The university is committed to creating an inclusive environment for the entire campus community and visitors. Part of this commitment is taking into account accessibility needs in our event planning and execution. Accessible event planning helps all participants fully engage in programs.
For people with disabilities, inclusion means an event that is free of barriers so that they can participate fully. One important aspect of being a caring community is thinking about how a person’s disability will affect their attendance and enjoyment of a program or workshop, and planning ahead so that they will feel welcomed and valued.
This guide and checklists are intended to assist with planning meetings and events that are accessible to people with disabilities. It provides recommendations and checklists for all phases of a meeting or event, from choosing the venue to promotion, registration, presentations, materials, social events, meals, and staff and volunteer training.
Note, however, that it is impossible to anticipate every barrier that might limit or preclude participation by attendees. Moreover, because new ideas for improving accessibility and new technologies continue to emerge, this toolkit should be viewed as a living document that is meant to evolve.
What are Disabilities?
Disabilities are physical or mental impairments that limit one or more major life activities, including, but not limited to, walking, seeing, or hearing. Disabilities can be obvious, but most are not apparent. Non-visible disabilities include partial sensory impairments such as low vision or hearing loss, chronic medical conditions, mental health conditions, and learning disabilities. People with disabilities are the largest under-represented group of the U.S. population.
What is the University’s Disability Compliance Obligation?
University Policy (Fayetteville Policies and Procedures 203.1) outlines our obligations in ensuring program accessibility to people with disabilities, to provide reasonable accommodations, to remove barriers to full participation, and to modify policies, practices or procedures as necessary to afford access for an individual. Designing accessible events is also good business practice because it enhances the ability of all to participate.
It is the obligation of the event planner to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. Taking the necessary steps to make an event accessible for all of the participants can be easy when done in the early stages of planning. Pre-planning for comprehensive accessibility often reduces the need for individual accommodations.
There is no single way to provide accessibility, and the type of need may differ among people with the same condition. It is often necessary to explore access alternatives and to consult with the individual who needs access to determine how best to accommodate for a specific circumstance.
What Programs Must be Accessible?
Every type of program, meeting, tour, and event, whether held for the university community or open to the public, must consider the access needs of people with disabilities. This includes all university-sponsored activities held off campus.
There is also an obligation to ensure accessibility to events being held at a university facility that are sponsored by an outside person or organization. If you are involved with coordinating the use of facilities with outside groups, you should discuss whose responsibility it will be to ensure accessibility and accommodations. Agreements for using facilities should clearly specify which party will assume responsibility for these obligations at the event.
Who is Responsible for Disability Access to an Event?
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. Advance planning for accessibility will maximize the opportunity for all to participate and minimize the need for last minute, and perhaps costly, changes. For instance, if an event requires bus transportation, there is no extra cost for requesting a wheelchair accessible bus, such as paratransit, in advance. If an accessible bus is not requested, but a participant requires a wheelchair accessible bus, alternative transportation options will have to be provided and usually will not result in an equitable experience for the participant with a disability.
Who is Responsible for Any Expenses Associated With Providing Disability Access?
The costs associated with disability access are considered part of the overall expense of the event. Event planners should include the expense of any anticipated accommodations as a budget item in the event planning. Most accommodations can be made at little or no cost, such as choosing a wheelchair accessible venue for the event. Accommodations such as sign language interpreting may incur a cost. Event planners who think the cost of the accommodations cannot be supported by the event should discuss alternative funding sources with their supervisor or adviser. Before denying any accommodation requests, event planners should consult with the Office of Accommodation and Accessibility Services within the Department of Equal Opportunity, Compliance, Title IX (OEOC).