Guidelines for Planning an Accessible and DEIB Aware Event

Commencement audienceCreating an event

A goal at Gustavus is to create events that create a sense of belonging, are accessible to all, and proactively plan events free of barriers so all individuals may meaningfully participate. Proactive planning for access and inclusion optimizes the opportunity for a well-planned accessible event and minimizes the need for individuals with disabilities to request accommodations to participate in the event. Event planners are encouraged to implement the recommended guidelines to the extent feasible.

Event Pre-Planning Considerations

During the event planning phase, consider how to ensure the event is equitable and inclusive for all prospective participants. Consider these questions/points…

  • What is the worst case scenario? tokenization, offensiveness, someone is left out, political issue, controversial issue
  • Whom might we be excluding? race, religion, age, gender, ability
  • How do the identities within our planning team influence and impact our event planning decisions? external source for input, sensitivity reads, bias training
  • How will we engage the people we want to reach? multiple languages needed, online versions
  • Presentations and speaker considerations – ensure that speakers represent diverse identities, perspectives, and experiences and that the content is fully accessible to all participants.
  • Venue considerations – ensure event venues are accessible to and inclusive of all prospective participants.
    Strive to avoid religious and cultural days of observance when selecting an event date.

Speaker Information

Share this Campus Guest link with any speakers so they can learn more about DEIB at Gustavus and you can learn more about them.


Event Announcements 

Include a statement of informing attendees how to request accommodations for the event. 
The statement should to be placed on the bottom of the material and include the following details: 

  • Event Accessibility contact’s name, email, phone, and telephone number
  • Deadline for submitting an accommodation request.
  • The department hosting the event may request as many as 14 days or as few as would be possible to provide the requested accommodation.
  • You can use the following example statement as a template for your announcements: “If you require a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this event, please use accessibility request form [insert link] or contact [insert: the sponsoring department or contact person] by [date] at [insert: telephone number, email] ” 
Pre-event communication
  • Ensure event promotion language and visuals are inclusive for target audiences.
  • When applicable, include questions about dietary and accessibility needs in the registration form. 
  • When applicable, ensure that the registration form includes the option to enter gender pronouns with the option to print pronouns on attendee name tags.
  • Provide all guests with a guided map to note accessibility entrances/exits for the venue.
Event website
  • Include information on how to submit an accommodation for the event either by contacting an office or via a request form.
  • State all accessibility features that are available.
  • Promotion videos should be captioned.
Posting on Social Media
  • Include image descriptions (alt text) for any photos.
  • All videos should be captioned.
  • Review Federal guidelines for accessible social media.
  • Make posts considering the questions above about audience and representation.

Set-up Considerations 

  • Have a barrier free path of travel from the entrance through the building to the event space (including registration area if applicable).
  • Two-way traffic areas should be least 64 inches
  • Aisles should be at least 36 inches
  • Consider the accessibility of the podium and stage for presenters.
  • If outdoors, consider challenges if set up on grass.
  • Registration tables should be at a height that is accessible for anyone who uses a wheelchair (no more than 34 inches and no less than 28 inches above the floor).
  • Ensure the event space has a designated accessible restroom.
  • Have reserved seating near the front for participants who may have vision or hearing impairments.
  • Provide an appropriate number of accessible seats, review the chart below. If possible, do not place all accessible seating in the same area; integrate accessible seating throughout space.
Event Seating Accessible Space Guidance
 Total Seating Capacity Number of Accessible Spaces
4-25 1
26-50 2
51-300 4
301-500 6
Over 500 1 additional space for each increase of 100

Event Considerations

Presentation Materials
  • Check out these ideas for Universal Design to think about different learning needs of the audience.
  • Go to the Academic Support Center website to learn more about making presentation materials accessible.
  • Alternate Accessible Print Materials: If materials will be provided to attendees, proactively prepare these materials in alternative formats such as large print or post as a PDF at the event website. 
  • Prepare speakers/moderators with preferred pronouns, phonetic spelling, or identification-related information for the primary people they will interact with.
Question & Answer Portion of Event
  • Provide various ways for participants to respond/participate in the presentation such as questions emailed prior to the start of the event, chat, and microphone.
  • Have a roving microphone available and have all speakers use the microphone.
  • Make sure to repeat questions posted by the audience before responding.
  • Behavior expectations – communicate and enforce the expectation that all participants (attendees, speakers, staff, etc.) are to demonstrate fair treatment, mutual respect, and dignity toward themselves and all others.
  • Discuss in advance any DEIB-related topics to address.
  • Pre-plan how moderator(s) would prefer to solicit questions/feedback from the audience in order to ensure that many perspectives are included. Some options include:
    • Two open mics where audience members can line up with questions.
    • Pre-submitted questions as part of the registration form.
    • Real-time questions submitted via apps such as Poll Everywhere or social media.
  • Ensure that the moderator is prepared to handle sometimes sensitive subjects (related to race, gender, orientation, ability, etc.) that may arise as part of these discussions.
  • Plan to talk through specific processes to make sure the conversation is posed in an educational and respectful manner.
  • Set ground rules at the start of the conversation and Q&A.
  • Consider providing foods that do not contain common allergens.
  • Clearly mark ingredients in food items and place food on separate platters.
  • Have an attendant if using self-serve style.
  • Ask attendees in advance of dietary restrictions.
Virtual Venue 
  • Include the virtual format being used on the event information so participants can plan for any assistance needs.
  • Have an IT accessibility point person to help answer any questions before, during and after the event.
  • Test presenter’s audio and video quality consider having presenters wear a headset for clear quality.
  • Material should be provided ahead of time to allow participants to review the information. If the presenter plans on sharing screens during their presentation, provide the material prior to the virtual event in an accessible format.
Service Animals
  • Service animals are permitted to accompany their handler into any event space.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the service animal be under control of their handler at all times.
  • The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, tag, specific harness, or have any specific certification.
  • If questions arise regarding the validity of a service animal the ADA only allows two questions of the handler: Is this a service service animal required of a disability? & What work or task is the animal trained to perform?

Disability Etiquette 

  • Focus on the person, not their disability.
  • Ask each person what will make him or her most comfortable. Always ask the person if they need assistance and how you can assist; do not assume they need help.
  • Be sensitive about physical contact and space.
  • Respect an individual’s privacy.
  • Be aware of situations involving announcements or calling out names so you can notify persons who have hearing impairments.
  • If you do not understand, ask the person to repeat; if you still are unable to understand, ask the person to write the information or to recommend an alternative method of communicating. 

This Gustavus Guide for Planning an Accessible Event utilized information from University of Kansas and University of Wyoming. This guide shares general information and is not intended to provide legal advice or opinions.