Welcome to our February issue of the Accessibility Minute Newsletter! This newsletter is produced by the CU Boulder Digital Accessibility Office and covers one accessibility skill or topic per month. Please visit the DAO website for access to all past newsletters. As always, thank you for taking a minute (or two!) to read.
Accessible In-Person Events
When planning for an in-person event, it’s best to always assume that your audience will include people with diverse access and engagement needs. This month’s newsletter will outline approaches you can take when planning an in-person event to ensure all attendees have an equitable experience.
There are two approaches when planning for an event; the reactive approach and the proactive approach. The reactive approach is when accommodations are put in place once a person with a disability makes a request. The proactive approach is when access needs are anticipated, and accessibility considerations are made in advance. When planning for an event, it is important to combine both approaches. Although you may not be able to anticipate every access need, we recommend taking a proactive approach when planning, and taking a reactive approach by providing the option for attendees to submit accommodation requests. It is important to note that being proactive does not eliminate the need for accommodations, nor is that the goal, but it does create a more inclusive event for all attendees.
Most events require creating promotional materials, whether it be web pages, online registration forms, schedules, flyers, emails, and more. When creating and distributing these materials, keep content accessibility best practices in mind and consider following the best practices listed below.
- Include general accessibility information. This can range from the accessibility of the event space, parking, wheelchair access, and more. Include accessibility practices, such as sign language interpretation and real-time captioning, that will be provided proactively.
- Describe the event structure or agenda to help attendees assess whether they may want to request an accommodation. For example, “this event will include a slide presentation and videos.”
- Let attendees know how they should request accommodations, and if there are deadlines for submitting requests. Some accommodations, such as sign language interpreting and real-time captioning, may require up to a week or more in advance to coordinate and implement.
- Create a registration request form, if possible. Include a section for attendees to indicate if they have any accommodation requests, again, indicating how much advance notice may be required.
- Sample text: "Do you require an accommodation to access this event? If yes, please describe. Please note that accommodation requests received less than 5 business days before the event may not be able to be fulfilled."
- Provide a point of contact for accessibility assistance. Include an email address and phone number for attendees to contact in the event of day-of access needs.
As mentioned, it is best to plan proactively, when possible, and consider the access needs of attendees. When deciding on a location for the event, we recommend the following best practices.
- Reserve seats in the front and back rows for attendees who need additional space or assistance getting to their seats or who have service animals.
- Check the sound quality. The use of microphones improves sound quality for most attendees and enables the use of assistive listening devices for people with hearing impairments.
- Be mindful of chairs that are small or difficult to get into. If you think chairs may present access issues for some people, add other types of seating.
- Ensure access paths to seating and other important areas are not blocked or crowded by furniture, cables, or areas of congregation.
- Have staff or volunteers available at larger events to assist attendees to find different locations (particularly helpful for blind and low vision attendees). For large events, it is also good to designate an on-site point person for accessibility to troubleshoot any issues that arise.
- Consider live streaming or recording the event, if feasible for presenters. Having a remote option improves accessibility, since some people may be unable to attend in-person for various reasons. If this is an option, please visit our live captioning resource page for more information on providing closed captions for live streaming or recording.
If an in-person event includes speakers or presentations, it is important to ensure that the information being presented is accessible and inclusive to all participants. While these tips assist individuals who are blind and have low vision, they also assist individuals with other types of disabilities, such as learning and cognitive disabilities. Speakers and presenters should follow the best practices listed below, which we also recommend applying to virtual events.
- Ensure that anyone speaking at the event uses a microphone, including audience members with questions.
- Provide verbal descriptions of presenters during introductions as well as any meaningful visual content in a presentation (images, graphs, charts, etc.).
- Pause to check for understanding often.
- Allow time for processing if you ask questions.
- Build in time for breaks during longer presentations.
- Avoid rushing or trying to cover too much content for the allotted time.
- If you don't have an upcoming in-person event, implement the presentation delivery best practices into your next virtual presentation or event.
- Look for ways to improve events in which you participate and ask questions about accessible practices.
DAO Office Hours are now the 4th Tuesday of every month from 1-2 pm MT. Our next office hours will be held on February 28, 2023.
We want to hear from you about any questions or issues you run into while trying out this accessibility practice this month! Please send us your thoughts on this month’s topic.
If you have questions, comments, or would like support with accessibility, please contact us at DigitalAccessibility@Colorado.EDU.