Disability Awareness Day
Sunday 14th July 2024
Disability Awareness Day
Sunday 14th July

Toolkit for organising a DAD event

Disability Awareness Day involves a lot of hard work and makes a difference to so many people. Hundreds of people have been involved in developing Disability Awareness Day into Warrington's largest annual community event, one of the largest in the North West and probably the world's largest voluntary led pan disability independent living exhibition.

We have been part of a team that has made the best use of our individual skills and experiences to produce an event that combines an independent living exhibition and a family fun day aimed at empowering disabled people, their carers and families, and this commitment has been recognised by the Queen.

During this time we have provided advice, practical support and encouragement to teams from across the world to assist them in planning similar events. The following information aims to provide you with a brief pathway on where to start and what to consider.

Remember, it only takes one person to start the process, and that person could be you!

Where do we start? You will need to start with a vision, this could be yours or one developed by a small group of people.

The Vision

Before we talk about the vision its worth considering the fact the 83% of disabled people acquire their illness or impairment during their working life, millions don't have any idea where to start to look for information on support.

In February 1992 Nick White Head Ranger of Walton Hall Gardens asked me to look at developing proposals to spend 2000 that had been ring-fenced against "disability projects".

I suggested that we could hold an event aimed at promoting local support services, Nick supported the idea, and this was discussed with other members of Warrington Information Group for the Disabled. Together we developed a vision that our event would:

  1. Highlight the range of services available from statutory, private or voluntary organisations. Services that could enable disabled people to be as independent as is possible.
  2. The event would promote equipment and aides that could help maintain or improve independence, not just what was offered by statutory service providers, we wanted everyone to see the best and/or latest designs.
  3. We want the event to provide an opportunity to showcase what disabled people can do, in the field of sport, arts and entertainment.
  4. Overall the event would need to offer something for everyone, whatever their impairment, and the event would be of interest to their families and friends.
  5. The event would provide a platform for small family run support groups to promote their services alongside the biggest national charities, and be affordable to all business exhibitors, small and large.

Your vision could include all or some of the above. This will be dictated by various factors including the skills available within your team, the size of your overall budget, the support you can enlist from local agencies and more importantly the commitment you receive from local disabled people, their carers and families.

The Team

Like any good team you will need people with a range of complimentary skills, they will need to take responsibility to complete the tasks allocated to them. But most importantly they must be able to work as part of an overall team.

We have an overall DAD Management Team providing strategic direction and deliver the main organisational tasks. In addition we have three sub groups;

  1. The Admin Team provides all administrative functions including minute taking, general correspondence, exhibitor bookings, and communication with service providers, etc.
  2. The DAD Event Site Team managing all onsite activities including marking out the site, co-ordinating the services such as marquees, power supply, toilets, furniture, catering units, marking out parking areas, erecting signage and stewarding DAD Week events, many of which are held in marquees and the hall.
  3. The DAD Stewards and Support Team including co-ordination of over 70 stewards, information point, VIP reception, car parking, refuse collection, First Aid, Park and Ride sites, co-ordinating the Sports Zone, and Arts Marquee.

In addition to the three main sub groups smaller teams organise Arts, Sports Entertainments, and DAD Week events.


From the start our team focused plans on holding an event at Walton Gardens. Initially we thought about an open-air event, but after considering the weather we agreed on exhibition stands under cover of marquees. An organisation in the North West has developed a similar event that is held inside large open plan exhibition or conference facilities.

When you are looking at the event site you will need to consider accessibility for the visitors, exhibitors and emergency vehicles. DAD 2022 will see over 300 exhibitors' vehicles arriving within a 2-hour window and over 24,000 people on the park during the day. You will also need to consider utilities including drains, power and water. Onsite car parking for the exhibitors, and parking and other transport arrangements for the visitors. We operate a free Park and Ride service and a free shuttle bus from Warrington Town Centre.


We considered holding DAD on a weekday. This was lead by the myth and misconception that businesses and statutory services wouldn't attend an event held on a weekend! But after consulting disabled people, carers and families we agreed to hold DAD on a Sunday as this met their needs. We have had several discussions about extending DAD to run over two days; we found that although the larger businesses could attract staffing support, the smaller family run charities would struggle to find volunteers.

When considering the date of your DAD its worth avoiding school holidays, other national, regional and local events such as bank holidays, county shows, etc. Not that I listened to my own advice as I am often reminded that DAD 2010 and 2018 coincided with the World Cup Finals, and this was not for the first time in the history of DAD.

When you have agreed where and when you want to hold your DAD, you will need a team to share and deliver the vision.


Once you have developed your vision and recruited your team you will need to produce a business plan that includes an estimated budget. Next you need to decide how you will raise the money!

Exhibitor fees will need to be set to reflect affordability. We have 2 rates. Voluntary organisations pay a lower rate, with businesses and statutory organisations paying a higher rate.

Our main income is delivered through sponsorship. With stepped rates that reflect what the sponsor will receive. Promote the marketing opportunities, our sponsors get their organisations name on 75,000 flyers, 5,000 posters, 8,000 programmes, the DAD website which receives 600,000 hits per year, promotional banners, a VIP reception, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising.

Grants, donations and takings from the Sports Zone make up the balance of our budget

What Else

There are hundreds of other actions that will need to be undertaken. The following topics are taken from the agenda used by our management team.

Key Components

The most frequently asked question we get about DAD is "What is the magic ingredients to organising a DAD"

The answer is, its not one single thing, but a mixture of:

A clear and simple vision,
A committed team,
Supportive partners,
Making it enjoyable for all involved,
Valuing your team, your partners and your volunteers,
Believing in your vision.

And if two words had to sum it up, they would have to be "teamwork and communication".


As you can see, organising a DAD event involves hundreds of people and thousands of hours of hard work. But the outcome makes it all worthwhile.

All this effort has helped empower disabled people, their carers and families. Over 600,000 people have visited our DAD events during the past 31 years, and countless thousands have attended other DAD events held elsewhere in the Uk and Europe.

Our journey started with a simple vision, are you ready to start yours, if you are, and you require further advice, talk to the team, join us at one of our management meetings or visit us at this year's event. For further information please contact the DAD Administration Team on 01925 240064 or email Dave Thompson Event Co-ordinator at davethompson@disabilitypartnership.org.uk

Dave Thompson MBE DL
DAD Event Co-ordinator

This page is also available in PDF format

Make sure the Stewards can get a cup of tea on the day!

Try and involve the local council and community leaders.

Sponsors are essential for a successful event, make sure you promote them properly
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