May 20, 2024

Behind the scenes: Planning an accessible event

This Global Accessibility Awareness Month (GAAD), we’re taking you behind the scenes of our event planning process, highlighting the steps we take to ensure accessibility and inclusivity at every stage. We spoke to Christine Connolly, Anthology’s senior director of global events, to learn more about what her team prioritizes to make sure every attendee has a successful Anthology Together, Anthology’s annual user conference that hosts thousands of attendees from around the world.

What does it mean to have an accessible event?

It means prioritizing access for all. We try to anticipate the needs of our attendees and work towards establishing an effective framework for universal accessibility and addressing accommodation requests. To ensure this, we have an open and transparent communication style. We work with attendees, the venue, and third-party vendors to provide an accessible experience throughout the event. Additionally, we have FAQs about accessibility features on our website to empower attendees with the relevant information to make informed decisions.

As event producers, what do you consider?

We consider both physical and digital accessibility. For example, we work with the venue to understand accessible routes, add accessibility markers on the conference map, arrange accessible transportation shuttles, and more. We also confirm that Anthology-hosted spaces have lower counter spaces for attendees and employees that use wheelchairs.

For our presenters, we worked with our internal design teams to create session presentation templates that provide guidelines and best practices to presenters on how to make their sessions accessible for all. From color contrast suggestions to alternative text for images and reading order, we work tirelessly to ensure everyone can have a meaningful experience at Anthology Together.

Who are the experts you work with for guidance?

We work closely with internal accessibility experts who provide valuable insights and guidance on accessibility best practices. Our accessibility subject matter experts actively review plans and propose innovative solutions to address accessibility challenges. Additionally, we collaborate with external partners such as venues and third-party vendors to continuously improve accessibility.

Do you consider having sign language interpreters at your events?

Yes! During the registration process, we collect information about attendees' accessibility requirements. This includes preferences for ASL interpreters, wheelchair accessibility, and other accommodations needed. We then work with the venue and third-party vendors to fulfill these needs to the best of our ability. Our goal is to ensure everyone can join in and enjoy Anthology Together to the fullest!

What advice do you have for others who are putting on events?

(1) Transparency is key! It’s important to set clear expectations and maintain open communication with attendees. This helps to create an environment where everyone feels informed and supported. (2) Understand that accessibility is an ongoing journey. Each year, we gather feedback from attendees and identify areas for improvement. Through that, we continually evolve to make each event more accessible and inclusive than before.

As part of our commitment to accessibility, we strive to make our events accessible for all attendees so they can learn and contribute fully. At Anthology, accessibility is not just a checkbox—it is a fundamental aspect woven into every decision we make, from product roadmaps to event planning. We work to build a more accessible and equitable world for everyone.