Make your event accessible for everyone!
We expect that all meetings and events sponsored by Hope College will be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Taking care to create an accessible event benefits not only individuals with visible or known disabilities but also helps to ensure that all participants/attendees and people of all ages are fully able to engage in the program.
At the most basic level, every event planner should put themselves in the role of a participant and say:
- I can get there
- I can participate
- I can access all information
To get to those three points does take planning, so we offer these guidelines to help you create a successful event for everyone who wants to participate.
- Planning the Event
Think about who may be attending your event and be prepared to address any special needs. Work with the Events and Conferences Office to find a space that may meet your needs. Not all rooms on campus can accommodate all needs, so finding the best space ahead of time is important.
Look for these features when considering your meeting/event space:
- Visibility: Consider those with vision loss
- Clear signage (identifying location and directions)
- Well-lit meeting space and adjacent areas
- Projection screen visible from all seating (if using projection)
- Acoustics: Consider those with hearing loss
- Make sure amplified sound is an option in the space
- Request a wireless microphone if questions will be asked by the audience
- Limit unnecessary background music
- Ensure that seating is available near the presenter for lip-reading
- Are assistive listening devices available?
- Is there well-lit space for an interpreter if needed?
- If the venue is equipped with a hearing loop, ensure the loop is turned on and ask speakers to use microphones during the event
- Mobility: Consider those who may be in a wheelchair or have other mobility impairments
- Accessible parking near the venue
- Ramp and/or elevator access
- Accessible bathrooms
- Barrier-free pathways
- Wide doorways and aisles to accommodate wheelchairs/scooters
- Technology: Consider those who may need to use adaptive devices
- Electrical outlets in accessible seating areas to accommodate devices, laptops, etc.
- Extra space or work surface
- Service Animals: Consider access and space for service dogs
- Comfortable space for service animals to rest during the event
- Accessible toileting and watering facilities nearby
- Visibility: Consider those with vision loss
- Announcing the Event
Include a welcome message in an invitation or notice of the event to let invitees know they can contact the planner regarding accommodations. Your message might include text such as:
We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. To be respectful of those with allergies and environmental sensitivities, we ask that you please refrain from wearing strong fragrances. For inquiries about accessibility or to request an accommodation, please contact the Events and Conferences Office at email@example.com or 616-395-7222.
Another approach is to include a checklist in your meeting RSVP. For example:
I will need the following accommodations in order to participate:
☐ Assistive listening device
☐ Reserved front-row seat
☐ Large print
☐ Advance copy of slides to be projected
☐ Wheelchair access
☐ Wheelchair access to working tables throughout the room
☐ Scent-free room
☐ Lactation room
☐ Gender-neutral bathroom
☐ Diet Restrictions. List: ________________
☐ Other: ____________________________
If your event includes a press release being sent out, please note that all event press releases from Hope College include this language:
Audience members who need assistance to fully enjoy any event at Hope are encouraged to contact the college’s Events and Conferences Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 616-395-7222 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
ECO may follow up with you on requests received. If it appears we will be unable to meet a specific request, ECO will follow up with the individual who made the request to determine whether an alternative arrangement can be made.
- At the Event
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.
Provide presenters with a checklist requesting that they:
- Submit materials in advance so that they can be forwarded to individuals who may not be able to view screens or flip charts
- Verbally describe visual materials (e.g., slides, charts, etc.)
- Have printed copies available (in larger font)
- Avoid using small print on presentations that can’t be seen from a distance
- Ensure speakers (including those asking questions) always use a microphone
- Activate captions on any video used in the presentation
- Encourage hourly breaks
- Organize breakout group activities to maximize distance between groups (e.g., each group going to a corner of the room or side rooms).
Make sure to repeat questions posted by the audience before responding if there is not a roving microphone available. Presenters or audience members may express confidence that they are loud enough and do not need a microphone. Regardless, ask them to speak into one.
Clearly indicate allergens and gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or other options.
Contact the Hope College Events and Conferences Office (616.395.7222, email@example.com).
- Resources to Help with Your Event
- Hope College Web Accessibility Policy
- Planning Accessible Meetings:
- American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights Toolkit
- Accessible Information Exchange: Meeting on a Level Playing Field (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division)
- “Cheatsheets” for creating accessible content (The National Center on Disability and Access to Education)
- Making Your Webinar Accessible (American Evaluation Association)
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