What every planner of events needs to know

If you're ever involved in planning an event at Johns Hopkins—be that a lecture, a concert, a job fair, or any other gathering that takes some prep work—it's important to keep accessibility issues at top of mind.

If a person in a wheelchair wants to attend, where would he or she be able to sit? Would a deaf person be able to request sign language interpretation in advance? Can the event brochures be available in Braille if needed?

There's a whole range of issues that can come up, and the university's Office of Institutional Equity has put together a handy guideline of resources to walk you through it. It's available here, at the link in the first paragraph.

The guiding principle is this: Try to make your event as accessible as possible from the get-go, but regardless, always give people the ability to request accommodations and modifications. And for any assistance or questions, you can reach out directly to OIE's ADA compliance officer at oiedisability@jhu.edu or 410-516-8075.

Here are the major points the office suggests keeping in mind:

Location From the start, try to choose an event location that offers accessible features such as clear travel paths and entryways, and seats and restrooms that can accommodate those with disabilities. It's a good sign if you can confirm that your site complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but that's not always the end of the story. The guideline provides additional detailed links with specifications to keep in mind.

Communicating about your event It's key to add an accessibility notice to any material advertising your event (emails, fliers, banners, and so forth), providing a point of contact for questions or requests related to accessibility.

Sometimes it can be a short sentence, such as: "For disability accommodations, please contact X at [phone number and email]."

If there's an online registration form, be sure to provide a space where people can inquire about accommodations.

Beyond that, bear in mind that the promotional materials themselves, whether online or print, may need to be made available in alternate formats, such as large print, Braille, or speech-to-text.

Providing interpreters/captioning For large events, it's safest to book an interpreter or captioning service well in advance—and if no requests are made for those services as the date nears, you could cancel them. It's better than scrambling for those services a few hours before the event.

For events with more than 250 attendees, it's appropriate to provide captioning regardless of whether specific requests are made for it. The larger the crowd, the greater the chance that a hearing issue or other barrier may be present.

The university provides resources for interpreting, transcribing, and captioning at this link.