Startup Weekends remove barriers such as Wi-Fi, mentorship, and food so that participants can focus on their entrepreneurial experience. Empower people with disabilities by removing barriers for them. Consider that without a functioning sense, an individual uses some of their mental energy to store context about venues, conversations, and more. It is very easy to get overwhelmed at a Startup Weekend; even more so for a person with disabilities. Plan ahead for how to assist these attendees or audience members. One way to help the organizing team plan for disabilities is to provide a contact on the ticket sales page so that individuals with disabilities can make their concerns known.
Your site should be accessible to those in wheelchairs. A rule of thumb is that they will need 1 yard / 1 meter of aisle to move around. Be sure attendees don’t stand behind wheelchairs or block them in. Bring icebreakers and voting to the level of those in wheelchairs. Clearly demarcate a wheelchair spot in the front row, near an aisle so that they can freely move around. If you have a stage, make a plan to get the wheelchair on it, or to avoid the stage altogether
There are many types of visual impairment ranging from color blindness to partial visual to total vision loss. Your site should be accessible to the visually impaired. Plan for clear, straight aisles where possible, leaving room for walking sticks. Avoid changing room layouts, if you can. This may be tough for smaller venues that need to shift rooms between work and presentation. Make sure voting is tactile and escort visually impaired people during voting so that they can participate equally. Consider transcribing final presentations for blind readers. At previous events it’s taken 2 volunteers 2 hours to transcribe all the presentations.Consider having a volunteer available to escort people with visual impairments, if needed.
For people with auditory impairments, consider hiring a translator or allowing a family member to accompany them. Make sure the translator is comfortable, is taking breaks, and is well fed. Many communities will subsidize the cost of translators for this kind of event. For final presentations, ensure that people with auditory impairment have clear line of sight to facilitate lip reading. Transcribe videos and ensure closed captioning is enabled. If you’re using Youtube, transcription can be enabled on upload.
Don’t forget that some people have hidden disabilities. This could include anxiety disorders or PTSD. Consider having a quiet room for those that need an area to decompress. Lastly, some of your participants may not be comfortable talking about their disabilities or may need assistance that cannot easily be provided. If you see someone needing accommodation, be open to making changes.