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Creating Inclusive Spaces: A Guide for Event Planners Working with Neurodiverse Speakers




In the pursuit of diversity and inclusion, event planners are increasingly embracing the uniqueness of every individual, including neurodiverse speakers. Neurodiversity encompasses a range of neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. As event planners, it's crucial to create environments that accommodate the needs of neurodiverse speakers, ensuring they feel supported and valued. Let's explore some considerations and strategies for fostering inclusivity.


Understanding Neurodiversity


Before diving into the practical aspects, it's essential to grasp the concept of neurodiversity. Neurodiversity celebrates the natural variations in how individuals' brains function. Rather than viewing neurodiverse traits as deficits, it acknowledges them as differences that contribute to the richness of human experience. By embracing neurodiversity, event planners can cultivate environments where all speakers thrive.


Considerations for Event Planners


Communication Preferences: Understand that neurodiverse speakers may have varied communication preferences. If you think about it, this is something you should consider when working alonside any speaker to ensure you are meeting their needs. Some may prefer written communication over verbal, while others may thrive in face-to-face interactions. Take the time to inquire about their preferred communication methods and accommodate them accordingly.


Sensory Sensitivities: Many neurodiverse individuals have heightened sensory sensitivities. Loud noises, bright lights, or crowded spaces can be overwhelming. When selecting venues and designing event layouts, consider factors such as lighting, sound levels, and seating arrangements to create a comfortable environment. Oftentimes, simply keeping the channels of communication open to help speakers to understand the environment they are going to walk into helps here.


 

"I remember working alongside a speaker who had unfortunately suffered a brain injury when she was younger. This resulted in her suffering from photophobia (light sensitivity) and she was concerned about the impact of event features like LED screens, strobe lighting and even over excited PowerPoint presentations. Talking about it made a huge difference to our production choices for her session. This included everything from the seating arrangement on stage to deciding not to rely on the presentation and instead have more conversation."

Felicia Asiedu, Co-Founder, DSB


 

Flexibility in Schedules: Recognise that neurodiverse speakers may have specific routines or needs regarding their schedules. Be open to accommodating requests for breaks, quiet spaces, or adjustments to the agenda to support their well-being and performance.


Clear Expectations and Instructions: Provide clear, concise instructions and expectations regarding the event format, speaking requirements, and logistical details. Written guidelines or visual aids can be particularly helpful for neurodiverse speakers who benefit from structured information.


Designated Support Person: Offer the option of a designated support person or liaison who can assist the neurodiverse speaker throughout the event. This individual can provide reassurance, help navigate social interactions, and address any concerns that may arise.


Strategies for Supporting Neurodiverse Speakers


Pre-Event Preparation: Prior to the event, provide neurodiverse speakers with detailed information about the venue, schedule, and audience demographics. Allow ample time for them to familiarize themselves with the surroundings and prepare accordingly.


Quiet Spaces: Designate quiet, sensory-friendly spaces where speakers can retreat if they need a break or sensory overload becomes overwhelming. Equip these spaces with comfortable seating, calming decor, and noise-canceling headphones if possible.

Visual Aids and Timers: Incorporate visual aids such as slides, cue cards, or timers into presentations to assist neurodiverse speakers in staying organized and on track. Visual supports can enhance comprehension and reduce anxiety during speaking engagements.


Encourage Self-Advocacy: Foster an environment where neurodiverse speakers feel empowered to advocate for their needs. Encourage open communication and assure them that their well-being is a top priority.


Building Inclusive Spaces for Every Speaker


Inclusivity is not merely a buzzword; it's a fundamental principle that enriches our communities and strengthens our collective experiences. By embracing neurodiversity and implementing thoughtful strategies, event planners can create environments where all speakers, regardless of their neurodiverse traits, feel valued, respected, and empowered to share their unique perspectives with the world. Let's continue to champion diversity and inclusion in all aspects of event planning, fostering spaces where every voice is heard and celebrated.

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