News

Technology Alone Can’t Solve Accessibility Challenges

30 July 2018
Hospitality professionals are well-versed on the various components that make up a great meeting, conference, or event. These can include a thoughtful keynote speaker, a well thought-out menu, or a one-of-a-kind interactive experience, along with pervasive Wi-Fi access and copious meeting areas.

But what about event accessibility and inclusiveness?

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They often need to participate in offsite meetings and conventions, so meeting and event planners must ensure they are accommodated, said David Dikter, CEO of Assistive Technology Industry Association, an organization representing manufacturers, sellers, and providers of assistive technology for people with disabilities.

“It’s incumbent on the meeting planner to be asking all the right kind of questions about accessibility,” Dikter said. “They need to make sure that a hotel or a convention facility is equipped to deal with their entire customer base, not just a certain customer base.”

Hotels, convention centers, and meeting facilities need to make understanding the range of customers they’re serving a bigger focus, as well.

“Hotels and convention centers tend to forget the range of disabilities. They tend to think of mobility, which is important because that’s their physical space, but then there are things like people who are blind,” Dikter continued. “Hotels need motivation from the meeting planning industry, from the people who are organizing their meeting to kind of say, ‘Hey, have you thought about all these other things?'”

Technology can smooth over some of the challenges faced by disabled attendees, but a wider shift in perspective is needed to truly address these issues.

“Technology solves aspects of it, but it still doesn’t solve the social challenges,” said Peter Slatin, founder and president of Slatin Group, which consults with businesses about special-needs customers. “People with various disabilities can get to events more easily, can be aware of them, can travel to and from them more independently than ever before. But navigating your way around a hotel if you’re blind or a wheelchair user, or understanding what happens in an event if you are deaf or hard of hearing, [is a separate challenge].”

From Low-Tech to High-Tech

A lot of the solutions for accommodating people with disabilities at an event are decidedly low-tech: ensuring there are ramps and wheelchair-accessible restroom stalls, arranging Braille or large print options, and providing American Sign Language interpreters, Communication Access Realtime Translation, or captioning services.

Technology, however, can only do so much if meeting planners aren’t approaching their job with the awareness of challenges faced by the disabled.

“Meeting planners know today that they’ve got to ask how many people are vegan, pescatarian, kosher, or whatever, but don’t generally think about how many people are wheelchair users or blind,” said Slatin. “That, I think, is starting to change…. It’s not really being driven by a group of event planners with disabilities. There isn’t an advocacy group for that, not yet anyway.”

New technologies such as automated image captioning technology, connected home devices, tablets, and wearables are allowing people with disabilities to expand their meeting options. Many of these technologies aren’t created with accessibility in mind, though.

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To learn more about how technology and accessibility click here.

Source and photo: Skift