About this resource
If you’re interested in planning an event or developing content that is accessible to people of many different abilities and with many different needs, this resource is for you! Here, you’ll find 8 best practices for planning and executing an accessible and inclusive event.
This resource was purposefully built as a website so that we could incorporate new information, resources, best practices, and insights from community members. If you any proposed edits, additions or questions about this webpage, please email email@example.com – we can’t wait to hear from you.
Introduction to Accessibility and Inclusion
Before we dive in, we want to highlight two critical questions: what do we mean by “accessible and inclusive” and why are we encouraging hosts to prioritize accessibility and inclusion?
What do we mean by “accessible”?
Accessible means that people of different abilities and with different needs can comfortably partake in your event because spaces and materials are created in a way that allows them to engage. Accessibility includes making your space and content in a way that is mindful of the needs of individuals with hearing or sight impairments, mobility limitations, expectant mothers, those with food allergies and others.
What do we mean by “inclusive”?
Inclusive means that an atmosphere is created in which all people feel valued and respected and have access to the same opportunities.
Why prioritize accessibility and inclusivity?
We encourage hosts to prioritize accessibility and inclusivity in order to host events that welcome individuals of all different abilities and backgrounds. The 10 Days of Connection prioritizes connection, and in order to create spaces for authentic connection, gatherings must be planned and executed in a way that makes all guests feel welcomed, included, and comfortable.
There are many easy ways to promote accessibility and inclusivity at your event or through your content. Here are eight easy-to-implement practices:
Share information about accessibility.
Letting participants know about accommodations such as wheelchair access, seating, interpreters, bathrooms, nursing rooms, menu, etc. will help people of all abilities plan their visit. A lack of information about accessibility can hinder someone with a disability or special need from attending your event. You may choose to use internationally recognized disability symbols.
Sample accessibility info: “We’ve worked hard to make our event as accessible as possible. There’s an ADA compliant ramp up to the side entrance and the threshold is 1 inch. The front entrance has 5 concrete steps with a metal railing. There aren’t any steps or ledges inside. The dining room tables will be at normal chair height. There are wheelchair spaces available for purchase within the reserved seating area, and as an option, the standard seats have movable armrests. (We’re happy to put your chair aside if you want to sit in the standard seats.) Please arrive 15 minutes before doors open so we can seat you first. There are 2 single-person bathrooms that are large enough to fit a wheelchair with the door closed. There are 5 handicap parking spots in a paved lot within 50 feet of the entrance. All of them have space for side-ramp loading. There are no steep grades anywhere on the event grounds. We don’t have ASL interpreters (but if you’d like to volunteer, reach out!). If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 555-555-5555.”
Use pro-accessibility content design
Certain colors and sizes may make information difficult to understand for those with different visual abilities, such as color blindness or near-sightedness. Integrating shapes, charts, patterns, and sizes into visual information can help clarify a point in a simple way. The ADA National Network suggests the following type and language tips:
- Use basic, clear, non-technical language in the active voice.
- Keep your sentences short – one thought per sentence, under 25 words.
- Use bulleted or numbered lists to break up instructions wherever possible.
- Use a sans-serif font like Helvetica, Arial, Calibri, or Futura. Don’t mix up your font faces too much.
- For printed materials without a lot of text, use bold-face type.
- Make sure type is at least 16-point and line spacing is 1.5 or double.
- Avoid using all caps and underlining text.
- Left-justify your text.
- Use opaque, non-glossy colors and materials for both background and text.
Share ingredients of served food and beverages.
Place signs in front of food and beverage items with their name, ingredients, and where items were sourced from to empower those with food allergies and/or special preferences to make educated choices.
Provide maps and signage to help visitors navigate your site.
Have a site map with key rooms – such as bathrooms, nursing rooms, and break spaces – labeled and available online and/or at the event. Make sure navigation at the event is clear with large signage and assistance available for those who need it.
Use the person-first approach.
In all engagement with those with different abilities, address the person first and then their disability. Disabilities are a condition of an individual’s personhood, not their identity. For example, instead of saying “deaf person,” say “person who is deaf” or “individual with hearing impairment.” In addition, speak directly to the person with a disability and not to their caregiver or friend who might be with them.
Set the tone and group norms for your experience.
You are responsible for setting the tone for your experience. If guests will be meeting others from a different neighborhood or who have different life experiences, consider providing information or resources for individuals prior to the event so they can gain some context.
Consider laying “ground rules” for your event. “PROCESS” (listed below) is one example – feel free to borrow this or create your own!
- P: Participate
- R: Respect one another’s ideas and comments
- O: Open and honest communication
- C: Confidentiality
- E: Experiment with new ideas/challenge already established assumptions
- S: Step Forward/Step Back
- S: Seek to understand, or agree to disagree
Help people get to know each other.
Provide name tags and ask guests to list their gender pronouns (she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs). Facilitate an opportunity for guests to meet – perhaps assign seats, lead an icebreaker, or personally facilitate introductions. Including an opening activity where everyone has a chance to share something – even just their name – can go a long way in ensuring that everyone feels welcome in the space.
Be willing to consider accommodations for individual accessibility concerns.
Provide a name and contact information for those with accessibility concerns to contact prior to the event. Consider asking “What do you need to fully participate?” at registration.
Additional Best Practices
- Make your event listing as accessible as possible by adding written descriptions for all images, uploading a transcript for your videos, increasing text contrast, using headings in order to convey semantic meaning, limiting your required questions, and adding additional time to your purchasing timeouts. For more details, check out this resource from Eventbrite.
- Make your website accessible using these best practices:
- Provide alt-text (or text descriptions) for online photos so screen readers have a text alternative to read to users
- Use appropriate HTML and HTML structure to assist those using screen readers and other types of assistive devices
- Ensure forms can be navigated by all users by labeling and testing keyboard navigation (Tab key)
- Broadcast your event online so that those who cannot be physically present can still engage with the content via captions or hearing assistance devices in their own homes.
- Offer accommodations for individuals with visual impairment. Some examples include:
- Use braille, raised line maps and/or audio assistance to aid navigation
- Have reserved seating available up front for those who have difficulty seeing
- Ensure there is a clear space and navigation to a relief area for service animals
- Have magnifying glasses available if there are printed items with small text
- Offer accommodations for individuals with hearing impairment or deafness. Some examples include:
- Have reserve seating available up front or near speakers for those who have difficulty hearing
- Hire an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. When using an ASL interpreter, be sure to position them near both the speakers and near individuals with hearing impairments. For programs longer than an hour, hire multiple ASL interpreters to maintain the quality of interpretation. Ideally, interpreters should switch off every 20-30 minutes.
- For larger events that rely on dialogue or music, have assistive listening devices available for visitors upon request.
- Provide captions or visual aid (like ASL interpretation) for video content with an auditory component. If you’re unable to offer full captions or a visual aid, consider sharing on-screen or printed talking points to accompany the presentation.
- Offer accommodations for individuals with paralysis or other forms of motor impairment. Some examples include:
- Ensure pathways, entry, and access to all spaces is dignified and does not create excessive burden.
- Individuals with accessibility needs often want to sit with their friends during an event. Make sure accessible seating areas are accompanied with standard seating to accommodate groups.
- Ensure that there are serving counters and tables that are under 36 inches high so those using wheelchairs can use them.
- Offer a note-taking service for those who are unable to take notes.
- Consider these additional accommodations:
- Have a quiet, low stimuli space for those who are overwhelmed or need a break (common for those with autism).
- For longer presentations, integrate movement or audience engagement to stave off distraction.