Written by Paula Hultman and Eileen Barnick
As event production specialists, one of your objectives is to provide a great experience for all participants. Your event production team is surely familiar with the accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is also important to take into consideration other special circumstances you may encounter with your participants, and plan accordingly. Your efforts not only open your event to a more diverse group but the payback in participant (and spectator) satisfaction will be rewarded with favorable event feedback – and more participants. Meeting special requests with a “Yes, we can” attitude, along with clearly defined procedures and solid execution plans, will win praise for your attention to detail.
Consider your participant base. If your event is cause-related, you can expect participants who may be living with a physical challenge that might require modifications to your event. Here are some to consider:
- Wave changes to accommodate special needs
- Accessible portable restrooms
- ADA parking/drop off options
- Viewing locations with wheelchair/scooter access
- Modified access for canes, motorized scooters or wheelchairs
- American Sign Language interpreters at ceremonies or other festival programs
- Transportation back to the start area
- Service animals
- Fee-waived registration for participants who will serve as an aide to a participant with special needs
Consider your event length. A one-day walk, run, or ride will have different needs than a longer, multi-day event. In our planning for a multi-day/overnight event, with a primarily female demographic, we have encountered a variety of special circumstances that we can also accommodate. These include:
- Breast pumps that require electricity as well as a privacy area for pumping/nursing
- Special diets – from nut/dairy allergies to celiac disease, and everything in-between
- Medications requiring refrigeration
- Electrical access for CPAP machines
- ADA accessible tents, showers, and cots
Here are some strategies for communicating and executing your accommodations to your participants with special circumstances:
Create SOP’s to share with participants before the event that include the following:
- Clearly defined ID requirements and Drop-off/Pick-up locations for personal equipment such as breast bumps, and CPAP machines
- Menus and ingredient lists from vendors that can be shared with participants with special diet needs before the event
- Special meals ID/packaging procedures for those who need to bring their own food
- ID/packaging requirements for storing refrigerated items such as breast milk, special meals and refrigerated medicine
- On-event contact/phone number for emergencies
- A post-event phone number or email contact for equipment left behind
Keep the information on a spreadsheet in a central database
- Apps such as Google Drive allow access to designated members of your team to your special needs participants
- Update the document whenever you are made aware of a special needs participant
Identify the staff member(s) and event-day drop off/pick up locations
- Assign a staff member, with your special needs participants spreadsheet, to a pre-determined location at event check-in and communicate that location in your pre-event communications
- Consider the need for a designated staff member who can transport equipment/meals to participants at pre-determined spots along the route if needed
- Designate a staff member who can offer route modifications for wheelchair participants, such as vehicle or golf cart transport in an inaccessible area
Expect the “unexpected” – Participants with special circumstances who arrive with no prior communication
- Have copies of maps, instructions, and tags to ID their personal equipment, for these last minute arrivals.
Following these guidelines as they apply to your event can make a huge difference to your participants with special circumstances. Your pre-event planning and on-event execution will not go unnoticed by this group, and will greatly enhance their experience.
Paula Hultman is marking her 10 year anniversary with Event 360, and is currently the Participant Support Coordinator for the Susan G. Komen Seattle 3-Day®. As a 16 time 3-Day event participant herself, Paula loves interacting with participants to assure their event experience exceeds their expectations.
Eileen Barnick is the Participant Support Coach for the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day®. She has been with Event360 since 2010 and enjoys working with the 3-Day walkers. Their stories of courage inspire her each and every day. When not working, you can find Eileen at a soccer game, cross country meet, school concert or other “mom” activity.