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Even More Accessible: Making Venues More ADA Compliant

Even More Accessible: Making Venues More ADA Compliant

Even More Accessible: Joan Eisenstodt, a Respected Industry Consultant with Personal and Professional Interest in Accessible Meetings, On Making Venues More ADA Compliant

In our Spring Issue, we featured a story about making venues accessible for all, and paying witness to the fact that many colleges and universities are ahead of the curve in surpassing ADA guidelines to meet the needs of all attendees. One of our readers and colleagues, Joan Eisenstodt, Principal of Eisenstodt’s Associates LLC., had even more great feedback on this topic that we wanted to share with you.

“I am grateful to Unique Venues and those who are quoted in the article for bringing this forward. As a person with a mobility disability, I was pleased to see the progress being made at some venues - mainly on university campuses. Because I conduct sessions for those in hospitality (and in fact will do a session for the Central Florida SGMP Chapter in July - conference details to soon be on their site - about making meetings and facilities more accessible…beyond the ADA) industry, a few points to consider: 

- Language: None of us believe we have an 'impairment'. The language we choose to use and to use about people makes a big difference in perception and treatment. There are many resources, among them this

- Rather than focusing on statistics of what is believed to be the percentage of people with disabilities, a better way to think is that everyone is temporarily abled. Think of it: you are on your way to a conference and you slip and fall in the airport and at the least, find yourself with an injury that won't send you home or even put you in a cast but may cause you discomfort enough that a wheelchair or crutches to manage the conference is helpful. You learn when you arrive that the facility no longer has wheelchairs -- something I've found with many hotels and conference centers - and you need to rent one or a scooter. If you're with a UV member, have at the ready a list of providers or use Scoot-A-Round

- If you've not done so, conduct a site inspection of your facility using a wheelchair or mobility device, on crutches, wearing an eye patch or earplugs. Learn where the obstacles exist and how to work around them. (This is part of the program for SGMP. If you attend, volunteer to be part of this!) Take customers on a tour in the same way because even if they say no one in our group has a disability, as you learned above, it could happen or someone may not be willing to acknowledge that they have low vision or are hard of hearing. Consider especially restrooms - I've found that those with wheelchair symbols may have wider stalls but are not easy to get into our out of the restroom itself because doors have no auto openers or there isn't room to turn around once in.
- Teach classes in ASL to all staff. It's pure joy to know even the rudimentary language to communicate with guests who are Deaf.

- Learn more about what people on the Autism spectrum need and with what they are uncomfortable. I'm fortunate to have a friend who is helping me understand more for use at conferences.

- Use the US DoJ ADA website and hotline if you're unsure. And as the article stated, go way beyond. Become really accessible and inclusive. It's morally and bottom-line smart!

Years ago, when the ADA was first passed, I was fortunate to represent Meeting Professionals International on the Convention Industry Council (now Events Industry Council) Board when Cricket Park, who was then with AHEAD, spoke to us. Cricket, now an Episcopal Priest in Bethesda, Maryland, was one of the very few people knowledgeable about the ADA. She spoke to us and explained all the issues. Sadly, the hospitality industry seems to not want to do enough to be fully accessible. Airports and airlines, because the laws governing those are not the ADA, are some of the worst and most frustrating places. Know enough to help your customers.

And let's keep at this!"

Joan Eisenstodt 
Principal of Eisenstodt’s Associates LLC., is a Meetings Industry & Hospitality Consultant, Facilitator, and Trainer.

During this global pandemic, the team at Unique Venues has been working to serve our industry planners and venues with free resources including roundtables, webinars, and workshops. You can visit our COVID-19 Resources page to learn about our upcoming programs this month and next that you may be interested in registering for. Be sure to follow Unique Venues on Facebook (@uniquevenues) and be on the lookout for Facebook Live sessions from Unique Venues CEO, Chuck Salem who will be providing tips and trends for weathering the storm.