Here to Help: How to ensure an ADA-compliant event

The Office of Institutional Equity gives guidance on everything from Braille conversion services to the correct height of a food service table

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Image caption: Among the issues to address are accessibility, visual and hearing needs, food restrictions, and more.

Image credit: GETTY IMAGES

So you're in charge of planning an event at Johns Hopkins. How do you make sure it's accessible for everyone who wants to attend?

The university's Office of Institutional Equity recently answered some questions for us and provided some helpful pointers. (Did you know, for example, that Johns Hopkins can help you offer captioning services or convert written materials into Braille?)

What types of events warrant thinking about accessibility issues?

All events open to the public or unknown attendees should be planned with accessibility in mind, as proactively as possible. And for any events with a known group of attendees, it's always good to double-check about accommodation and accessibility needs—many disabilities are invisible.

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Here to Help

Answers to your JHU-related questions

How do I choose an accessible location?

Check with the office you're working with to make sure you understand the accessibility of the spaces you're considering. The OIE offers links to two online planning guides that go more in depth.

What other considerations should I keep in mind?

Are lighting and visual presentations adequate for those with low vision? Are working microphones available? Can all the presenters reach the stage easily? Will sign language or assistive listening systems be necessary? Are there closed-caption options for all videos or films? If food is offered, are gluten-free and allergen-free options available? Can event brochures or handouts be available electronically or in large format if needed?

Requests for any of these can come up at an event, and it's better to cover your bases in advance than to scramble at the last minute.

How should I advertise my event?

It's key to add an accessibility notice to any materials promoting your event (emails, fliers, banners, etc.) providing a point of contact for questions or requests related to accessibility. Here's a sample statement:

To request information about accessibility or accommodations for this event, please contact [name, email address, and phone number] with as much notice as possible.

Be sure to schedule the event with enough lead time to take care of any requests that might come up.

How can I make written materials accessible?

Hopkins offers a free service called RoboBraille, which allows employees and students to convert written documents into a number of different accessible formats, including mp3 audio, Braille, and e-books.

How do I arrange for interpreters or captioning?

Johns Hopkins partners with a number of organizations to provide resources for interpreting, transcribing, and captioning. To book them, contact the approved agencies directly or go through the Procurement Department by emailing purchasing@jhu.edu.

For large or high-profile events, it's safest to schedule an interpreter and/or captioning service well in advance. (With captioning, it's a good idea to provide these services at any event with more than 250 attendees, regardless of whether specific requests are made.)

How do I set up my event space?

OIE's pointers include:

  • Make sure to use microphones at all larger events.
  • Try to leave 36 inches of travel space through seating areas.
  • Make sure all accessible entrances are unlocked, and that accessible restroom locations are known.
  • Designate someone on site to assist with requests for access or accommodations.
  • Serve any food at an accessible height (34 inches high) and make sure to label each food item.
  • Be prepared to accommodate service animals.

Any other questions?

Check out the Accessibility at JHU website for more detailed information, especially the Event Planning page. And for any additional assistance, you can reach out directly to OIE at oiedisability@jhu.edu or 410-516-8075.

Here to Help is a Hub at Work feature designed to help Johns Hopkins faculty and staff navigate the expansive world of the university. If you have questions in search of answers, email us at hubatwork@jhu.edu.

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