Featured image forPlanning an Accessible and Inclusive Event

Written by Brian Rogers, PATF Funding Assistance Coordinator and Community Accessibility Coordinator at LVCIL

A boy is reeling in his fishing pole while his father stands behind him with one hand steadying the boys grip, the other hand resting on his shoulder.Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living (LVCIL) is in the process of planning its 5th annual Fishing and Fun in the Park along with our great partners Allentown Parks and Recreation and Lehigh Valley Fish and Game Protective Services. This event is open to the public and includes accessible fishing with help from local anglers, environmental education stations and live animal demonstrations. We are very excited to be planning this year’s event on September 22nd, 2018 from 9am to 2pm at the Little Lehigh Park, 1600 Park Drive, Allentown, PA. Last year’s event won the Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society (PRPS) “Excellence in Recreation and Parks” award. This year’s event promises to be even more excellent!

When we started this event over four years ago, we had no idea how to plan a festival. We did, however, know we wanted the event to be inclusive and inviting to everyone. Our goal was to start small, so we invited only our consumers to our first event and had just over 100 participants.

The event space we chose was flat, with a packed gravel and dust path that was less than 10 feet from the water. We had a total of four vendors lining the path and dropped accessible portable toilets on the path edge. We supplied the fishing equipment and the license for participants to fish. We had hotdogs, rolls, soda, water, and chips all donated, and we were ready to cook! We had maps of the parking area and other pertinent information, such as where to find registration. Everything was ready to go… So we thought!

A man in a tie dye lab coat stands behind a table in the grass performing a science experiment for a small audience of all ages, some of whom are using wheelchairs.The day of the event, because they wanted to be close to the festival, people started parking in the grass area we had designated for vendors and equipment, instead of the supplied parking lot. The hotdogs we were cooking were not Vegan or Kosher, so we left two groups out of a portion of our all-inclusive event. The spot we held the event happened to be an area with some very large black walnut trees, limiting access for people who have allergies to nuts. We also said if we want to be all-inclusive we need to invite everyone not just our consumers.

Our second year we made a lot of improvements, including having an alternate for people who are Kosher or Vegan by supplying other snacks, and fixing the parking situation. We still didn’t have a great solution to the black walnut trees as the current event space was ideal for access to the creek. That year we he had 17 vendors and over 500 people attend.

A girl tosses a yellow frisbee in a grassy field. There is a helicopter in the background with a crowd around it.Our third year we grew to almost 750 attendees and we were not prepared! The past two years we handled the event with approximately 8 to 12 volunteers. Luckily the Girl Scouts came to our rescue and did a wonderful job helping out with the fishing equipment. Someone caught a duck and it had to be rushed to Wildlands Conservancy with a hook in its mouth. But we are happy to say the duck survived. Overall the event went well.

Our fourth year we decided due to last year’s growth and an invasive species of plant taking over our fishing spot, we would move the event to a larger area. This solved the black walnut issue, but made the creek a little less accessible, leading to some complaints. To cover the larger crowd, we managed to get over 70 volunteers from groups such as Guardian Life Insurance, Olympus, and Wells Fargo. The new space offered us an accessible parking area where we used cones to designate an access aisle. Unfortunately, six cones were driven over, and cars parked blocking the access lanes—something we need to fix this coming year.

As we approach our fifth year, we feel the event is now largely a success, with over 27 accessible vendors, accessible fishing, and lots of parking, including an accessible parking area. We estimated almost 1000 people attended last year. The event was submitted and won the Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society (PRPS) “Excellence in Recreation and Parks” award and was presented at Kalahari Resort at the yearly PRPS conference this past March.

My advice to you if you are thinking of creating an accessible, inclusive event is to talk to someone who has done it. There are issues and things that are not always thought of when planning an event, that someone with experience may be able to offer assistance on. Consulting with people with disabilities, from diverse cultures, from the LGBTQ+ community, and of various religious backgrounds can help you navigate the inclusion ins-and-outs of planning. If you need assistance or have questions on planning a successful inclusive event, feel free to email me at brianrogers@lvcil.org. And be sure to join us this year for Fishing and Fun in the Park!


Our Funding Assistance Coordinators (FACs) are fantastic resources with a wealth of knowledge. Visit our FAC page to find the one nearest you and keep your attention on our blog as they continue to share their expertise through various articles and stories.