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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County Advocates for Accessible Events and Meetings

Learn how this AAA developed a guide to provide information and tools to ensure that community members with disabilities receive the consideration and support they need to enjoy meaningful participation in events, meetings, or processes.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County's Community Guide to Accessible Events and Meetings program. The agency was a 2019 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Community Planning and Livable Communities category.
 
In an ongoing initiative to increase civic participation among older adults in the Seattle area, the Age Friendly Seattle team at the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County created the Community Guide to Accessible Events and Meetings along with a series of trainings to heighten awareness of a broad range of accessibility issues among city staff and community partners. The frequently updated guide, which is available online, provides interviews and case studies of events that were not welcoming and inclusive, with a focus on making future meetings and other events accessible for everyone.
 
Many organizations forget their obligation to provide event access for people with physical, sensory and cognitive challenges, and to ensure an experience comparable to what someone without those challenges may have. Too often, accessibility is an afterthought. Age Friendly Seattle produced this guide as part of its commitment to helping Seattle become a city that is accessible and inclusive of all ages and abilities. By planning and implementing events, meetings, activities and communications that are accessible to people of all abilities, Age Friendly Seattle helps ensure that all Seattle residents can participate in events and contribute wisdom and talent to their communities with independence, equity and dignity.
 
The guide has already been put to good use. In May 2019, the Northwest Universal Design Council held a public forum on accessible events and meetings at Seattle City Hall with 200 attendees. Individuals with disabilities helped plan the event and a panel of subject matter experts included people who are living with autism, blindness, cerebral palsy, deafness, hearing loss and limited vision. The event demonstrated effective use of seating, sound and lighting; ASL and Pro Tactile interpreters; live captioning; an assisted listening system that includes a hearing loop, neck loop, headphone and earbud receivers; Braille and text communications; and adequate planning and event staffing.
 
When digital communications are accessible, and preferred seating, adequate lighting, good acoustics, assisted listening equipment, interpreters and live captioning are available, there's less stress and everyone benefits. The Age Friendly Seattle team's favorite part of the program is knowing that they're making a difference. “When we receive increased requests for accommodations and inquiries about accessibility issues from potential guests, we know that individuals with disabilities feel more welcome,” Irene Stewart, Communications Manager, Aging and Disability Services, Seattle Human Services Department said.
 
AAAs seeking to replicate this program should commit to crafting a policy addressing the importance of holding welcoming and inclusive events, incorporating accessibility expectations and universal design principles into all workplaces, and providing ongoing training for staff. Age Friendly Seattle's community guide can be modified to your specific community.
 
To learn more about the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County's Community Guide to Accessible Events and Meetings program, contact Irene Stewart, Communications Manager, Aging and Disability Services, Seattle Human Services Department, irene.stewart@seattle.gov.
 
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community! You can also listen to our four-part webinar series, n4a Lunchtime Innovations, to hear your peers' secrets to success for these award-winning programs.

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