Lucile Kamar is Diversity and Inclusion Manager for Europe, Middle East and Asia, at global law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright.
Here, Lucile tells us about the work being carried out by Norton Rose Fulbright, to make meetings more accessible for disabled clients and colleagues.
Meetings where everyone can participate
Creating an inclusive workplace means ensuring that everyone is able to participate to the best of their abilities. A meeting or an event will only be productive or successful if everyone can fully participate and contribute diverse points of view and thinking.
Organisations and teams have a responsibility not only to provide any adjustments required, but to pre-empt, whenever possible, which adjustments would be helpful to allow to full participation from everyone. The costs of making adjustments are often low or sometimes even non-existent and adjustments put in place for one person often benefit others.
It’s important to understand that not all disabilities are the same. Some are visible, such as a person who needs a wheelchair to move around. Some are temporary, such as someone breaking an arm or a leg and needing a cast or the use of crutches. For 80% of disabled people, their impairments are not visible.
Ensuring inclusion and accessibility right from the start means that meetings and events run more smoothly for organisers and participants. Ensuring accessibility is not a special solution for some. Rather, it is about enabling everyone to fully access and participate in every meeting and event.
Introducing an accessibility assessment
Diversity and inclusion is at the core of what we do and we strive to ensure that each component of a meeting is accessible to our disabled clients and employees, from the registration process, to arriving at and navigating around our building, to the content shared during the meeting and any follow-up material shared. We have recently done an accessibility assessment which provides a list of the adjustments we are always able to provide when organising a meeting or an event. Moving forward, this list of adjustments will form part of the event and meeting organising process and also shared upfront with meeting and event participants.
We ensure that captioning is available on our videos and include a transcript of the recording whenever possible. Captioning is not only crucial for people with a hearing impairment, but also helpful for those for which English isn’t their first language. We also ensure that fonts are scalable, colours are easy to read and include a text transcript for any audio-only content.
Responding to requests
To-date, we have not had any meeting accessibility requests which were difficult to meet. We often get enquiries about hearing loops in our meeting rooms, which are all equipped for this. We once received a request for a sign language interpreter from a guest who had registered to attend our annual “Abnormally Funny People” comedy night which is performed by professional comedians with disabilities. We reached contacted interpreters and the comedy night was signed on stage for this individual.
- It is important not to make assumptions about what a person’s requirements will be based on their stated disability. Every individual has different needs unique to them, whether or not they are disabled.
- Ensure the agenda is distributed at least 24 hours prior to meeting. If you are using slides during the meeting, circulate them ahead of time and tell participants during the meeting when you are advancing to the next slide.
- Think about the logistics: is the attendee with a disability bringing an assistant/interpreter? If so, they need to be considered in the headcount, badges, catering etc.
- Ensure that enough power outlets are provided, and that their location is accessible.
- If required, provide a quiet break-away space and toileting space for working dogs.
- Ensure you are aware of the appropriate evacuation procedures for people who might need additional support in case of an emergency.
- If the meeting is virtual (for some or all participants), it’s even more important that the chair of the meeting consciously asks all participants for their input.
- If participation in a meeting requires technology, contact the participants in advance to check that the technology is accessible and if not, what adjustments might need to be made.
- Allow for processing time after the meeting as well as opportunities for people to follow-up with questions, and ensure you circulate clear notes and takeaways.
Finally, it’s worth remembering good practice for disabled people is good practice for all – everyone benefits from flexibility, good planning and clear information.