Turning Accessibility and Inclusion Aspirations into Action
The message driving Monday’s IAAPA Expo session “Accessibility and Inclusion: Providing Great Guest Experiences for All,” was simple.
“What we need to think about, as an industry, is making space for people with disabilities who haven’t been included before,” said Meghan Mirsch, assistant manager of Comcast NBCUniversal’s Universal Sphere 360-degree immersive theater in Philadelphia. “And that’s shifting from thinking about accessibility and compliance to inclusion.”
Mirsch cited Universal Sphere, which is a free public attraction in Comcast’s corporate headquarters, as an example of what accessibility and inclusion efforts can offer today.
“It’s wheelchair accessible, service animal friendly, and we provide closed captioning glasses and assistive devices for those that request them,” she said. During the COVID-19 shutdown, Universal Sphere updated its online reservation system to allow these services to be booked prior to guest arrival, Mirsch noted. Spanish and Mandarin Chinese translations of the English content is now being added, as well.
Mirsch advised audience members to audit their own attractions as if they were customers with disabilities themselves in order to identify shortcomings and remedy them. She also recommended talking to subject-matter experts and disability associations (achieving certifications from the latter groups) and hiring people with disabilities as a matter of course.
Myron Pincomb, board chairman of the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), walked through the steps associated with IBCCES-certified amusement parks and attractions—such as Six Flags and SeaWorld Orlando, among others—as being equipped to serve people with specific disabilities.
“The first one is training,” Pincomb said. “All of our training is position-specific, so if you’re a ride operator, the training that you’re going to get is very specific to what you do.” The second step is an on-site review by IBCCES of how well the attraction has implemented this training, as well as what still has to be done, and the third step is the standards-based certification process. The last step is communication between certified facilities and the IBCCES to aid these facilities on an ongoing basis.
Based on IBCCES research, amusement parks and attractions that complete disability service certifications report significantly better brand perception by guests, increased attendance levels, higher revenues, and a “huge boost to employee morale,” Pincomb said.
“When you make a product more inclusive,” Mirsch said, “you make a better product for everyone.”