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It should go without saying that accessibility is extremely important for any customer-facing business. Nowadays, there’s no excuse for discrimination or failure to cater to an audience that needs specific requirements. Venues and event organisers should aim to be as welcoming for people of all backgrounds.
Accessibility is about allowing people, whether they have a disability or not, to participate in an event that they are interested in. By improving accessibility, there is guaranteed to be a larger audience size and more diversity, alongside greater satisfaction for people with disabilities.
Stage Event Security is a professional security firm based in Ipswich, Suffolk. With years of experience in the sector, they have provided businesses throughout the UK with a range of services, including festival security, venue security and event security.
Stage has overseen security for some of the largest events in the country such as the Ipswich Maritime Festival, The Olympic Torch Relay, the Clacton Air Show, and concerts for Ed Sheeran and Paloma Faith.
During this work, they have learned how to adapt to different situations and the important role they play in ensuring that disabled attendees feel safe and at ease.
Stage Event Security has provided us with an in-depth article which looks at the connection between security and accessibility. They will talk us through the benefits of a personal approach, provide tips on how businesses can be more accommodating, and examine how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will affect accessibility going forwards.
Why a Friendly and Personal Approach Matters
One of the key values for Stage Event Security is to provide a friendly and personal approach at every step of the customer journey. While the priority of any security business is to maintain a firm security presence, helping to keep the premises and personnel safe and secure, this can be achieved without sacrificing a friendly attitude.
It should always be an essential objective to make everyone feel safe, comfortable and happy, no matter the person’s background.
So why is this value really important for the security sector?
There are a lot of misconceptions that people may have about security personnel. The typical view is that they can appear intimidating, disrespectful and unwelcoming and that they allow the power of authority to go to their heads.
However, this is far from the truth for any security firm that is run well. Security guards will usually be the first point of contact between an event or venue with a customer.
Therefore, from a business perspective, it’s important that a positive impression can be made from the very beginning. The customer should be greeted with a warm reception, while also being able to appreciate the work that goes into keeping them safe.
The purpose of security is not to scare and overwhelm guests or to make them feel like they are restricted. Instead, it’s simply about ensuring that everyone has a fun and safe time, and this starts with the security personnel.
Security firms should be well aware that disabled attendees may feel more stressed and limited when it comes to attending an event compared to attendees without a disability. This is where it’s even more important for security guards to make the person feel comfortable.
Friendly and positive communication, mixed in with some humour, can be a simple yet effective way of making a person feel at ease. As well as a friendly tone, all on-site security personnel should be aware of the accessibility measures that have been implemented and understand how to act accordingly. A critical example of this is how to manage entry and exit to the venue or event site.
Priority access should be given to disabled customers for safety reasons and to ensure their requirements can be met before the event’s start time. Here security guards will need to know how to separate disabled attendees from the main queue and where to direct them towards, while potentially communicating with event or venue staff.
How Businesses Can Be More Accommodating
Whether a business is running an event or festival or operating their own venue or other customer-facing premises, steps should be taken to be as accommodating as necessary.
This should always commence with a thorough planning staging which prepares the business to be capable of dealing with any type of outcome.
Businesses should consider the types of disabilities that someone may have, such as physical, visual or hearing impairment, and form a plan of how operations can be tailored to cater to the disability.
There are various measures that businesses should consider, with access requirements being one of the most important.
For instance, they should consider whether there is infrastructure at the venue to support wheelchair access.
A few questions to answer include whether there are ramps or lifts available if the wheelchair user can move freely within the venue, and how safety is affected for both the wheelchair user and other customers.
Providing wheelchair access may also mean that the business will be required to adapt to the overall maximum capacity. There are a range of other access requirements to think about, such as disabled parking availability.
As mentioned previously, priority access can help streamline the entry and exit process for disabled customers.
A venue should aim to have effective and high-quality features for disabled customers. An example of this would be access to disabled toilets. Space should also strongly be considered so that disabled attendees are able to move around freely as required.
Similar to the previous point, in the case of an emergency, it’s vital that evacuation procedures take into account the needs of disabled attendees.
Some customers with a form of visual impairment may require the support of a guide dog, so businesses should consider whether it is a viable option to allow access for assistance dogs.
Private and quiet rooms can be useful for people with a learning difficulty, anxiety, or people with sensory processing impairments, such as autism.
An effective measure that businesses can take to improve accessibility is by assigning a member of staff to specifically help those who require assistance.
A dedicated member of staff can ensure that disabled customers are taken care of from the moment they arrive right through to when they leave. This person should hold excellent customer skills and will be the first point of contact.
Therefore, they should be friendly, co-operative, maintain a visible presence and know-how to deal with challenging and sensitive situations.
A person who goes above and beyond will undoubtedly be appreciated by the attendee.
Before the event takes place or a venue opens its doors to customers, organisers should aim to provide disabled attendees with the opportunity to list any special requirements than can make their visit feel more comfortable and safer.
Any measures that are already in place, such as priority access, should be communicated to the attendee before their visit.
Will COVID Affected Accessibility at Events?
2020 has been a very challenging year for us all due to the coronavirus pandemic. The events and leisure industries, in particular, have been hit hard by Covid-19.
Many venues currently remain closed and events have been postponed or cancelled left, right and centre, but we live in hope that sooner rather than later these activities we all know and love will be back in our lives.
When large public events return, it’s likely they will look different than usual, at least for a short while. This begs the question, how will Covid-19 affect accessibility?
We know that when restrictions start to be lifted, social distancing will likely remain in place where possible. Social distancing is considered to be one of the most effective factors in reducing the spread of the disease.
With these rules, it’s expected that capacities will be significantly reduced and queues and spectating areas will cater to the 6ft distance requirement.
Additional measures may also be included, such as having to wear face coverings which in itself affects accessibility for those who would be exempt on medical grounds.
Going forward, it’s likely that we will see innovative techniques for enabling events to go ahead. Already we have seen drive-through theatres and musical performances while streaming usage is at an all-time high.
In terms of accessibility, these new ways of combating social distancing measures may actually help more disabled people enjoy the activities that they love to engage with.
As for in-person events, an increase in awareness of leaving space between people of different households should also improve accessibility.
That said, there is still a public health crisis and unfortunately, some people with disabilities may be included in the high-risk group, so it’s important more than ever that steps are taken to ensure health and safety.
Stage Event Security itself is recognised as a Covid-Secure business and so understands the necessary steps, based on public health guidelines, that security firms and organisers should take to mitigate the risk of catching the virus.