Every visitor to your exhibit is a potential customer. Wheelchair-friendly booth design helps to ensure that every attendee can enjoy all aspects of a trade show display, including maneuvering around the booth, viewing and reaching sample products, and accessing tablet or iPad keyboards. Use these six helpful tips to improve wheelchair accessibility in your booth.
How the ADA Applies to Trade Show Exhibits
As you’re no doubt aware, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else in public spaces, such as workplaces, schools, public transportation vehicles, parks, shopping centers, and yes, trade shows.
That means your booth needs to comply with all ADA laws and specifications regarding exhibitry spacing, seating, maneuverability and overall accessibility. Follow the guidelines below to ensure that your booth adheres to ADA requirements.
Make Your Booth Accessible
- Wheelchair-accessible flooring. The flooring of your exhibit should either sit at ground level or possess a wheelchair ramp for accessibility. Both the flooring and the ramp should be as smooth and seamless as possible. Your ramp should measure at least 36 inches wide, and be no steeper than a 1:12 ratio, which means that for every inch of rise (or height) you need to also have 12 inches of run (or length).
If you are using a trailer for your exhibit, add a ramp or consider adding a hydraulic lift so that everyone may enter it. Ramps must also have handrails on both sides and be of a consistent height.
Avoid thick carpets (i.e., anything more than half an inch thick) because thick carpeting can make wheelchair maneuverability difficult. Also, take care to see that your carpet is attached securely and that the piles or loops are level all the way through.
- Appropriate object spacing. While portable elements that you bring to the show (bookcases, tables, shelves, etc.) do not have to meet ADA requirements, all participants should be able to engage fully in your exhibit. Consider the positioning of your display pieces and touch screens and make sure that someone in a wheelchair can pass by even if another participant is standing in front of it. He or she should also be able to easily back a wheelchair away and make a 90-degree turn.
You’ll also need to ensure that any shelving in your display cases is hung at eye level and reachable by someone in a wheelchair. If your objects are meant to be viewed from above, they can be no higher than 36 inches. If you do have to place objects higher than 36 inches, make sure a booth staffer is available to move the objects closer to anyone using a mobility device.
- Exhibiting large objects. When exhibiting large display pieces like cars, boats or tiny houses, it’s generally understood that many of these pieces cannot be made wheelchair-accessible or ADA-compliant. However, an acceptable workaround is to offer a video tour or a model of the object that allows everyone to “see” the inside as though he or she were actually moving around inside it.
- Conference room maneuverability. If your exhibit booth contains a conference room, make sure that your aisles include 36-60 inches of space for optimal wheelchair accessibility. If possible, include both horizontal and vertical aisles for greater accessibility and designated seats on the aisles and in the front row. You’ll also want to take into account seating space for personal assistants and also provide space at the back of the conference room for standing or stretching.
- Presentation area seating. If you plan on giving product demonstrations or presentations in your exhibit space, follow the same guidelines as for conference rooms and make sure there’s designated space for attendees using mobility devices to be comfortably seated at the ends of chair rows and/or along the front row.
- Double-decker exhibits. If you can’t install an elevator, then you must provide the same experience on all floors of a multi-level exhibit. You can get a little creative, however, by streaming presentations being held on an upper floor to the lower floors, or by adding a lounge area to a lower floor if most of your meeting spaces are on the upper floor.
Making sure your trade show exhibit provides an enjoyable experience for everyone who attends your conference is of utmost importance. If you want to learn more about how to make your booth wheelchair-friendly and ADA compliant, check out the ADA’s Planning Guide for Temporary Events.