By Nina Polien Light | Photo by McKinley Wiley
“Particularly in conferences, meetings, and concerts, there was always that awkward moment for hosts when they came upon guests who needed special accommodations with a wheelchair, low vision or low hearing and had no idea what to do,” Anthony says. “It was always an uncomfortable moment for me, so I always leapt into action to make better accommodations for the guests.”
That need became personal in 2010, when Anthony was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that occasionally causes light sensitivity that impairs her vision and mobility issues that impede her ability to maintain balance and use stairs.
Anthony’s professional and personal experiences led to the creation of Accessible Arrangements Event Planning last July. During the company’s inaugural year, Anthony coordinated two events at which about 20 of 500 guests required accommodations. Now she is about to take on her biggest challenge as a business owner: providing accommodations for delegates and guests at this month’s Republican National Convention.
At press time, the Committees on Arrangements for several states did not know how many guests would need accommodations and at what events because primaries were ongoing and many delegates had not been selected. However, Anthony says event planners were relieved to know she could make arrangements for delegates or their traveling companions with special needs.
“We take the pressure off of them,” Anthony, who has done logistical planning for several Super Bowls, served as a tour manager for live concerts, worked as a production manager for Nickelodeon and Nick at Night, and reinvented herself into a freelance event planner, says. “We’re detailed in our client assessment because we want to know about every guest. It helps event hosts offer a great experience for everyone. We create a room design based on each guest’s needs. Our goal is to make everything inclusive.”
RNC guests may need assistance in several areas. For those with mobility issues, Anthony will provide transportation that accommodates wheelchairs or walkers. She will arrange modular walkways that smooth out uneven terrain, so folks with mobility challenges can attend delegation parties at venues such as a beach or vineyard. She will also incorporate wheelchair seating near the action in a conference hall or boardroom instead of parking wheelchairs in the back of the room.
Anthony’s company will provide hearing loop systems for those with impaired hearing. Visually impaired attendees will benefit from large-print or Braille materials, temporary tactile signage, and personal guides to help them navigate unfamiliar areas.
Guests with post-traumatic stress disorder may become unsettled by loud noises or sudden flashes of light, so Anthony may offer a serenity lounge or diffused lighting to increase their comfort.
Anthony’s team of freelancers includes an environmental health and safety specialist, marketing director, certified healthcare professionals, and American Sign Language interpreter.
The Cleveland native says RNC event planners should realize assisting guests with special needs is morally and financially rewarding.
“This is an audience that is highly ignored and represents huge discretionary spending,” she says. “Not only is the person who has the income attending but also their family.”
For more information: accessiblearrangements.com