MS Life is an ambitious event for any organisation, let alone one the size of the MS Society, which represents the 100,000 people in the UK who have multiple sclerosis.
It is a three-day, bi-annual one-stop event that features the latest research findings delivered by the top MS specialists in the UK (and often Europe); 30+ workshops; 100 stand exhibition as well as a sponsored mile-long ‘Wheel-and-Walk’, a fully [disability] accessible club night and a fabulous fashion show where all the models have a disability linked to MS.
Amanda Rayner worked on the first MS Life in 2006, and every one since. In 2009 the event was held at the spectacular Sage in Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
For this event Amanda was not only second-in-command to the Head of Conferences at the MS Society but was also in charge of health and safety. A big remit when you consider that of the 2,000+ people who attended the event over its three days, 20% had some sort of disability.
This meant that the risk assessments had to look at the venue and make it safe for people using walking-sticks, pairs of crutches, on mobility scooters, or in wheel-chairs, be they push-alongs, electric or the top of the range units that can lift the occupant into a ‘standing’ position.
No matter how complex the challenges, Amanda’s total commitment made it work.
- Making staff at the venue understand EXACTLY what moving around their space as a person with a disability meant. The solution? A site visit where staff were made to use crutches or a wheelchair so they could experience it for themselves.
- An in-house technical crew who didn’t appreciate how a small thing, such as a 5mm lip at the end a ramp could be a trip hazard for a person using a walking stick – until someone tripped over it.
- Orchestrating the over-night removal of 112 theatre style seats from the main auditorium and replacing their footprint with specially designed screw-down plates to create a totally flat surface for wheelchair access.
- Coordinating the smooth movement of people round the event.
- Ensuring the number of wheelchairs in a space at any one time did not exceed the venue’s guidelines.
- Inspecting the three floors of The Sage to ensure it all complied with Health & Safety legislation as well as the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006 (DDO).