Access Center- Student Disability Support Services
Guide for Accessible and Inclusive Events
Events are one of the key elements in maintaining the MSU Denver community. They’re a great way to connect and engage with one another, share and gain knowledge, and even have some fun. At the same time, access and inclusion are core values for MSU Denver in all its endeavors. It is, therefore, important to ensure that events are free of barriers so that all participants can experience an event to its fullest. This document aims to provide information and recommendations to ensure that every MSU Denver event is inclusive and accessible for all participants.
Responsibility for Ensuring Access
All university events – including all programs, meetings, exhibits, tours, etc. – must be accessible regardless of when, where, or how they are presented. This includes events taking place off campus or in virtual settings. Event planners should ensure accessibility and inclusion considerations are encompassed in every part of the planning process, including budgeting. Planners who believe an event cannot support the cost of an access consideration should discuss alternative funding sources with their supervisor or advisor. Planners should also make every effort to consult with the Access Center and other applicable university leadership prior to foregoing any access considerations.
Advanced Planning is Key
Including access in all event preparations not only helps lower or eliminate associated costs, but also provides the best possible experience for all participants. Planning for access in the beginning is much easier than trying to make last-minute changes, and is far less stressful!
Areas to Consider
Communications and Materials
- Ensure all communications and materials shared before, during, and after the event are accessible. This includes advertisements, forms, and other promotional materials. Common things to look for include:
- Hard copy materials should be available in large print (16-point Calibri font) and accessible electronic versions.
- Electronic materials and communications – including web pages and emails – should always be accessible. Avoid presenting information as images alone, and ensure all text-based information matches any visual information.
- Video content should always have accurate captions. Presenters should be contacted in advance to confirm captioning is available. If captions are not available and it is not possible to have captions created in the necessary timeframe, a complete transcript should be provided.
- Include a statement on all communications indicating any relevant accessibility information as well as contact information for potential participants to request any specific accommodations not listed. An example statement:
The Department of Cool and Exciting Stuff aims for inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including those with disabilities, to engage fully. We kindly request that participants refrain from wearing strong fragrances to be respectful of those with allergies and environmental sensitivities. Live captioning will be available. This event will contain some flashing images. Participants requiring accommodations should contact Alex Person at email@example.com or (303) 555-5555 by Wednesday, January 1, 2020. Requests made after this date will be provided to the best of our ability.
At a minimum, the following statement should be included:
[name of department or sponsoring party] aims for inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including those with disabilities, to engage fully. Participants requiring accommodations should contact [designated contact person] at [email, phone number] by [specific date, at least 10 days before the event]. Requests made after this date will be provided to the best of our ability.
- For virtual events, specify the platform to be used and whether participants will need an account or any special software to participate.
- Select spaces that can accommodate wide and barrier-free walkways, seating, and tables.
- There should be enough space to allow scooters, wheelchairs, or other mobility devices to move and turn without encountering any major barriers.
- Ensure accessible restrooms and elevators (if necessary) are located nearby, and ensure clear signage is posted to direct participants to them.
- Paths, entrances, restrooms, and/or elevators specifically identified as ‘accessible’ should be located reasonably close to the event. Ensuring participants do not need to go out of their way for any access is highly recommended.
- Seating should allow space for access with a mobility device and/or service dogs. Movable furniture is highly recommended to allow for flexibility.
- If refreshments are being provided, avoid the use of bar-height serving locations.
- Ensure the surface height of any tables being used is between 28 and 34 inches from the ground (most tables provided by AHEC meet these requirements).
- Ensure seating is available near the front for participants who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Anticipate the ways participants will interact with and move through the space.
- Avoid placing loose cables across walkways. Floor cord covers are recommended.
- Be sure to allow space for doors to open fully and individuals to move through them as easily as possible.
- Ensure signage is easy to see, read, and uses clear lettering with good contrast. If the venue itself is lacking signage, consider adding temporary signs.
- Be mindful of the area immediately surrounding the space being utilized
- If transportation is being provided to and from the venue/space, ensure it is accessible for participants with mobility concerns or who are using assistive mobility devices.
- Ensure there are accessible routes to and from the event. These should take into account multiple ways of entry, if possible. For example, events on campus should evaluate the accessibility of routes from the various parking lots as well as public transit stops.
- Evaluate facility access features prior to the event, and address any problems with the designated facilities contact.
- Verify all accessibility buttons on doors are fully operational. This includes buttons in nearby restrooms.
- Ensure all lighting is fully functional and provides ample illumination of presentation areas.
- Consider acoustics and sound design
- Confirm there is a public address (PA) system available for use, and ensure it is functional. When possible, it is highly recommended to have wireless microphones available.
- Limit unnecessary background music.
- Investigate the availability of assistive listening devices for participants and how to best integrate them with the space for maximum participation.
- Utilize a platform that is accessible for participants.
- Provide alternative methods of participation, such as dial-in by phone, when available.
- Ensure and displayed content is large enough for participants to see and has enough contrast between foreground and background elements (e.g. black text on a white background).
- Make materials, such as PowerPoint presentation files, available to participants from the beginning of a presentation to allow individuals to interact with content in a way that’s most accessible to them.
- It is highly recommended that real-time live captions (utilizing a human transcriber) are used during an event. At the very least, events should be recorded and should only be posted with complete and accurate captions.
- It is important to be aware that ‘live automatic caption’ features included with some platforms such as Microsoft Teams utilize automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, rather than a human transcriber. While such features can seemingly provide free and instant accessibility, they also come with errors, especially if the content includes very specific vocabulary, background noise, or poor audio quality.
- If using a virtual background effect, avoid using video formats or overly complex images.
During the Event
- Ensure all speakers use a microphone when speaking at all times, even if a speaker seems ‘loud enough’.
- Failure to consistently use a mic leaves out participants who rely on the microphone system to hear and understand spoken content.
- If other participants ask questions or address the group, have a volunteer bring a wireless mic to each person before they speak. If this is not possible, have the presenter repeat the question over the mic to ensure everyone has access.
- Be descriptive throughout a presentation.
- Verbally describe all visual content such as graphics and drawings.
- Avoid nondescript phrases such as ‘over there’ or ‘this here’ – participants who cannot see the content will not know what ‘this’ or ‘that’ is.
- If a video is being shown that does not have audio description available, provide a description of the video prior to showing.
- For virtual events, ensure that anyone not actively speaking has their microphone muted to help eliminate background noise.
- If the event will allow participants to use their mics, make an announcement during the event introduction requesting mics be muted.
- Some platforms give organizers the ability to mute participant microphones if necessary.
- Provide participants a post-event evaluation, and include a section on accessibility that allows participants to share comments relating to accessibility.
- Service dogs are welcome on campus. It is not required for a service dog to be identified by a vest or for a handler to show any certification. Disruptive behavior can be addressed with the handler. If, after corrective instruction, the disruptive behavior continues the handler can be asked to remove the dog from the event.
- Ensure event staff are able to answer most accessibility questions participants might have, such as the location of accessible restrooms, seating, etc.. It’s also recommended to share the information with presenters.
Additional Information and Resources
The Instructional Accessibility Group (IAG) has many helpful guides on creating accessible materials, including video content. Additionally, the IAG holds a wide variety of workshops on topics such as Social Media Accessibility and Posters and Presentations. Visit their website at https://www.msudenver.edu/ctld/programs/instructionalaccessibility/, or contact them via email, InstructionalAccessibility@msudenver.edu.
Accessible and Inclusive Events Checklist
- Communications contain accessibility statement, which includes contact information for accommodations requests.
- All materials are accessible, or available in an accessible format upon request.
- Accessible doorways, restrooms, and paths are available for participants
- Clear signage is in use
- Seating is flexible, or offers ample space to accommodate participant needs
- PA system with wireless mics, or other assistive listening capabilities, is available
- Platform is accessible for all participants
- Information is provided on additional participation requirements (e.g. user account)
- Captions are available for all or by request
- Microphone use is enforced
- Presenters use descriptive language
- Videos are captioned and described
- Post-event evaluation included accessibility sections