Make Sure Your Event is Accessible

Tips to ensure that disabled people can participate in campus activities and the classroom

Syracuse University is renowned for being progressive in the access it provides those with disabilities.  Our campus places a concerted emphasis and focus on accessibility via our Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Disability Cultural Center, the Center for Disability Resources, and our other related areas on campus.  Due to this, there are many students, faculty, and staff members within our campus community that have disabilities, which makes it very likely that you are interacting with someone who has a disability regularly.

While some with disabilities, such as those who use a wheelchair or are otherwise physically disabled, are obvious, some people have hidden disabilities, including those who are Deaf, some who are blind, those who have psychiatric disabilities, and those with autism, learning or intellectual disabilities, among others.  Therefore, when it comes to classrooms, events, or meetings it’s important to think broadly when it comes to accessibility when making preparations.

It is our goal to be inclusive in all aspects, which includes ensuring that those who have disabilities also have full access to the various experiences that occur on campus.   There are many things to consider when providing access as each disability requires a different kind of accessibility.  Understanding the many types of access is not intuitive, however, it is not complicated to learn once you commit it to part of your planning process.

Be mindful of all who may be participating and what disabilities they may have.  The following are some general examples of accommodations and tips for some with disabilities:

  • Deaf – for in-person events, provide both closed captioning and an interpreter when possible. Ensure that all videos and recorded items played during the event include closed captioning.  As more interactions have become virtual, live transcription is not always ideal as it does not consistently work.  Instead work to include a live captioner or an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. Here’s how.   Note:  the relationship between a Deaf person and their interpreter is personal and many people have preferred interpreters so be sure to provide options in interpreters.

Tip:  Refrain from using vague words in your writing or speech as these ideas don’t translate well.

  • Blind – make sure you offer digital content of all print material that is screen-reader accessible. Provide braille options whenever possible.  The Center for Disability Resources can assist in making braille versions for classes. Visit CDR.
  • Wheelchair users – can a person with a power wheelchair (which is larger than the average wheelchair) get into and out of the space. Is there a wheelchair-accessible restroom near?

Tip:  Refrain from saying someone is “confined” or “bound” to a wheelchair, which has negative connotations.  People who use wheelchairs see them as liberating, therefore, simply say they use a wheelchair or that they are a wheelchair user.

  • Autism – be mindful of bright lighting or loud noises as both can be painful to someone with autism. Provide lamps as options when possible and use dimmed lighting in events.  In addition, designate a low-sensory, or quiet room where people can decompress should they find the environment too harsh.

People who are disabled aren’t seeking sympathy, they are proud of who they are, and their main difficulties with being disabled are mostly tied to not having proper access to the experiences they want or need.   For more information on how to ensure you are creating inclusive environments for disabled people and for tools and resources for doing so, visit the ITS Answers page,  Disability Cultural Center, the ADA Coordinator, in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Center for Disability Resources, or request a short training on providing inclusive events.