a venue

Physical accessibility of a venue is crucial for inclusion of persons with disabilities. Establishments in India are obliged to make their premises accessible in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016)2. When we say a venue has 'barrier-free' entry, what we mean is that there are no obstacles such as steps, debris and uneven surfaces that come in the way of a person accessing a particular space. In the experience of many people who have organized inclusive events, asking someone whether a venue is accessible and actually visiting it and seeing it for yourself may be two very different experiences. The question for evaluating accessibility should not be, "Can we get someone with a wheelchair inside the venue?" because many wheelchair users do not feel comfortable being physically lifted or carried by other people. The question to pose is, "Can a wheelchair user enter the area with minimum effort and assistance?" The best way to verify accessibility of a place is through the engagement of an access auditor or accessibility consultant. The Government of India has recently approved of a list of auditors as part of their Accessible India Campaign that you can find here3.

Do: Make a visit and examine all the areas of the venue that you think will be accessed by participants to your event, possibly with a person who has a locomotor impairment.

Don't: Rely on the opinion of an unknown person or the management of a venue about its accessibility.

Budget for: costs for an accessibility audit, including travel to and from the venues.

When an entrance is slightly elevated, a temporary ramp does a good job of making the premises barrier-free. Note, however, that all ramps are not created equal. The Americans with Disabilities Act recommends a 1:12 slope, which means that every 1 inch of vertical rise requires at least 1 foot (12 inches) of ramp length, or in other words, 5 degrees of incline4. T his is necessary in order to keep the ramp from being excessively steep and thus laborious to navigate. The owners of the venue should be able to do this for you, failing which you can look for options to rent a temporary ramp.

Budget for: renting an accessible ramp5.

Bathrooms

It is really important that bathrooms are accessible for persons with disabilities. Many persons with disabilities have conditions that cause them to use the bathroom frequently and they are unable to 'hold it in' for long periods of time, say, until they reach home. Inaccessibility of accessible bathrooms lead to a host of other health issues such as urinary tract infections. It is important that the bathrooms are clean and dry as many persons with disabilities may find a slippery floor inaccessible. An accessibility consultant should be able to verify the accessibility of the bathroom.

Even if the bathroom is not fully accessible, have a talk with the management of the venue about attaching a grab bar in at least one toilet stall in each bathroom and ensure a relatively slip-free environment6. This is also useful for the elderly who may be attending the event.

Do: Many venues are not averse to making their premises accessible, but they have no idea how to do it. Providing the venue management with accessibility standards and guidance may result in positive changes. If you have a sufficient amount of time before your event takes place, then the management can affect these changes in time to benefit your participants.

Don't: Encourage the venue management to start construction work towards accessibility if your event is coming up soon. In the event of incomplete work, the debris and construction material will pose a greater barrier for persons with disabilities who may attend your event.

[ Editor's note: One or more steps are usually constructed at the entrance of most Indian bathrooms, which makes it impossible for wheelchair users to enter them. This small but crucial detail makes a big difference in their lives: Some are unable to take up employment, some avoid going to events altogether. Considering the state of sanitation facilities and practices in India, this is often an overlooked aspect.]

next: Travel to and from the venue