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The Ohio State University

ADA Coordinator's Office

Planning On-Campus Events
That Everyone Can Attend

The ADA Coordinator’s Office is available to assist members of
The Ohio State University community in planning events.

Holding a Meeting? Planning an Event?


If you are planning a meeting or an event, 19 percent of your attendees are likely to have a disability, and as many as nine percent may have a severe disability. The following information will help you minimize surprises you may otherwise encounter when hosting disabled visitors.

What are disabilities?

Disabilities result when physical and mental impairments interact with the environment to cause barriers. For example, impaired walking becomes a disability when stairs or long distances must be negotiated; impaired hearing becomes a disability when there is a high level of ambient noise and all information is presented verbally; impaired vision becomes a disability when all information is presented in standard-sized print.

Disabilities present themselves in many forms. Some disabilities are visible, others invisible. They may be permanent or temporary, psychological or physical, severe or mild, or based on a combination of impairments. A person can be young or old, be born with an impairment, or acquire one as a result of an injury or chronic illness.

Why do public events need to be accessible?

It is university policy, and it is the law. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to participate in public events. Beyond that, it is simply the right thing to do.

The following tips on planning meetings, conferences, health fairs, and other events will help ensure that everyone can participate. The environment can be controlled to minimize barriers. The key is to plan early, ask early, and ask the right questions.

Plan and ask early

One size never fits all, and no two meetings—or attendees—are ever the same. Thoughtful planning will minimize surprises and allow you to respond to requests efficiently. There is no substitute for asking participants early in the planning to let you know what they need.

Put it in the budget

When budgeting for meetings or conferences, don’t forget to list accommodating people with disabilities as a budget item. For instance, you may need a sign language interpreter, captionist, assistive listening devices, or media in an alternate format (e.g., handouts in large print or Braille). If you are hosting an event that is open to the public and you have financial needs, support is available through the ADA Coordinator’s Office.

Volunteers are priceless

When you plan for moderators, facilitators, and registration attendants, identify people who can volunteer as readers and guides and who can perform other functions to accommodate those with disabilities. These volunteers should be included in staff orientation and have training on how to work with people with disabilities.

Selecting your site

Conduct an on-site visit to the event facility to determine if there are barriers to accessibility. Even when a facility says it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, you need to check to ensure that there are no last-minute surprises. Consider barriers that may affect those with a wide range of impairments (e.g., visual, hearing, and mobility) in a wide range of areas, including:

  • Accessibility/availability: parking, hotel shuttles, public transportation
  • Entrances and interior doorways: width, ramps, automatic door openers
  • Signage: location of accessible bathrooms, entrances
  • Corridors, doorways, and aisles: width for wheelchair access
  • Elevators: easy access, adequate number
  • Sleeping rooms and restrooms
  • Meeting rooms/meal areas: extra capacity and table space for wheelchairs and assistance animals, space for a clear line of sight to the interpreter/captionist
  • Dining facilities and catering: ability to accommodate dietary restrictions
  • A quiet break space with extra capacity
  • Toileting space for assistance animals

Promoting your event

Promotion materials

Let participants know right up front that accommodations can be made for a variety of needs. Including an accommodation statement on all of your communications—registration forms, flyers, web pages, e-mail, printed pieces, faxes, computer or print advertisements, etc.—will help you communicate this clearly and frequently.

If your office doesn’t have a standard statement that asks participants to make requests for accommodations, feel free to incorporate this example into your communications: “To ask questions about accessibility or request accommodations, please scontact (name) at (include phone and an e-mail address so that someone with a hearing or verbal disability can make inquiries). Two weeks' advance notice will allow us to provide seamless access.”

The person or office sponsoring the event should be assigned as the contact. If questions arise that do not have a ready answer, the ADA Coordinator can assist in locating resources and providing accommodations.

Also keep in mind that promotional materials should include photos of individuals with disabilities as well as the appropriate standardized symbols. This implies a commitment to ensuring all participants an accessible conference or meeting. These materials should be available in alternative formats, such as Braille, large print, or computer disk and include the appropriate standardized symbols.

Registration materials

Your registration form must ask whether assistance is needed. Feel free to use one of these sample statements:

  • If you have a disability and require assistance, please inform (planner) by attaching your requirements to this form or call (planner and his/her contact information).
  • If you have a disability and require accommodation to fully participate in this activity, please check here. You will be contacted by someone from our staff to discuss your specific needs.

You can also use this sample list of accommodations:

I will need the following accommodations to participate:

  • ASL interpreter
  • Note taker
  • Assistive listening device
  • Captioning
  • Large print
  • Braille
  • Audio cassette
  • Disk. List format:
  • Wheelchair access
  • Orientation to facility
  • Diet restrictions. List:
  • An assistant will be accompanying me:  Yes  No
  • Other:

Make social events and meals enjoyable

When planning social functions and meals, include personal assistants and interpreters in the estimated number of participants at no charge to the participant, if at all possible. All participants should also be able to sit in the same area. If there’s a buffet, have servers available to assist, since buffets can be particularly difficult for persons with mobility or visual impairments. If outside entertainment or transportation is on the agenda, make sure it is accessible to all participants.

Presenting for everyone

As the event planner, you will want to work with invited speakers and presenters to ensure that presentations and materials are accessible to persons with disabilities.

When choosing a location, select:

  • Well-lit and easily accessible meeting rooms
  • Rooms in which you can control background noise to the greatest extent possible
  • Rooms with good acoustics and an auxiliary sound system, if possible

When developing materials:

  • Offer written materials (handouts, overheads, etc.) in a variety of formats (e.g., raised print, large print, Braille, audio cassette, computer disks, closed caption, and large print).
  • Create easy-to-read visual aids. Text should be displayed in large bold letters. Use a maximum eight lines of text (18-point type with high contrast) for a slide or transparency.

When working with a presenter, discuss:

  • The importance of developing a presentation that will be accessible to all participants
  • Making the presentation’s key points available on overheads or slides; be sure they are completely legible, with large print and sharp, contrasting colors; the presenter should also allow adequate time for the audience to read the visual aids.
  • Providing accompanying materials, including presentations and handouts, with a complete verbal description; the presenter should provide a copy of presentation materials well in advance to allow for large print or Braille transcription.
  • The importance of using microphones and facing the audience when speaking to assist those who read lips or use assistive listening devices
  • The importance of talking clearly and slowly, spelling out unusual names and words for a sign language interpreter, if needed
  • The presenter’s needs (ramping or podium requests, a reverse interpreter, a sighted guide for a person with limited vision, etc.)

Who's responsible for making public events accessible?

Facility staff members are legally responsible for ensuring that a site is in compliance with the ADA. In addition to selecting an accessible site, the event planner is responsible for making the program accessible and providing text alternatives, sign language interpreters, and other accommodations.

Accommodations Check List

  • Parking and pathways

    • Are there accessible parking spaces near the accessible entrance? Are spaces clearly marked with the international symbol of accessibility? Are there van accessible spaces?
    • Is there an accessible route from parking/drop-off to the entrance? Is sidewalk a minimum of 36 inches wide at all points?
  • Entrance and doors

    • Does entrance door have opening of at least 32 inches of clear width?
    • Do non-accessible entrances have signs giving directions to the accessible entrance? Is there an automatic door? Or, is pull force on door five pounds or less?
  • Public areas

    • Does registration area have a lowered counter?
    • Is there a text telephone (TTY)?
    • Are all accessible routes free of protruding objects?
    • Are all elevator call buttons located at 42 inches or below? Is there raised letter and Braille signage on door jambs designating each floor?
  • Public restrooms

    • Are the restrooms located along an accessible route of travel?
    • Is there signage at inaccessible rest rooms directing people to accessible restrooms?
    • Does door to restroom provide a minimum of 32 inches of clear opening width?
    • Does restroom have levered handles?
    • Does stall have adequate space to close door? Is toilet seat 17 to 19 inches above floor?
    • Are there appropriate grab bars?
    • Does lavatory provide knee clearance of 29 inches? Are soap, towels, and amenities located at or below 48 inches?
  • Meeting rooms

    • Are meeting rooms on accessible route of travel?
    • Do doors provide at least 32 inches clear width?
    • Does stage have an accessible ramp?
    • Is an assistive listening system available?
    • Does room have movable seating?
  • Emergency

    • Are exits clearly identified?
    • Do fire and emergency alarms have both audible and visual signals?
  • Other facility areas to check if needed for your conference or for participants’ free time

    • Sleeping rooms
    • Recreation rooms
    • Restaurants
    • Vending machines
    • Retail stores and services

Other resources

Being prepared can help you handle the unexpected. The resources listed below can help you avoid or rectify common problems.

If you have difficulty accessing any portions of this website due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, or you have suggestions on how we can make this site more accessible, or you need the information in an alternative format, please contact us at:

Contact Information:
L. Scott Lissner, ADA Coordinator

Address: ADA Coordinator's Office, The Ohio State University,
Ground Level; Hale Hall (formerly Enarson Hall)
154 W. 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
(Voice) Phone: 614-292-6207
(TTY) 614-688-8605
(Fax) 614-688-3665
E-mail: ada-osu@osu.edu

Copyright 2005. Terms of Use: Unless otherwise noted, documents stored on this website (not external links/pages) may be reproduced and distributed in print or electronic format only if offered at no cost to recipients and as long as full credit is give to the ADA Coordinator's Office at The Ohio State University, and as long as this Terms of Use Notice remains intact.

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