Experience-rich accessibility: how YOIN location Maaspoort strives for inclusivity


YOIN excellent meeting places do everything they can to facilitate meetings & events at the highest level. They go a step further in the areas of hospitality, craftsmanship, innovation, safety, hygiene and knowledge, as is evident time and again when we carry out our inspections during site visits. The visits provide the location itself, but certainly also us and our auditors, with beautiful, surprising and inspiring insights and stories that we are happy to share, as an example for other locations in the Netherlands.

Experience-rich accessibility: how Maaspoort strives for inclusivity

Being hospitable and facilitating special experiences. As an excellent meeting and event venue, you are constantly on the move to offer your visitors a relaxing experience. That starts with good accessibility for every visitor. The YOIN-certified Maaspoort location in Venlo is such a location that continues to make efforts to make everyone feel welcome. We spoke with Linda Keijzers and Simone Coenen about the steps they have taken within Maaspoort in the field of accessibility and inclusion. 'We want to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome and seen, and in doing so we also want to set an example for other locations in the Netherlands.'

'As a theatre, we want to serve every resident of the region and beyond. By that we really mean everyone,” says Linda. "We were already wheelchair accessible, but we wanted to go one step further." In order to take that extra step, Maaspoort came into contact with the Komt Het Zien Foundation, a foundation that focuses on making performances accessible to visitors with a visual impairment. limit. Simone: 'In collaboration with a fourth-year student from the Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences, we looked extensively at how accessible we are for this group of people. The research focused on the need for information in advance and the needs and wishes surrounding a visit to a theater. That gave us interesting insights that we had not considered before. Often it is the environment rather than the disability that causes a disability in daily life.'

The role of the employee
In addition to structural adjustments to a location, so that a visitor can effortlessly find their way to the cloakroom and the hall, it is important to properly involve your own employees in this. Simone: 'Good accessibility obviously starts with hardware, from sliding doors at the entrance to special places in the hall and accessible toilets, but you also have to take the employees into account. In concrete terms, we include this in every briefing: which visitor is coming, what facilities are needed for this and how do you deal with this as an employee? As part of the process to become more accessible to visitors with a visual impairment, we have also organized an experience for our own staff. Colleagues were asked to do certain assignments blindfolded. That turned out to be far from easy. Partly because of this you will gain even more understanding and you will be able to empathize better. We realize that this is even more challenging for visitors who do not know the building as well as we do.'

Offering a real experience
Finding your place from A to B is one thing, but Maaspoort takes accessibility one step further by giving the visitor an extra experience. Simone: 'In collaboration with Komt Het Zien, we realize a meet & feel. This way, visitors to a theater performance can experience the performance much better. In this way, blind and partially sighted people can feel the decor, the costumes and even the actors. It is important that you use other senses to really involve the visitor in that performance.' However, the fact that a visitor with a visual impairment uses other senses also means that overstimulation is lurking. 'For this visitor, for example, a break is particularly intensive. Just try to find your way to a break drink. We therefore plan extra guest supervisors for these visitors who, for example, bring the break drink to their place in the room.' Although this extra service is used, it is important that a visitor with, in this case a visual impairment, is not treated as wants to be contacted separately. Linda: 'No one wants to feel different because of a disability. All guests want to experience the performance as normally as possible. We are continuously looking for balance in this. We want to serve these visitors optimally so that they have a great experience and at the same time make them feel that this is the most normal thing in the world. We will look at how we can further implement this vision in the field of meetings and conferences.'

Concrete steps towards better accessibility
Accessibility also plays a role before a visit to the location. 'It is important that you think about how visitors collect information before they come to visit your location. In concrete terms, you can make the website more accessible with simple steps: for example, by placing the telephone number directly in the text on your website - and not via a hidden link - and by giving images good titles, so that the audio description knows this in a clear way. to 'translate'', says Simone. Following the aforementioned research, an expert was recently invited for a tour of the building. These insights are also included in the adjustment of the signing. Linda: 'When making plans for adjustments to the building, we look for as much contrast as possible, but also for what is aesthetically pleasing. This means that we make conscious choices in what we do adjust and what we supplement with, for example, our services.' Simone: 'Do you want to check yourself whether your signing is sufficiently clear? Then set your phone's camera to grayscale so you can really see whether the use of color is sufficiently contrasting.'

Preview function
Maaspoort wants to be an example for other theaters and is therefore working hard to improve accessibility. Linda: 'Like every theater, we want to be hospitable and offer an experience for everyone. We are also sticking our necks out for this in other areas, for example by allowing children to go to the theater for free and lowering the barriers for students. This has been possible since the autumn of 2022 thanks to its own youth fund, which was set up with the help of local partners. We have seen many more children in the theater since then. We hope that accessibility for the blind and partially sighted, but also for children everywhere in the Netherlands, will become self-evident.'