Making CBA events more accessible for disabled people

IIED continues to widen its understanding on how to make events more accessible and inclusive.

News, 18 September 2023
As a group people mill around a room and talk with one another at an event, an elevated TV screen shows the transcript of speakers at the event.

CBA17 used live captioning for its opening and closing plenaries, providing conference attendees the chance to read what was being said by the conference speakers while it was happening (Photo: Anne Schulthess, IIED)

A growing shift towards connecting virtually has brought rich opportunity for exploring how to make online events accessible and inclusive.

For IIED, this has included experimenting with multi-language events and live captioning and assessing options to offer audio description and sign language interpretation.

This year, after three successive years of running the event online, IIED’s flagship International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) to climate change returned in person, hosted in Bangkok, Thailand in May 2023.

At CBA17 we continued our exploration of how to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. To guide us, we invited social and behaviour change specialist Mpho Tapela.

Tapelahas wide-ranging experience in working with disabled people and with groups requiring special needs support. Her work has covered incorporating innovative ways to make online and in-person events more accessible for her organisation Youth Unlimited Network, Botswana.

In a video interview (with subtitles available), she describes her approach to assessing CBA17, using the three markers of inclusivity, accessibility and accountability.

Following her assessment, she sets out key recommendations for future CBA events:

  • Connect with national federations and networks for disabled people. National federations and networks of disabled people will have valuable local knowledge. Ahead of future CBA events, connect with federations in the host country, and countries from where delegates are attending.
  • Invest time in finding out more about disabled people attending CBA. This may include through surveys to gather information, connecting with attendees before the event and drawing together data from previous events.
  • Explore methods, tools and functionalities to make event content more accessible. Examples include text accompanied by audio or use of sign language for videos shown at the event.
  • Assess access to physical spaces. This includes scoping out provisions for disabled people in the event space, incorporating logistics planning and assisting with transportation to the event.
  • Strive for an inclusive agenda and event sessions. For future CBA events, consider how to make disability inclusion an integral part of locally led adaptation. Include disabled people in event proceedings as panellists, and moderators of the event’s sessions.

You can also watch Mpho's assessment on IIED's YouTube channel.

Examining the accessibility of CBA17 has opened up opportunities for expanding our existing work, and for exploring more ways to make our events, and beyond, more inclusive.