Meetings industry educator Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist for Eisenstodt Associates, answers additional questions from the Destination and Site Selection and ADA Compliance: What Might You Miss? webinar, which originally aired on Wed., April 29, 2015.
1. Hi, I was in your session in 2013 in PCMA ever since I've been working on making my event accessible. Made some progress but have ways to go. One item I keep struggling with is scents, can I ask the hotels and convention center to use unscented products in the bathrooms? My meeting is before the holidays so we always have issues.
First thank you for being at the PCMA program and now being part of this one. It will continue to be a struggle until our industry decides to cooperate. What I recommend is, in your RFP, stating that you want ONLY unscented products in the bathrooms of your participants and that, when possible, all rooms should be cleaned with unscented products. Ask them to respond. I'm unsure if a hotel will fully comply; they may become more sensitive to the issues and try.
2. What are the common ingredients that trigger chemical allergies?
Good question. I think for each of us it's different. For example, I use Palmer's Cocoa Butter lotion which does not make me sick. I can also tolerate almond scents. But florals?! I'm miserable. There are also specific chemicals used in cleaning products that can be toxic. Let me try to get a resource for you.
3. I am never sure where the financial liability falls regarding providing for accommodation...the venue or the planning organization? (i.e. handrails for steps)?
Ah, handrails should be a given for steps – the liability for a property would be great if they weren't there, whether someone had a disability or not. The law requires "reasonable accommodation" and that is sometimes at odds with what a property believes they should do. In the resources, there is a link to the ADA and more information on the DoJ website. Read more there and when in doubt, call DoJ.
4. We often use the same site for an event. How often do you suggest doing a site visit to ensure the level of access has not changed?
GREAT question! Thanks. I suggest every year at the time of contracting. I don't know if you do multiyear contracts though. If you do, negotiate conditions for service and condition and for a site inspection each year perhaps six months out of the meeting. If you don't do multiyear contracts, still negotiate service and facility conditions and that you'll conduct a site visit before signing the next year's contract. Many things can change…for the better or worse but any change can be disruptive to your plans.
5. One point of interest that I learned that was most important was the difference between being ADA "compliant" and ADA "accessible." Many historical properties are grandfathered in to the ADA and only have steps into the lobby. No ramps! Compliance does not mean accessible! :)
Grandfathered or not, you still want a property that is accessible. Use this information and provide to a hotel—http://www.ada.gov/business/accessiblemtg.htm—and ask them how they meet the standards and can help you and your meeting help others fully participate.
6. What if someone is hearing impaired but doesn't speak asl? Are there other services that are required to be provided?
There is no "grandfather clause." Each place must still attempt to remove barriers. Possible resource is to contact your local Independent Living Center to help with site visits.
7. Because space is limited on registration forms, we usually ask if an attendee has any "special needs?" Mostly we get responses regarding food allergies, or other accommodation needs: mobility or assistive hearing. How specific should we get?
I think the better way to ask or state it is "Tell us what you need to fully participate in the meeting" and use the wheelchair symbol because it's the international symbol for disabilities. Then make follow up phone calls or correspond by email to ensure that you can help. A colleague said that her association wants her to list all the possible accommodations. I think that will mean something will be left out and will make it tougher. Those (of us) who need accommodations are very good about advising.
8. Recently had issue with not enough disabled parking. Do you have alternative parking strategies? Sometimes I've found that the parking garage is too far from the venue. Also I find that some valet parking does not handle handicap vans and ran into issues with how to get around that. Thanks.
Best to know your audience and to, in the RFP, ask the hotel what their parking situation is prior to booking. Unlike accessible rooms or Deaf Kits, there is not a provision for the number of spaces or how vehicles can be parked, mainly because not all hotels own or control their parking. You might consider, if the need is great, running a shuttle to and from accessible parking.
9. We are renting an AED device because the property does not have one (pre-existing contract). Should we also request a sign like the one on your slide?
Whoa! I'm stunned that the property doesn't have one! You might strongly recommend they get it. The better way to advise your meeting participants might be to include in any printed or electronic material that in the event of an emergency to notify hotel security first and that you work with hotel security to notify you. It's cumbersome since you'll have the AED and not them, but otherwise, you may be getting any and all emergency calls for your group.
A sign can't hurt to have on the conference office door but I wonder if that means non-meeting goers will assume it's for the public. Talk with whomever handles risk management for your organization. This is tricky! Also use this url for more information: http://tinyurl.com/obe64bg.
10. On our registration form, we asked: "Do you have any special needs?" and left the box open for them to write anything relevant.
See response to Q11.
11. My association does ask that all restrooms be resigned (we provide signage) in our contracted space as "Gender Neutral Restrooms" in our RFP and in site visits – is this something we should ask for in the contract?
I'm not a lawyer so double-check with yours. I do believe that all information and expectations should be contained in the contract so there are fewer opportunities for misunderstandings.
Read on to the next page for even more Take 10 Q&A responses from Joan Eisenstodt.