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Breaking Barriers: Creating an Accessible Event Experience

The need to ensure accessibility ranks high on any event planner’s agenda. This includes planning for accessibility at events of all types. Whether you are planning a conference, virtual meeting, or public celebration, event planners must weave accessibility into every aspect of their preparations. By making your event fully accessible and implementing proactive measures, you can create an environment where all people can fully participate and enjoy the experience.

When there is inadequate planning for communication access during an event, this can lead to a range of issues and challenges that can ultimately cause negative outcomes. Proper accessibility accommodations play a role in the event’s success.

How an event can go wrong with no accessibility accommodations:

Exclusion and Isolation: When event organizers don’t consider the needs of all people, it can lead to feelings of exclusion and isolation. Individuals requiring accommodations may be unable to engage with others, access information, or enjoy the event like everyone else, leading to a negative experience.

Missed Opportunities: Hosting an important event without providing accommodations for all people leaves event organizers open to missing out on the potential contributions and participation of a significant portion of the population.

Legal Consequences: Since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, failure to make events accessible may result in legal consequences. Non-compliance with disability rights laws can lead to fines, lawsuits, and damage to the event’s reputation.

To avoid these problems and ensure an inclusive and successful event, it’s crucial for event organizers to proactively plan for accessibility.

Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal:

Promote Accessibility: Clearly communicate that your event is accessible. Include information about accessibility on your event website, promotional materials, and social media channels. Use appropriate accessibility symbols and icons to convey this information.

Reserved Seating: Set aside reserved seating areas with clear views of the speakers and interpreters for Deaf attendees. Ensure that these seats are labeled as accessible and are situated in a well-lit area.

American Sign Language (ASL) Interpretation: Providing American Sign Language interpreting at an event is essential to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for individuals who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing and use American Sign Language as their primary language. This service allows them to fully participate and engage in the event’s activities.

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART): Consider providing CART captioning services, which involve a captioner transcribing spoken content in real-time. This text can be displayed on projected screens or personal devices for Deaf attendees to read.

Accessible Materials: Ensure that all event materials, such as brochures, handouts, and digital presentations, are provided in accessible formats, such as electronic documents compatible with screen readers.

Promote Inclusivity: Encourage a culture of diversity and inclusivity at your event.

By taking these steps, you can make your next event more accessible for all individuals. Create an inclusive environment where everyone can fully participate and enjoy the experience. Remember that accessibility is an ongoing process, and feedback from attendees can help you make continuous improvements.

Event Planning Items to Consider

Budget: Remember that accommodations can cost money, and the organizer of the event is responsible for providing them. Incorporate this into your planning and remember to budget accordingly.

Contact Information: On all flyers, social media, websites, advertisements, registration and application materials associated with the event, please include the event coordinator’s contact information including name, phone number, and email address and provide appropriate space for attendees to request accommodations. For example, “For individuals requiring accommodations, please contact name, phone number, email address as early as possible prior to the event to help ensure availability.”

Presentation Materials: Check with the presenter(s) to determine if they require accommodations and to ensure their videos and materials follow accessible guidelines. All videos presented should be captioned and tailored to the requested accommodations.

What to do after obtaining accommodation information:

  1. Designate who is responsible for receiving and coordinating accommodation requests.
  2. Follow up with the requestor to confirm the details of what is needed.
  3. Ensure all requests are completed and/or addressed appropriately.

Make Your Event Accessible

Partner with DSU to provide communication access to your event attendees.


Download this handy Accessibility Checklist from Clemson University.