Making social events and activities accessible

University provides many exciting opportunities for students to socialise, try new things and explore their passions and interests. Clubs, societies and other social activities are a great way for students to meet likeminded people, feel more settled and engaged and have fun alongside their studies. It is vital that these fantastic opportunities can be accessed by blind and partially sighted students as they are just as eager to get involved, but may be put off by concerns over accessibility and inclusivity.

It can be challenging for organisers to know how to make events inclusive and adapt activities to make them accessible. That’s why we have worked with students and our friends within the national network of Sight Loss Councils to use their experience of organising events for blind and partially sighted people to come up with these handy top tips for event organisers and facilitators:

  • Actively encourage blind, partially sighted and deafblind students to attend events by offering to provide a sighted guide. Consider asking fellow students to volunteer to provide this assistance. To learn how to guide someone, check out the guidance here.
  • Think about location. Is it close to public transport links? Is the entrance distinctive and easy to locate? Could volunteers be positioned at key points along the routes to the venue, or could a guide meet the student at a pre-arranged meeting point?
  • Think about venue accessibility. Is it easy to navigate once inside? Is there sufficient lighting, and will there be an echo? Busy enclosed environments can be off-putting and disorientating. Also, glass partitions can create a lot of glare and be difficult to identify.
  • Wherever possible, provide a map of the venue layout in advance, as this allows the student to familiarise themselves before attending, identify useful landmarks for orientation and plan a more accessible route around the event.
  • For events such as Freshers fairs or Careers fairs, it can be really helpful to have a quiet hour at the beginning or end of the event, for students who would benefit from more space and a less hectic environment.
  • Are your flyers, leaflets and other printed material accessible? Do you use a clear print, good colour contrast and a large enough font size (at least size 18)? Try to avoid having text on top of pictures and offer a plain text or an electronic version to those who need it. And don’t forget about signage!
  • Make sure electronic material such as newsletters are accessible too, by including a plain text copy and adding alt text or descriptions for images. Make sure you are creating accessible PDF documents so they can be read using assistive technology, find out how to make your PDFs accessible here.
  • Stall holders should also be encouraged to think about accessibility and how they can help students engage. If they see someone waiting for a crowd to clear, could they go up to speak to the student? Can they assist with any data collection such as sign-up sheets?
  • Ask for feedback and ideas from blind, partially sighted and deafblind students on what you could do to make your event accessible. And share the measures that have worked best for you on social media using the #UniInSight so other event organisers can learn from you!

About the Sight Loss Councils

The Sight Loss Councils are a network of local forums, led by blind and partially sighted members and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. They advocate the needs of vision impaired people in their communities and work to improve access to goods and services at a local and national level.

If you are blind or partially sighted and would like to get involved, you can find your local Sight Loss Council here.

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