Planning an Accessible Event


Holding a meeting? Planning an event? One out of five of your attendees is likely to have a disability, and as many as nine percent may have a severe disability. The following information will help minimize barriers the event design may pose when hosting a guest with a disability. Event planners are responsible for planning and providing for the accessibility needs of participants with disabilities at any event sponsored on behalf of the University. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Coordinator's office is available to assist members of The Ohio State University community in planning events. You can contact the ADA Coordinator's office at 614-292-6207 or  

Why do Events Need to be Accessible?

The Ohio State University is obligated by federal and state laws to ensure program accessibility to persons with disabilities, provide reasonable accommodations to afford access, remove barriers to full participation, and modify policies, practices, or procedures as necessary to afford access for an individual. Additionally, it is simply the right thing to do and enhances the ability for all to participate. 

Plan and Ask Early

One size never fits all, and no two events—or attendees—are the same. Since there is no single way to provide accessibility, it is important to explore options and to consult with the individual making the request to determine the most appropriate accommodations. There is no substitute for asking participants early in the planning process to let you know what they need. All events should have someone designated to be responsible for accommodations as well as help with seating, ensuring captioning and other technology is working, maintaining clear pathways, or other needs. 


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/or you have financial needs, support may be available through the ADA Coordinator's office.  

Use an Accommodation Statement

Let participants know up front that accommodations can be made for a variety of needs. Including an accommodation statement on all of your communication (registration forms, flyers, e-mail, advertisements, etc.) will help you communicate this clearly, frequently, and is the expectation for all events. Feel free to use the below examples: 

  • To ask questions about accessibility or request accommodations, please contact (name) at (include phone and an email address so that someone with a hearing or verbal disability can make inquiries). At least two weeks' advance notice will help us to provide seamless access. 
  • We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. To request an accommodation or for inquiries about accessibility, please contact (name) at (phone and email). 

Make the Entire Event Inclusive and Enjoyable

When planning social functions and meals, you must allow individuals to bring personal assistance at no additional cost if needed as an accommodation. All participants should also be able to sit in the same area. If there is 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. 

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 ADA, you need to check to ensure that there are no last-minute surprises. Consider barriers that may affect those with a wide range of disabilities (e.g., visual, hearing, and mobility) in a wide range of areas, including: 

  • Parking, hotel shuttles, public transportation 
  • Restrooms 
  • 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 from the event 
  • Sleeping rooms - If needed for the event, confirm that accessible rooms are available for guests 
  • 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  

Presentations and Materials 

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

  • Ask the presenter(s) to provide a copy of the presentation materials well in advance to allow for preparation of alternative format versions (large print, Braille, etc.) and to provide to interpreters or captioners.  
  • Presenters, facilitators, speakers should always face the audience when speaking and use a microphone. 
  • Presenters should describe any images or graphs that are relevant to the presentation. 
  • Videos to be used during the presentation should be captioned in advance.  
  • If using 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. 
  • Be prepared to provide materials to attendees in advance of the event.