Planning an Accessible Event

Plan ahead to ensure your event is inclusive and welcoming to all. Learn more about how to communicate accommodation options to event attendees and respond to requests for accommodation:

Event Accommodation Coordinator

It is important to choose a specific person to act as the event coordinator who can easily be reached and is familiar with the specifics of the event and event venue. The event coordinator assists with processing all accommodation requests.

Event Accessibility Statement

Including an event accessibility statement and accommodation instructions on all promotional materials (written or electronic format) for the event will help communicate to participants GW’s commitment to providing accessible university events. The statement includes the designation of an event coordinator for the delivery of event access and accessibility resources.

Example of an accessibility statement:

The George Washington University strives to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully.  If an accommodation is needed to participate in this event, please contact the event organizer (INSERT SPONSORING DEPARTMENT/ORGANIZATION CONTACT NAME) at (INSERT TELEPHONE AND EMAIL CONTACT INFORMATION) by (SPECIFIC DATE (suggestion: at least 2 weeks in advance)). 

You may include a note on refraining from wearing strong fragrances in the event invite or confirmation. Example: “To be respectful of those with allergies or environmental sensitivities, we ask that you please refrain from wearing strong fragrances.”

Accommodation Requests

In addition to the accessibility statement, providing a checklist of prescribed accommodations to request could be helpful for your participants. It can be included in the RSVP for attendees to communicate what accommodations they may need.

Below is an example for reference.

”I will need the following accommodations in order to participate:

  • __ Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) / live captioning Service
  • __ Reserved front-row seat. Reason for requesting a reserved front-row seat: _____________ 
  • __ American Sign Language Interpretation
  • __ Large print 16 pt (paper version)
  • — Assistive Listening Device (ALD)
  • __ Access for my wheelchair
  • __ Access for my wheelchair to working tables throughout room 
  • __ Lactation room 
  • __ Gender inclusive restroom 
  • __ Dietary Restriction: ________________________ 
  • __ Service Animal
  • Other Accommodations:   ______________________________ “

Responding to Accommodation Requests

It is recommended that the event coordinator sends a confirmation to the individual requesting accommodations. It is possible that some requests will come too late or that the request cannot be provided. However, we would still recommend making an effort to work with the individual to address the requests. In the situation when you are unable to meet an accommodation request, please consult with Disability Support Services (DSS) at [email protected], or Equal Employment Opportunity and Access (EEOA) at [email protected],  as applicable, about alternatives or language that can be used to clearly explain the situation to the attendee. 

Preparation Before the Event 

Check the venue in advance to ensure that the building/meeting locations are accessible and technologies are in working condition to support users with disabilities.

Be mindful of these features when inspecting your meeting/event space:


Visibility: Consider those with impaired sight and photosensitive conditions

  • Clear signage (identifying location and directions) using disability access symbol
  • Well-lit meeting space and adjacent areas
  • Is the room dark enough to view the video and bright enough to see the speaker?
  • Projection screen visible from all seating (if using projection). 
  • Be cautious of flashing, blinking, and flickering light in presentations/events, particularly strobe lights or effects with frequencies between 3-55 Hz.

Acoustics: Consider those with hearing impairment

  • Public address (PA) systems or Assisted Listening Devices (ALD) should be available. Contact the University Student Center (USC) at [email protected] to check out ALDs. Please contact the USC no less than three business days prior to your event to request the ALDs. ALDs are distributed on a first come first serve basis. 
  • Limit unnecessary background music
  • Seating available near presenter for lip reading
  • Allocate well-lit space for sign language interpreters and/or CART captioners in proximity to the presentation area
  • Strongly encourage all speakers to utilize microphones
  • For venue-specific information, please visit GW Venues

Mobility: Consider those who may have mobility disabilities and/or use mobility devices

  • Accessible parking and drop-off areas near venue
  • Ramp and elevator access 
  • Accessible bathrooms (indicated with signage). If none are in close proximity, provide a portable accessible option. 
  • Barrier-free pathways: routes are wide for service animals and/or wheelchair maneuverability, approximately 3-5 ft,  flat/paved, and clear of debris.   
  • Wide doorways and aisles to accommodate wheelchairs/scooters
  • Use accessible cord covers to cover exposed cords or hoses on ground  
  • Integrate wheelchair seating within the seating footprint of the room, not on the sidelines 
  • Provide accessible path of travel from seating area to presentation space that is clear, wide, and has no steps 

Technology: Consider those who may need to use adaptive devices

  • Provide electrical outlets in accessible seating areas to accommodate devices, laptops, etc.
  • Extra space or work surfaces available for those who use assistive technologies, such as laptop stands or adjustable desks
  • Zoom – Review Zoom's accessibility options. For more information on recommended Zoom settings to enhance accessibility, please refer to Zoom Accessibility Techniques for Meetings.
Service Animals

Service Animal: Consider access and space for service animals

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks. In some cases, under the ADA a miniature horse may qualify as a service animal. A service animal in training is an animal undergoing training and accompanied by an approved trainer and/or the animal’s handler to become a service animal. 

In the District of Columbia, a service animal in training shall not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer or handler. 

  • Provide comfortable space for service animals to rest during events
  • Provide accessible toileting and watering facilities nearby

Please review the information on DSS' website: Service Animal Guidance.

Presentation and Q&A

Presentation and Q&A

  • Presenters or audience members may express confidence that they are loud enough and do not need a microphone. Regardless, ask them to speak into one. 
  • Make sure to repeat questions posted by the audience before responding, especially if there is not a roving microphone available. 
  • Communicating with your audience using inclusive language helps create a welcoming environment for everyone. Some tips are:
    • Refer to access features as “disability-related access.”
    • Refer to disabled people as either “disabled” or “a person with a disability.”
  • State what you are showing, for example, "This graph demonstrates …” and "These results indicate …" By providing a description, this eliminates the exclusion of people who cannot see the slide well or those who do not understand the visuals/content.
  • Always summarize the response from the audience, such as the following: Speaker: "How many of you attended the Diversity Summit? Please raise your hand." ...then state the results: "Less than half raised their hand."
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth for those who use speech/lip reading techniques.
  • Ensure presentation materials follow color contrast and font size best practices.
Food and Beverage

Ensure that the options and ingredients are clearly labeled and either individually packaged or offered in a way that avoids cross-contamination. 

Many of the ADA specifications for fixed facilities (restaurants, cafeterias, etc.) can be used in making temporary food service counters, trailers, and tables accessible. The height of service counters must not exceed 36 inches. Food and drink offered from mobile trailers may need to install a low folding shelf.

While other accommodations may still be needed when serving food, condiments, and menus can be placed on this auxiliary shelf within easy reach. It also may be possible for event vendors to jointly provide a condiment table in or adjacent to nearby eating areas.

People with mobility disabilities should be able to reach each area provided for dining and should be able to pull up under at least five percent of the tables. There must be an accessible route to the area and adequate maneuvering space around and under tables.