Accessible Meetings Guide Addresses Chemical and Electrical Sensitivities

Another great resource shared by Mary Lamielle, this time on how to make events accessible for people with MCS/ES.

Accessible Meetings Guide Addresses Chemical and Electrical Sensitivities

The new online resource from ADA Hospitality, Accessible Meetings, Events & Conferences addresses chemical and electrical sensitivities in their planning process.

“The guide is an updated version of a 1993 work authored by June Isaacson Kailes and Darrell Jones. The Mid-Atlantic ADA Center and TransCen Inc. sponsored the update and publication in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the ADA. The updated version includes both regulatory updates along with practical guidance from meeting planning professionals and subject matter experts.

Mary Lamielle, Executive Director of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies (NCEHS), was invited to comment on the 1993 Guide for the update. She made extensive recommendations addressing the access needs of people with chemical and electrical sensitivities.

The following pages include the NCEHS fact sheet Planning an Accessible Meeting or Event for People with Environmental Sensitivities or Intolerances and recommendations that were incorporated into the just-issued guide. Those with environmental sensitivities are urged to use the fact sheet and the guide to substantiate individual disability accommodation needs and to ensure all meetings are healthier for everyone.”

accessible events

You can download a copy of  Planning an Accessible Meeting for People with Environmental Sensitivities or Intolerances as a word document, and read it below. It is more detailed than what is in the online Guide.

Recommendations That Were Incorporated into the Accessible Meetings, Events & Conferences Guide include:

Local Resources To Assist Your Planning Efforts
Make sure that meeting planners appreciate the need for healthy indoor environmental quality, the environmental barriers to access for people with chemical and electrical sensitivities, and the ways in which these barriers can be minimized or eliminated by careful selection of meeting site, attention to specific details with conference staff such as fragrance-free meeting policy, and contractual language that precludes actions before or during the meeting that would deny access such as remodeling activities or pesticide applications. Consider consulting with an expert on environmental sensitivities who has experience in assessing meeting and hotel facilities. A facility that is accessible to people with environmental sensitivities is healthier for everyone.

Site Inspection
Trust your senses during the site visit. Think neutral. Healthy indoor air quality does not have an odor. Clean does not have an odor. Are you aware of fragrances and scents from “air fresheners,” deodorizers, potpourri? Is your nose or throat burning from chlorine, formaldehyde or other solvents? Are your sinuses and breathing impacted by mustiness? Even pervasive or lingering cooking odors can be a sign or poor or inadequate ventilation. Note that attendees may have allergies, asthma, sinus problems, frequent headaches and migraines, or chemical sensitivities, and may not be able to successfully participate in your meeting, event, or conference if air quality is poor.

Additional Clauses for Specific Disabilities
Likewise, if even a small portion of your attendees have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) or environmental illness consider clauses mandating the hotel avoid renovations prior to and during your event, use unscented cleaners, and avoid the use of pesticides. The hotel should be asked to comply with the fragrance-free meeting policy for the meeting space, common areas, restrooms, paths of travel, and guest rooms.

Pre-Event Attendee Registration and Communications
Addition of “Organic” to the list of dietary restrictions
Addition of “Intolerances” to “Food Allergies”: “Food Allergies/Intolerances”

Best Practices Recommendations for Layout Planning
Some attendees may need a space with no fluorescent or compact fluorescent lights. Be prepared to turn off a bank of fluorescent lights and have on hand floor or table lamps with incandescent light bulbs.

Designate one discrete wall or zone beyond meeting rooms for all attendees to recharge their batteries and chargers to provide further protection for attendees with electrical sensitivities.

The event, meeting or conference facility should have a designated area to serve as a fluorescent and cell phone free space for attendees who may need this accommodation.

Managing Question and Answer/Audience Participation
Be aware that attendees with electrical sensitivities may not tolerate wireless microphones. In this case, ask an event staff member to convey the question via microphone for the attendee.

Recommendations for Buffet Meals
…gel fuel heaters (like the brand Sterno) are a frequent source of reaction for those with chemical sensitivities and should be avoided.

Additional Tips and Recommendations for Meals
Do not use candles or fresh flowers at the meeting, including at buffet meals and in dining areas.

Using Qualified Interpreters
When contracting for interpreters, ask that interpreters refrain from wearing or using fragrances and scented personal care products, including perfumes and colognes, hand and body soaps, body sprays, after-shave, shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products, hand and body lotions, scented deodorant, scented laundry detergents, fabric softener, and dryer sheets, etc.

Personal Assistants and Service Animals
Ask that service dogs not be treated with pesticides for fleas or groomed using fragranced products right before a meeting or conference

Tips While Presenting
Use felt tip markers free of scents and solvents; replace the cap when not in use
Use lasers to point only, resist the urge to wiggle the light around the screen, and turn off when not in use
To ensure access for attendees with electrical sensitivities, turn off non-essential computers, projectors, microphones, and other electronic equipment when not in use
Attendees with electrical sensitivities may not be able to use or tolerate wireless microphones

Invisible Wounds
A number of recommendations in the Guide address those with invisible wounds—especially veterans, survivors of trauma, and those with a wide range of neurological conditions arising from injury. These recommendations may be helpful for those with environmental sensitivities. They include: disclosing in advance events that will use strobe lights, surround sound, fireworks, etc.; holding seats at the side of the room close to exits for individuals who may experience challenges with crowds; making “quiet rooms” available and mark them “time out” spaces.

 

Fact Sheet
(download available below)

Planning an Accessible Meeting or Event for People with Environmental Sensitivities or Intolerances

A meeting space should be fragrance, smoke, and pesticide-free.
It should be as free as possible of non-essential electronic and radio frequencies.

Events should be advertised and posted as fragrance, smoke, and pesticide-free. Designated areas should be reserved as fluorescent and cell phone free upon request.

Promulgate a fragrance-free, accessible meeting policy. Advise all attendees including personal assistants, interpreters, and IT personnel as well as hotel staff of the meeting, event or conference’s fragrance-free policy. Ask that all attendees and staff refrain from wearing or using fragrances and scented personal care products for the health and comfort of all attendees. Include the fragrance-free meeting policy in any contract for services.

The venue or conference center must be a nonsmoking, never smoking facility. Smoking should be prohibited in the building and within at least 25 feet of entrances.

Do not use combustion sources: no candles, sterno gel, fireworks, etc.

Do not use fresh flowers, including at buffet meals and in dining areas.

All events, dining facilities, guest rooms, common areas, and grounds should be free of conventional pesticides. Know the pest control and lawn care maintenance practices of the facilities so that this information is readily available to those who need it or in the event of an emergency.

Avoid facilities that routinely exterminate the meeting space, dining and kitchen areas, and guest rooms with conventional pesticides. Avoid facilities that use conventional landscaping pesticides. If you contract with a facility that uses conventional pesticides, ensure that no applications will take place within a substantial period of time—at least several months–of your meeting. The name(s) of the pesticide(s) used; the trade and chemical name; the Material Safety Data Sheet(s); and the last date of application should be made available to those who need this information.

Contractual language should prohibit any structural or landscaping pesticide applications for a specific period of time prior to and during the meeting.

An accessible meeting space should not be new, recently remodeled, or have ongoing renovations: no recent or ongoing carpet or flooring installation, furnishings including bedding in guest rooms, painting, or wall covering; no recent or ongoing roofing, asphalting. Contractual language should prohibit remodeling or renovations for a period of time prior to and during the meeting. (See Creating an Accessible Indoor Environment, Mary Lamielle, National Center for Environmental Health Strategies)

An accessible meeting space is mold-free. When evaluating potential venues, ask for a description of water damage from leaks or recent storms and what mitigation measures were taken. Consider testing to confirm the space is mold-free prior to signing a contract.

Select a meeting space or floor that has windows that open to the outside, a balcony, or is easily accessible to the outdoors. These may be important design considerations for people with environmental sensitivities.

Select a meeting space without decorative fountains or water features, or swimming pools. Chlorine used in decorative water features and swimming pools can make a venue inaccessible. If decorative fountains or water features are present, halt the use of disinfectants for a period of time before the event. (Pools that are isolated from the meeting area and most guest floors or otherwise separately ventilated may be less problematic.)

Select a meeting space that does not permit pets. Venues that permit pets may pose a greater problem for attendees with allergies and for those disabled by pesticides and other environmental exposures. Pets are more likely to have residue from pesticide treatments for fleas and from fragranced grooming products. Hotels and venues that permit pets may be more likely to use conventional pesticides and more toxic cleaning agents to maintain pet friendly facilities.

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In evaluating and selecting a prospective venue, measure (using a gauss meter and radio frequency meter) conference areas and guestrooms for potentially high electromagnetic fields (EMFs)/radiofrequency (RF) exposures.

Protocol for ensuring the lobby, conference area, restrooms, guest rooms, and paths of travel are accessible:

Remove batteries or otherwise disengage all fragrance emission devices; remove any urinal or toilet block air fresheners or deodorizers; remove all aerosol or plug-in air fresheners, deodorizers, and disinfectants; restrict the use of incense, potpourri, candles, reed diffusers, scented hand soaps, sanitizers, lotions, and similar products. (See CDC Indoor Environmental Quality Policy, CDC-SM 2009-01, 06.22.2009, pages 9-10)

Direct conference staff to remove fragranced and antimicrobial liquid soaps and fragranced hand sanitizers and substitute fragrance-free products. (Some attendees may require removal of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.)

Provide paper towels for guests for whom electronic hand dry-blowers are inaccessible.

Refrain from using aerosols and toxic cleaning agents such as furniture or metal polish, floor wax, or window cleaners before or during an event. Damp wipe and dust with unscented microfiber cloths.

Use least toxic/allergenic cleaning agents: no chlorine, phenol, alcohol, citrus or pine-based cleaning agents; no scented or fragranced cleaning agents; no disinfectants.

Do not shampoo carpeting immediately before an event.

Provide fragrance-free soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and linens in guests’ rooms.

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Protocol to ensure access for people with electrical sensitivities:

Provide a “map” of conference area layout pointing out sources of EMF/Wi-Fi emissions such as lighting and ventilation control panels, location of Wi-Fi routers, electronic technology used in power-point presentations, making recordings, etc. so that impacted individual can identify less problematic areas.

Turn off any non-essential cell phones, smart phones, and Wi-Fi to minimize exposing attendees to electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency emissions.

Provide choice of accessible guestrooms that are Wi-Fi-free. Be prepared to replace compact fluorescent lights with incandescent lightbulbs for guests.

Provide hard-wired, landline telephones at the meeting site for attendees for whom cell phones, smart phones, and computers are not accessible.

Designate one discrete wall or zone for all attendees to recharge their batteries and computers.

Some attendees may need a space with no fluorescent or compact fluorescent lights. Be prepared to turn off a bank of fluorescent lights and have on hand floor or table lamps with incandescent lightbulbs.

Avoid flashing lights, strobe lights, surround sound, fireworks, theatrical smoke or fog, and similar loud, visually challenging, or significant air pollutants in conference presentations, event entertainment, sponsor displays, and similar activities.

Presentations:

Provide felt tip markers free of scents and solvents; ask presenters to replace cap when not in use.

Instruct presenters who use lasers to point only, to resist wiggling the light around the screen, and to turn off when not in use.

Instruct presenters to turn off non-essential computers, projectors, microphones, wireless microphones, and other electronic equipment when not in use. (Some individuals may need to avoid wireless microphones.)

 

Attendees:

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Attendees should avoid wearing or using fragrances and scented personal care products including perfumes and colognes; hand and body soaps; body sprays; aftershave; shampoo, conditioner, gels, hair spray and other hair care products; hand and body lotions; scented deodorant; scented detergents, fabric softener, and dryer sheet, and similar fragranced or scented personal care products.
Air well recently dry cleaned clothing.

Attendees should turn off any non-essential cell phones, smart phones, and Wi-Fi to minimize electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency emissions.

Flash photography should be preceded with an announcement to those in the immediate area.

Request that attendees not wear flashing shoes in the common conference area.

Request that service dogs not be treated with pesticides for fleas or groomed using fragranced products right before the conference.

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Planning an Accessible Meeting for People with Environmental Sensitivities or Intolerances  (word document)

@2015 Mary Lamielle

Thanks to Susan Molloy for her valuable contributions.

For additional information, please contact:
Mary Lamielle, Executive Director
National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, Inc.
1100 Rural Avenue, Voorhees, New Jersey 08043
(856)429-5358; (856)816-8820
marylamielle@ncehs.org

 

The National Center for Environmental Health Strategies (NCEHS) is a national, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. For over thirty years, NCEHS has worked to protect the public health and improve the lives of people injured or disabled by chemical, electrical, and other environmental exposures.

For more information, please contact the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, Inc.
marylamielle@ncehs.org; (856)429-5358, (856)816-8820

DONATE TODAY: Tax-deductible contributions to support the important work of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies should be mailed to:
NCEHS, Inc., 1100 Rural Avenue, Voorhees, New Jersey 08043

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Now for all the other accessibility guides to include us and for event planners to take notice!

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7 responses to “Accessible Meetings Guide Addresses Chemical and Electrical Sensitivities

  1. Absolutely brilliant – thanks for flagging it up.

  2. How to Better Accommodate Travelers with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
    – By Glenn Hasek

    August, 4 2014
    Green Lodging News

    http://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article79118.html

  3. Pingback: When Keeping Your Job Depends On What Other People Do | Seriously "Sensitive" to Pollution

  4. This has some really good tips too:

    STEP 2: LET ATTENDEES KNOW

    Let your attendees know how accessible the event will be. Your online and offline publicity and marketing materials should communicate expectations to potential participants. Be specific about participant demands so people with fragrance and chemical sensitivities can trust that the organizers have put thought into accessibility.

    http://dualpowerproductions.com/2011/03/26/organizing-a-fragrance-free-event/

  5. Pingback: How to Enforce a Fragrance-Free Policy | Seriously "Sensitive" to Pollution

  6. Two other resources:

    Think Again Training » Fragrance Free
    http://thinkagaintraining.com/about/fragrance-free/

    The Root Social Justice Center
    Tips on How to be fragrance-free
    http://www.therootsjc.org/fragrance-free.html

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