Creating an inclusive environment extends to understanding and accommodating neurodiverse attendees and those with sensory processing sensitivities.
Here are 6 strategies to help ensure their comfort and engagement:
1. Quiet Zones
Designate quiet areas away from the hustle and bustle of the event where attendees can decompress. These zones should have comfortable seating and subdued lighting.
2. Sensory Alerts
Clearly communicate in advance about any elements of the event that might be challenging, such as loud noises, smoke machines, or bright lights. This allows attendees to prepare or avoid these situations if necessary.
3. Flexible Seating Options
Offer a variety of seating arrangements. Some attendees might prefer areas with less traffic or more personal space.
4. Sensory-Friendly Materials
A few ideas for providing some options that are helpful for regulation and finding a bit of quiet.
- Noise-canceling/reducing headphones
- Fidgets at registration (a great opportunity for branded swag!)
- Topical books, reading materials, crossword puzzles, etc. in quiet zones
5. Training Staff and Volunteers
Ensure that your staff and volunteers are trained to understand and respond to the needs of neurodiverse attendees. They should be aware of the quiet zones and other accommodations available.
6. Social Narrative Guides
Creating a social narrative with descriptive text and pictures can be very helpful in visualizing and preparing for the event. This guide should detail as much about the experience as possible with information like:
- Where to park on arrival and/or where public transport arrives and drops off in relation to event location.
- What to look for to know you have arrived at the right place (e.g., signage, notable building features, etc)
- Where best to enter the event space (e.g., east entrance, directly across from fountain, etc.)
- Where they will find registration, and what to do when they get there.
- Information about the layout of the meeting space and relevant interior locations (restrooms, how to find relevant rooms for sessions, etc.)
- Clear descriptions of what attendees can expect in the space and during each piece of the meeting/event.