There are many things to consider when planning an event or conference, but a vital part is finding an accessible venue for your guests. Accessibility touches all aspects of an event including ease of travel to the venue itself, the ability to move freely around onsite and catering to varying needs such as dietary requirements.
Finding an accessible venue isn’t always straightforward. Event planners may have specific requirements for people with disabilities and sensory or neurological differences. Many venues have great qualities, but their lack of adaptation or modernisation can present a significant barrier to successful events.
Although Keble College is steeped in history, it has come a long way since its opening in 1870. Keble was actually one of the first places to promote inclusivity and is known as the first Oxford College of the modern era due to its progressive and inclusive views. Today, Keble College features several modernisations to ensure accessibility for guests, ensuring a beautiful and practical space for weddings, residential conferences, board meetings and special occasions featuring a handful of guests up to several hundred delegates.
Planning ahead is vital to ensure venues meet access requirements. It gives planners time to understand attendees’ requirements and allows them to recce venues before booking. When planning an event, it’s important to review the following aspects:
Accessibility isn’t just about the venue itself. Planners also need to consider how people will get to the venue. Is there public transport to the venue and is it frequent enough? Are directions to the venue clear? Is there parking onsite and can it be reserved? Is the entrance way clear with solid ground for mobility support?
Keble College boasts an enviable location within the heart of Oxford. Situated on the northern edge of the city centre, it provides easy access for guests travelling from any area of England. There are frequent buses and trains available to serve guests or they can drive and take advantage of Oxford’s multiple Park & Ride hubs. Keble’s expert team will also provide directions and a selection of maps to assist with travel arrangements.
Although the College has limited parking onsite, planners can discuss accessibility needs with Keble’s professional Conference and Events team. Spaces can be reserved across both Keble College and the H B Allen Centre via the Porter’s Lodge which is staffed 24 hours a day.
Keble College is a welcoming venue with clear entrance ways. Although it has large doors, typical for a historical venue of its time, one side is left open for the duration of events to allow easy access for wheelchairs and mobility aids. Main site parking provides access to the Quads, with either level or ramped access to all buildings. The H B Allen Centre, which opened in 2019 features modern accommodation, a lecture theatre and seminar rooms with level access from the pavement with gentle slopes and ramps around its Quad.
Access inside the venue
Planners will also need to consider whether there’s step free access inside the venue, whether ramps are of a gentle gradient, whether facilities are clearly signposted and if there’s sufficient space to move around.
Keble’s main site is based around five Quads with buildings that vary in age and style, making some areas more accessible than others. However, many of its staircases have contrasting edges, automatic lighting and handrails, and it’s possible to access the iconic Dining Hall, the Seminar Rooms, Theatre and accessible bedrooms without using stairs.
Both sites provide ample space for guests to move around easily, free from trip hazards or obstructions. Many rooms feature powered doors and facilities are signposted throughout the venue. There are a number of lifts to transport guests to rooms, including the Seminar Rooms in the Sloane Robinson building and the conference and event spaces in the H B Allen Centre.
The O’Reilly Theatre which provides seating for up to 250 delegates has level access, a lift for balcony wheelchair seating and an accessible toilet. The Theatre in the H B Allen Centre accommodates up to 100 people with dual access via stairs or lift.
Keble’s magnificent Dining Hall boasts a huge open space with plenty of room to manoeuvre a wheelchair. Located on the first floor, it can be access via stairs or lift which transports guests directly into the hall. Keble’s famous Chapel can also be accessed via a temporary ramp with ample space inside to accommodate wheelchair users. Those entertaining evening guests can utilise the College’s grade 2 listed bar via ramped access and there is level access to the H B Allen Centre’s café from the Quad.
Another consideration is how the facilities may impact the accessibility of a venue. Planners need to assess if there are ample lifts and accessible toilets, audio/visual enhancements for guests with hearing or visual impairments, whether there’s flexible catering and whether the venue can be hired exclusively to maintain privacy.
Keble’s two sites provide a selection of meeting and event spaces to meet various requirements. All rooms feature AV and WIFI accessibility with varying capacity and functionality. Many of Keble’s rooms boast ample natural light, controlled temperatures and technical additions such as projectors, cameras and microphones to allow video/audio recording for hybrid participation. The O’Reilly Theatre, H B Allen Centre Theatre and Seminar Rooms also come equipped with hearing support systems.
The College includes nine accessible toilets in several locations including the bar, Sloane Robinson Building and Arco Building, as well as six accessible toilets within the H B Allen Centre. Keble has a total of six lifts across its sites, providing step free access for guests. Its range of platform and passenger lifts include rails and buttons at an accessible height with many featuring audio information and backlit buttons with braille.
The College also boasts a range of on-site single, double and twin bedrooms in distinctive settings – perfect for events spanning several days. Of Keble’s 400+ rooms, Keble offers 13 accessible bedrooms in the H B Allen centre, with several accessible rooms across its main site. All accessible bedrooms include a wet room, powered doors and reinforced beams for hoists if required. Many rooms include an attached suite for carers or assistants. Accommodation includes tea and coffee making facilities, towels, free WIFI and a generous selection of toiletries.
Keble’s fantastic catering team have over 50 years of event catering experience and work with planners to ensure their events are as envisioned. Menus are tailor-made using fresh, locally sourced ingredients and Keble’s Chefs can cater for a variety of tastes, allergies and preferences.
Finally, Keble’s enclosed site allows planners to host events in complete privacy. The College offers a range of exclusive, private hire packages, perfect for smaller events as well as larger events accommodating several hundred guests with Bed and Breakfast. Planners can hire the entire College with exclusive use for as many days as required.
Keble’s conference team understands that guest comfort is paramount and a key factor in successful events. Their dedicated team will work with planners to understand their requirements and provide useful solutions based on years of experience. Whatever the requirements, Keble’s team will make sure events go exactly as planned. Their commitment, empathy and professionalism is what makes the College so highly recommended.
If you’re looking for a unique venue which provides thoughtful accessibility options throughout, Keble College provides the perfect blend of an iconic, historical setting with modern, accessible facilities. Speak to a member of our knowledgeable team or click here for more information.