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Planning accessible Events

Inclusive concepts for an accessible event

To help you keep track of the most important aspects of accessible event planning, we have put together an easy-to-follow checklist for you. After all, accessibility is not only key to equal participation, but also provides benefits for everyone and helps your company keep up with its social responsibility commitments.

We have broken down specific recommendations into the following steps:


1. Event Communication
2. Traveling to and from your event
3. Location & Technology
4. Designing an accessible event programme

Communication before, during and after the event

Observing the two-senses principle is the key to barrier-free communication. This principle ensures that your content is accessible to individuals with sensory impairments (sight, hearing, touch) via a secondary sense and that those with cognitive impairments or reading difficulties are provided with an alternative way of accessing the content.

The following approaches are specifically recommended for barrier-free communication:

  • Video subtitles
  • Haptic exhibits at live events
  • Audio descriptions of visual imagery
  • Explanation of complex content using easy-to-understand language

The event invitation should be designed with accessibility in mind:

  • Clean and suitably large fonts
  • Clear color contrast
  • Digital invitations should be screen-reader compatible

Since 2016, European Directive 2016/2102 has required that general interest, non-commercial online content published by German federal, state, and local government as well as legal entities governed by public and private law, should use inclusive design. The current German Barrier-Free Information Technology Ordinance (BITV) 2.0, provides a good overview of what online content requires and defines the specifications for barrier-free websites.

Leaving aside the technical and strategic focus of your online event- or company content, accessibility should be pivotal to your event’s marketing communications. Here it is important to clearly identify and communicate the various accessibility offerings available to participants, to ask them what their needs are and accompany those with special needs right up to your event.

2. Traveling to and from your event

Needless to say, the basic prerequisite for equal participation is the ability of participants to travel to the event, regardless of any impairments or disabilities they may have. In general, good accessible public transport connections to the location should be available, as should enough disabled parking spaces. It is also important to seamlessly communicate the accessible offerings available at the venue and in the city itself. For events in and around Cologne, we recommend forwarding the information in the following brochures to participants:

In addition to supplying participants with travel information, it is important to tell people with impairments or disabilities about how to get to the venue from the parking lot or nearest public transport stop:

  • Is a support service available?
  • Have the participant’s needs been assessed so that support can be provided on a case-by-case basis?
  • Are staff sensitized to possible needs?

3. Location & technology

As with the journey, some thought needs to be applied to the event location itself. In this regard, it is important to provide information on the various places or spaces within the venue as well as on general accessibility. It is best to start by identifying which aids to barrier-free access are already available at the site. With this done, access can be improved using dedicated technology, structural alterations, and the right furnishings.

We recommend considering the following for barrier-free access:

Disabled access provided to all areas of the event? Such as:

  • building entrances
  • guest rooms
  • stages
  • passages for stand construction
  • elevator access to different
  • catering areas (including accessibility of catering services)
  • networking facilities (table heights adapted to requirements?
  • sanitary facilities

Has every obstacle been adapted to the needs of all participants through structural measures? These could include:

  • ramps
  • guidance systems
  • height-adjustable tables
  • mobile checkrooms
  • mixed seating
  • sufficient lighting
  • information signs
  • Is all information available for all? Such as:
  • two senses signage
  • information and communication aids (inductive hearing aids, audio description, etc.)
  • screens

4. Designing an accessible event programme

It is also important to consider the needs of all the participants when designing the program. Raising the awareness of speakers, workshop leaders and program participants is key to this and enables everyone to get their message across successfully. However, we also recommend providing a seamless support system for fostering awareness of the content and participation in the program. This can be ensured by:

  • sufficient stage lighting
  • interpretations, or subtitles
  • translation into easy language
  • screens for visually impaired people
  • audio descriptions
  • haptic exhibits
  • inclusive interactions


Also read our general guide to event planning!

© ANDRANIK HAKOBYAN; Shutterstock.com

Download event planning checklist

Do you need a precise and detailed checklist so that you have all the important points of your event planning at a glance?
No problem! TheCologne Convention Bureau is at your side to help you plan your event successfully and confidently. Our checklist is available for you to download - so that your event is guaranteed to be an enriching experience.