Belfast’s efforts to become an accessible and inclusive city for all have been recognised, as Visit Belfast, ICC Belfast and professional conference organiser event-ful were awarded ‘Best Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at a Conference’ for Harkin Belfast 2022 at the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) Excellence Awards 2022.
The award recognises a team that has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion throughout event planning. Judges assessed the reasoning and decision-making process for introducing new pioneering practices and the positive impact the changes and new practices had on stakeholders and beyond.
Beating tough competition from NASUWT for the Black Teachers’ Consultation Conference and the RenewableUK for Global Offshore Wind 2022, the judges commended Visit Belfast, ICC Belfast and event-ful on the collaborative approach taken to ensure the successful delivery of short and long-term initiatives.
In partnership with The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement and the Department for Communities as lead sponsor, Belfast encouraged delegates to positively reframe the narrative on approaching, supporting and enabling persons with disabilities to achieve their career goals and aspirations.
The 2022 Harkin International Disability Employment Summit welcomed over 500 delegates in-person and promoted positive social impact and left a lasting legacy across the city. To ensure a successful event, Belfast underwent leading transformational change before, during and post Summit to ensure it is an accessible, diverse and inclusive host destination.
These changes included:
JAM Card training which allows customers to communicate their accessibility needs discreetly, highlighting that they may need a little extra time and patience during their visit
A permanent Changing Place installed by SYNC Living in the Riverside Foyer area of ICC Belfast
Training in inclusion for over 260 hospitality and tourism professionals in Belfast provided by Visit Belfast and NOW Group
Development of a Social Narrative Access Video to support delegates in navigating their surroundings at ICC Belfast
Under the Northern Ireland Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey’s direction, the Harkin Belfast legacy initiatives also included 300 ring-fenced employment opportunities for young disabled people, 100 mentoring sessions delivered during the Summit, an eight-week Entrepreneurship Course for young people with disabilities in collaboration with the British Council and a Dragons’ Den for disability led enterprises sponsored by Ulster Bank
The City of Belfast will continue to utilise the Harkin Summit to learn from global best practice, as a catalyst for further progress and to inform future policy work and initiatives in this area.
Visit Belfast’s Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation, Rachael McGuickin said,
Belfast is committed to being an accessible and inclusive host destination for all. Ahead of welcoming delegates for the Harkin Summit we worked to ensure that our city and industry partners were ready to meet the needs of participants and deliver the warmest of welcomes that Belfast is renowned for.
"Working with NOW Group, we equipped our colleagues and partners with the skills, language, and confidence to provide an inclusive welcome to Belfast. The collective interventions by ICC Belfast, Visit Belfast, Department for Communities and event-ful as part of the Harkin Summit have helped to accelerate our work on inclusion and highlights the important role that tourism and business events can have in driving positive change.”
Julia Corkey, Chief Executive of ICC Belfast | Waterfront Hall | Ulster Hall added,
Together with our partners across the city, we are committed to ensuring Belfast is as welcoming as can be. As a venue that champions inclusion and celebrates diversity, it is fantastic to receive recognition in respect of the enhancements made at ICC Belfast, such as the Changing Places facility, which will help us to fulfil our ambitious goals and attract global events to the city.
Managing Director at event-ful, Corinne Weatherup, said,
It was a privilege to work with the Harkin Institute and Department for Communities on the delivery of such an important international event. Ensuring that every delegate attending Harkin Belfast had a very positive experience and found the Belfast Summit fully accessible and inclusive became our number one priority; one shared by ICC and Visit Belfast. We are delighted that our collaborative approach to the EDI strategy resulted in a lasting legacy for the city and that it has been recognised by ABPCO in this way.
This award rounds off a successful year for the business events and tourism sector in Belfast, with the city receiving a number of accolades over the last few months. Last month, collaborative efforts of Belfast’s tourism and events industry to become more sustainable helped the city secure 8th place in the world in the 2022 Global Destinations Sustainability Index, ranking Belfast as the most sustainable destination on the island of Ireland.
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