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Yelp Cleveland’s 5 Tips for Inclusive Event Planning

If you’re lucky enough to earn a Yelp Elite badge, you represent the crème de la crème of the Yelp community. Whether on a VIP behind-the-scenes tour of Playhouse Square, sampling a new honey infused menu or practicing goat yoga, Elites are privy to some of the coolest experiences in the city with our best local spots. As Yelp community managers, we have the privilege of hosting these events with local businesses and inviting Yelp users to one-of-a-kind opportunities.

But what about potential barriers? Disability impacts all of us. Nearly 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability (CDC.gov). A disability can come in many forms, whether temporary or permanent or visible or not visible to the naked eye. Since 1 out of 4 Americans live with a disability, these statistics mean there is a high possibility a person with a disability wants to attend your event.

In Cleveland, we’re taking steps to improve making our community events a welcoming space for all. Check out our 5 inclusivity tips for event planners:

1. Learn about ADA compliance.
The ADA, or The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It also helps ensure that businesses serving the public modify policies and practices that do not discriminate against people with disabilities. Read more about the ADA effects communities here.

2. Use Person First language.
Positive language empowers. When speaking about people with disabilities, put the person first. Group designations do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities. Words like ‘normal person’ imply that the person with a disability is not normal, whereas ‘person without a disability’ is descriptive but not negative,” according to the National Disability Institute. Use this Person First chart to learn how to communicate with and about people with disabilities. Keep this chart handy and practice actively using Person First language. Help empower your community to follow your example.

3. Create a community culture grounded in respect.
Are you creating a respectful environment to discuss this subject? Does your event invitation include a note regarding accessibility? Create a safe space for guests to voice their needs to real a person. Include your own pledge on what accessibility means to you personally.

Adding a simple ADA statement can make a positive impact in your dialogue and culture of inclusivity. This is what we use in Yelp Cleveland: “Yelp Cleveland is committed to reducing barriers and ensuring that our events are welcoming and accessible to all. If you have any questions or requests before you get here, please e-mail us at cleveland@yelp.com. Click here to read Yelp CLE’s community pledge to you.”

4. Stay proactive, not reactive.
In early event planning stages, prepare a plan to address accessibility with your venue. Ask your partner for information about their accessibility, and start a dialogue that encourages transparency. Instead of panicking when a person arrives requiring accommodations, familiarize yourself with the plan ahead of time for a seamless guest experience. Some larger venues, such as museums or hotels, may even offer webpages outlining this information. We love this example from the Rock + Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Should a partner offer this resource, link to it directly in your event communications 100% of the time.

5. Modify your event messaging.
Keep accessibility part of your dialogue all the time, not just when a situation arises. Include accessibility information in your event invitations and all communications with guests. The information should be clear, easy to find and a staple in your regular communication strategy, whether you know someone with a disability is attending or not. By taking the simple step of including this information, you will help encourage new people to attend your event.

At Yelp, we understand that sometimes our events put us in super unique venues. But if someone has not RSVPed to an event because of any concern, accessibility or otherwise, we hope that will change. By event planners taking small steps together, we can help build better bridges to make events and community experiences accessible to everyone.