Many people live with disabilities be they visible or not. Some people directly identify with their disability (e.g. “I am a Deaf person”) while others do not (e.g. “I am an individual living with Deafness”). Some use the term “disability” others might prefer “disABILITY” or “differently abled” or a term that is less familiar. It is important to respect the identity labels people choose for themselves. It is equally important to accept a request when someone indicates that they have a disability and/or need for accommodation.
This toolkit includes practical information about assessing the physical environment to accommodate disabilities, creating accessible event materials, booking support services and suggestions for registration forms to gather information that will assist with accommodation-related needs.
Diversity Through Inclusion
People are diverse, often identifying themselves in multiple ways. When we fail to recognize intersectionality we create barriers to participation. Workers with disabilities can also be racialized workers, women, LGBTQ+ or have a variety of other facets that form their identity.
One easy way to remove barriers to participation of members in caucuses and meetings is to ensure that they are scheduled at different times so that people are not required to choose between facets of their identity.
Accommodations for Participants with Physical Disabilities
Wherever budget permits, it is best practice to allow participants with disabilities who need to travel to attend your event to arrive in town a day before the event begins and to depart a day after the event ends. This recognizes that there may be additional and often unexpected demands for those with disabilities when they travel.
Accessible hotel rooms should be reserved. Those rooms should have adequate power supplies for charging disability-related equipment such as wheelchairs, scooters or other mobility aids.
Venues and Accessibility
Safety, access and universal design are key considerations in choosing a location for your event or places for meetings and events.
Key Accessibility Features
Accessible parking should be available close to the main entrance of any event venue.
Elevators should have low buttons with Braille markings and be equipped with audio floor indicators.
An accessible washroom or washroom with an adapted stall should be available in each venue for participant use.
Meeting and events spaces should be accessible for individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or other mobility aids.
Rest areas with adequate power supplies to charge disability-related equipment should be available.
Every large meeting should have a DisABILITY Liaison assigned to assist those with disability-related needs should such assistance be required. The Liaison should be trained in CPR and First Aid.
Meetings and Accessibility
- Reduce or eliminate background noise such as fans, fountains and piped-in music which can make it difficult to hear and can be distracting for participants.
- Create a scent-free environment.
- Remove harsh lighting. Flourescent lighting, flashing lights, and overly bright lights act as barriers and can cause disability-related crisis in certain people. If possible, a venue should be chosen where these lighting issues can be avoided.
- Regulate temperature and air quality. The venue should have a good ventilation system and heating/cooling system so that participants are able to breathe easily and remain comfortable during the course of events or meetings.
Preparing Event Material
Having written materials available in a variety of print and digital formats creates accessibility for wider audiences and removes barriers to participation.
Using plain language summaries of complex documents means that people with literacy challenges or those whose first language is not the language of the document, can still participate in discussions.
Providing audio recordings of documents is also a method that could be explored.
Offering copies of materials on a memory stick or a website allows people to use their own technology, with whatever adaptations they use, to review the materials. If the material is put on a website, that website must be accessible.
Documents in high contrast (black and white) and in large font (minimum 16 pt. font, but 24 is better) should be made available.
Including access symbols on pre-conference materials will alert people to accessibility and support services available. It may also be useful to print symbols on signage for event activities.
For a list of commonly recognized symbols, see “Appendix B”.
Providing audio-visual materials such as videos, audio files, music, etc. may also assist with inclusion.
When presenting charts, tables, or diagrams, presenters should describe what is on the screen so that all participants receive the necessary information.
Transcribing of any audio files should be done as a matter of course so that people with hearing impairment or auditory processing difficulty have access to the material being shared.
Information collected on event registration forms will allow Unifor to put in place individualized accommodations required by participants. All those attending events and meetings including guest presenters should be asked to register so that Unifor will be better positioned to host an inclusive event.
Registration forms should include questions about accessibility needs. These could be addressed in each council and/or event call letter with a line such as:
“Unifor works to remove all barriers. If you have a specific Human Rights Code/Act related need, please let us know in advance so that we may take reasonable steps to accommodate”.
Additionally, through the registration form Unifor should request all attendees avoid wearing perfume or using heavily scented products during the event.
Interpretation and Intervener Services
Interpretation services allow individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing to fully participate in the event. These services are in high demand and require advance booking. Interpretation services may include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ) interpretation, oral interpretation (for individuals who lip-read rather than using sign language), Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), or FM or infrared systems.
FM and infra-red systems are amplifying units for people who are hard of hearing. The FM system has strong amplification capacity and portability. Note: some assistive listening systems may work only for some hard of hearing people with a T-switch on their hearing aids, while others may need to wear a headset. It is best to ask in advance which of these options are needed.
For any event longer than one hour more than one interpreter will be required.
Deafblind individuals will not benefit from the above interpretation services. They require an intervener which is a specialized attendant trained to communicate with deafblind people via methods such as signing into their hands.
Deaf and hard of hearing people also benefit immensely from captioning services. Captioning services may be provided remotely (off-site) through an internet connection or on-site through Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). The advantage of off-site captioning is that captioning can be provided for events taking place online (e.g. web conferences, webinars) or when events are physical gatherings, the interpreters can caption from their office and save travel and accommodation expenses. The advantage of on-site CART services is that if your internet connection fails, or the microphone does not pick up all audio (such as questions from the audience), the interpreter can continue fully captioning.
Creating an Inclusive Schedule
The pacing and structure of meetings and event are also important to creating an inclusive experience. When creating a schedule the Union should:
Allow enough time during presentations for questions and discussions because not everyone can respond at a pre-determined pace; and
Recognize that some individuals will have specific needs. For example, they may need to use medication throughout the day, require periods of rest, or must have scheduled eating times. The union should schedule regular breaks to allow people time to attend to these needs. Failure to do so could result in unnecessary exclusion from parts of the meeting or event.
Individuals who do not have their own vehicle may need to use public transit to get to and from the event venue(s). Starting and ending meeting events while public transit is still running regularly or arranging alternative accessible transportation is desirable.
Accessible Transport for Rallies and Marches
For any events off-site, for example marches or rallies, the union should ensure that there is transportation for those with mobility needs.
Participation in Meetings and Events
Unifor should make available roving, wireless microphones for those with mobility needs who may be unable to get to a floor microphone. Staff should be assigned to take a microphone to a member/delegate/participant in need of one. A bright flash card system can be put in place to signal the need for a wireless microphone.
Floor risers should be removed from all microphones so that workers with mobility needs have equal access. Alternatively, ramped microphones could be placed at various points in the room to create ease of access.
Providing staggered tables with adequate spacing allows people with mobility devices the freedom to choose where to sit and promotes accessibility.
For more helpful accessible seating layouts, please see “Appendix C”.
Placing chairs beside each microphone allows those unable to stand the opportunity to rest while they await a turn to speak.
Stages should be accessible and a stage ramp for those will mobility-related needs should always be in place as a best practice and as a visible sign of inclusion.
Guides for Building Inclusivity