Planning an Accessible Event

Introduction

Holding a meeting? Planning an event? Nineteen percent of your attendees are likely to have a disability, and as many as 9 percent may have a severe disability. The following information will help you minimize surprises you might otherwise encounter 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 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 ada-osu@osu.edu
 

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, to provide reasonable accommodations to afford access, to remove barriers to full participation, and to modify policies, practices or procedures as necessary to afford access for an individual. Beyond that, 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 ever 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 how to provide appropriate accommodations. There is no substitute for asking participants early in the planning process to let you know what they need. At larger events or events with scheduled accommodations, designate someone to be responsible for accommodations as well as help with seating, ensuring captioning and other technology is working, maintaining clear pathways, or other needs.
 

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 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 and frequently. 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 impairment can make inquiries). At least two weeks' advance notice will help us to provide seamless access.
  • If you require an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact (name) at (phone and an email) by (specific date). Please be aware that advance notice is requested as some accommodations may require time for the University to arrange.
  • 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).
  • If you have a disability and require accommodations to fully participate in this activity, please check here. You will be contacted by someone from our staff to discuss your specific needs.
     

Make the Entire Event Inclusive and Enjoyable

When planning social functions and meals, include personal assistants and interpreters at no additional cost. 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.

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 numbers
  • 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
     

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 persons 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.). 
  • Presenters, facilitators, speakers should always face the audience when speaking and use a microphone.
  • 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.