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Bob Wolfe: New accessibility and carer ticket helped me navigate Planner Live North

The RTPI is working to make sure that all our events are accessible and inclusive to all. Over the coming months, we will initiate a range of new processes, options and features to help us ensure that all our members can enjoy our events. An example of this is the introduction of accessibility and carer tickets.

This was introduced in January of 2024 and was in place for the Planner Live North Conference and helped our member Bob Wolfe to attend the conference. Having recently lost his sight, Bob took advantage of a new RTPI scheme to access a free additional ticket so his colleague could help him navigate the venue on the day. 

Here’s what Bob had to say.

In this blog, I want to help others who are visually impaired enjoy RTPI conferences and events and to guide the RTPI in adapting future events. The conference was designed to enable planners to examine the role they might play in a future rejuvenated planning process on Collaboration Competition and Community engagement as this relates to strategic planning.

Getting there

As a recently blinded person getting to the venue was a challenge. However, I was accompanied by a colleague (and fellow Leeds fan) who became my Personal Assistant (PA) for the day. The RTPI enabled this by granting her a complimentary place*. We travelled to Manchester Victoria using the Trans Pennine Express excellent Passenger Assistance service then onwards to Old Trafford by taxi due to the infrequent trams. Disabled parking was available.

The Venue

Hotel Football was welcoming with Reception indicating loos, lifts and stairs. Accessibility is of paramount importance for those with disabilities. Acknowledging that a lift was available, however, the stairs to the conference would have challenged many. Provision of a finger buffet style lunch was ideal as was the availability of drinks through the day.

The Conference

The conference was excellent. It was designed to be interactive which was appreciated by the delegates with whom I spoke and there were many opportunities for audience participation. There were excellent presentations, including that by Jane Healey-Brown (ARUP) on a wide sweep of strategic planning and the recently adopted Places for Everyone. There was an opportunity for delegates to participate in the RTPI’s research project on the development of new strategic planning models. This was presented by the project team who used the inventive way of utilising the delegates’ three words summary to create a word cloud of priorities.  This approach is very engaging but not appropriate to those who are visually impaired. This would have been improved by a tech solution for input and voice over commentary on the outcome.

I was particularly interested in The Planner’s Simon Wicks’ ideas of storytelling and how this could improve our approach to public engagement and the involvement of the wider community.

Whilst I was able to make a contribution following the “Consequences“ activity I felt excluded from the process. A more considered approach to inclusivity would require consideration in future without detracting from the overall effectiveness of ‘the game’.


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While enjoying the presentation Bob found the word cloud a challenge.

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How storytelling could improve public engagement was an interesting session, but one of the activities was difficult to take part in.


Overall, I was impressed by the conference and its outcomes. On a general note, accessibility to conference presentations would have been greatly improved had they been forwarded to those with a visual impairment beforehand. This would enable these to be preloaded on to delegates devices in the appropriate format.  I am delighted that the RTPI have now committed to doing this for future events.  

None of my comments should take away from the ability of the majority of delegates to engage and participate in the conference and I am pleased that the RTPI are taking on board my feedback.


As part of our ongoing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion set out in our CHANGE action plan, the RTPI is currently offering accessibility and carer tickets for all national events and some regional events which allows delegates to bring a nominated carer for free. This can be anyone you feel could help you out on the day. It is anticipated this trial will be rolled out across all regions. Whilst we are pleased that the physical access to Planner Live North worked well, we can see that there are improvements to be made to the content and participation for all attendees. We will continue to work toward our ambition of being inclusive for all members.

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