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I wrote before about the things I wanted to see at WordCamp US 2023, and a better accessible venue was one of my top concerns. After reading about what happened with Michelle Frechette in her post, “5 Days Without a Shower “ I was mortified at the lack of accessibility of the host hotel. I know that the WordPress community has a strong commitment to making the web and the world more accessible and I am happy that swift action was taken. The WordPress accessibility team released updated handbook guidelines that included a new checklist for venues last week. This list seeks to prevent further incidents at future WordCamps that may be a barrier to accessibility.
What does it include?
There are seven major things to access when searching for a conference/hotel block:
(This information is taken directly from the checklist on make.wordpress.org all credit goes to Joe Simpson Jr. for this excellent checklist and guide.)
Building entrances are expected to be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair/scooter/mobility aid and have a power assist feature that allows easier access to the buildings. This ensures that those that are using mobility aids do not have to wait for help to get into and out of buildings. This is better for fire/emergency evacuation safety as well.
Tracks/rooms for speaker presentations
A ramp should be offered for those who use mobility aids to access the presentation stage. The rooms like the entrances should also be wide enough for people to turn around using their mobility aids and should have spots if possible for storage/parking of those aids. The rooms sound should be tested in advance to ensure a clear view and sound of the speaker. This helps those who may be visually and hearing impaired.
Restrooms should have accessible washrooms with wide entrances and stalls. They should also be close to the meeting and dining areas and be able to accommodate a large number of people. Having these options is great, but we also want to ensure there are enough for everyone who needs them.
They should be near the main rooms and have accessible washrooms (wide entrances and stalls). This ensures that people are able to access and locate them with ease.
Registration, Sponsor Halls, Hallway Tracks or event gathering areas, and pathways.
These areas usually have the most traffic at any given time during a conference and should be wide, and barrier-free. Things that may hinder access like sudden changes in floor level should be avoided. Elevators should also be provided if there are multiple floors that must be traveled.
Signage and wayfaring
There should be an accessible large-format floor plan and visible event signs. Maps should have clear directions and be simple for important information.
Tour the venue with someone with a disability
The most important part of the checklist to me is touring the venue with someone with a disability if possible. We can have the best intentions and even have disabled friends and family whom we assist. We still do not see and traverse the world as they do, so their input should be front and focused when trying to make things more accessible. If you do not personally know any people that can help you at the time, there’s also the option of using meetup to find local accessibility groups that may be willing to help you. They may even already have a list of places that have been used/are great recommendations.
A major win
This detailed checklist is a great win for accessibility in our community and will be a great help to us all. Not only should it be used for WordPress events but extended into our daily lives as well. Imagine what we would be able to accomplish if people applied these limitations to all businesses and gave money to those who ensured equal access. There is no doubt in my mind that many more would follow suit. No matter if it is weddings, baby showers, or parties, we should all want our special events to include all our loved ones no matter what. I am glad to see this major win because the more accessible the world is, the better it is for everyone.
(If you would like to find out more about the WP accessibility community, attend WP Accessibility Day November 2-3, 2022)