Making meetings accessible

It is important to plan meetings well in advance to make sure they are accessible. See preparing an accessible meeting.

There are things you can do to make meetings more accessible for people with a learning disability.

And there are things you can do to make meetings more accessible for autistic people:

Make meetings accessible for people with a learning disability

There are lots of things you can do to make meetings accessible for people with a learning disability. However, remember that everyone is different. Ask each person what they need to make a meeting work for them.

Before the meeting

During the meeting

  • Give everyone a chance to speak. Warm up activities and introductions can help.
  • It can be good to have people in small groups round tables so everyone has a chance to talk.
  • When working as a whole room make sure only one person talks at once and uses the microphone (if you have one).
  • Make sure that the presenters know how to give an accessible presentation.
  • Do not give too much information as it can be confusing. For example, only give the background information that will help people have their say.

Using communication cards in meetings

Communication cards are a good way to help people remember to talk simply in meetings. These are red, yellow and green cards that people can use to communicate with speakers. Different groups use these in different ways. One way to use them is:

Red – Stop! I’ve got a question
Yellow – Slow down please
Green – To vote or agree on something

Communications cards (red, yellow and green) for use in meetings.

Find out more in the Bitesize guide to getting feedback from people with a learning disability.

Making meetings accessible for autistic people

There are lots of things you can do to make meetings accessible for autistic people. However, remember that everyone is different. Ask each person what they need to make a meeting work for them.

Before the meeting

  • Have a clear agenda, to help people prepare for the meeting.
  • Make it possible for people to check out the meeting room before the meeting.
  • Tell people who will be at the meeting and what their role is.
  • Give people photos of people who will be at the meeting.
  • Arrange a space where people can go if they need a bit of peace, and tell people before the meeting.
  • Make sure you know what people can and can’t eat before the meeting.
  • Give people very clear directions to the meeting.
  • Send meeting papers to people before the meeting.
  • However do not change things, like questions you will ask, after you have sent the papers out.
  • Read more in preparing for an accessible meeting.

The meeting room

  • People should be able to choose where they want to sit themselves. Some people like to be near the back of the room, others near a window or near a friend.
  • People may find it distressing if they have to take part in warm-up activities.
  • Do not block the exit, so people don’t feel trapped.
  • Natural light is better than artificial light.
  • A room with lots of space is better than a room which feels very full.
  • It can be good to have people in small groups round tables so everyone has a chance to talk.

During the meeting

  • Agree how the meeting will run. These are sometimes called ground rules.
  • Keep to the timings on the agenda.
  • Make sure only one person talks at once.
  • It can be useful to have a flip chart or post-it notes for people to write down ideas to talk about later or at a different meeting.
  • Avoid loud noises like clapping. You may wish to use sign language to applaud rather than clapping – this is waving both hands in the air.
  • Make sure that the presenters know how to give an accessible presentation.
  • Name badges can help.
  • People might like to contribute to the meeting afterwards. Give people an opportunity to email you or speak to you later in the week.

More information about autism

Preparing an accessible meeting

When you’re planning an event for people with a learning disability, autism or both or for family carers, people need to know some things before the meeting. These include:

  • The date of the event three months before so they can save the date for them and support workers.
  • A more detailed plan two months before the meeting. This is so that they can book travel and carers and to make sure the event is for them.
  • Accessible papers at least two weeks before the meeting so people can prepare for the meeting and discuss it with their networks or support workers.

Make sure you ask before the meeting:

  • If people need communication support (like sign language interpreters or for people who use hearing aids).
  • How people want to get the information (for example, do they use easy read).
  • Other things people need to be able to come to the meeting.
  • What people can and can’t eat.
  • If someone will be coming with a support worker (expenses need to be agreed in advance).

Read about making information acceptable and using the right words

Read about involving autistic people in meetings.

Public Participation and Voice Partners Expenses Policy

Easy Read Public Participation and Voice Partners Expenses Policy

Accessible presentations

These tips will help make your presentation accessible for most people.

Keep it short and simple

  • Be clear about the message you want to share.
  • Keep the content simple and to the point.
  • Don’t give extra information that may not be needed.
  • You can give extra information as a handout.
  • Keep presentations as short as possible.

How the text looks

  • Only have two to four short bullet points per slide.
  • Stick to a plain background.
  • Only use one or two colours which contrast with the background (this means using a light colour on a dark background or a dark colour on a light background).
  • Don’t use anything too bright.
  • Avoid BLOCK CAPITALS, underlining and italics as these can make your presentation unclear.
  • Use larger text and bold for emphasis as this is clearer.

Pictures

  • Pictures can help people understand what you are talking about. It is important that the picture shows the meaning of the words as clearly as possible.
  • People who do not read very well often prefer pictures.
  • Only have two or three pictures per slide.
  • Pictures need to be big enough to see.
  • People’s photos can only be used if you have their permission.
  • Keep pictures simple, but not patronising or childish.
  • Make sure all pictures on the slide are the same size.
  • Pictures shouldn’t be too bright, as this can make it hard for people to concentrate.

Have a look at the easy read glossary to see what pictures could be used to describe your work.

Language

  • Be clear. Do not use words that only some people will understand.
  • If you use complicated words or letters which stand for bigger words (acronyms), then explain what they mean.
  • Check that the audience understands. You could ask a question to be sure.
  • Say what you mean – avoid euphemisms as they can be misunderstood.
  • Don’t give more background information unless it’s needed – this can be confusing.

Numbers

  • Do not use statistics unless you really have to.
  • If you need to use statistics, then present them in different ways, for example, visually, practically, physically.
  • Some people find it easier to understand descriptions of numbers instead of percentages such as about 2 in 10 instead of 22%.

Coproduce your presentation or at least test it out

  • ‘Co-produce’ means working together on something from the beginning and listening to each other’s suggestions.
  • Co-produce or test your presentation with people with a learning disability, autism or both. Ideally do this with members of the audience in advance.

Read more about the language we use to describe people.