Planning an Accessible Event

Georgetown University is committed to providing equal access to its programs and activities, and strives to ensure that University-sponsored events are inclusive and accessible. The University welcomes and fully includes individuals with disabilities in its programs and activities.  

When planning an event, please keep in mind the inclusion of disabled participants and speakers in all aspects of planning, from choosing a physical space or venue and promoting the event to when participants exit the event. Though visitors and other members of the University community are encouraged to request accommodations in advance of any event, anticipate that disabled participants will attend your event regardless of whether they request accommodations beforehand. 

Best Practices for Planning an Accessible Event

✓ Check the entrances and exits and tour the path of travel where participants will enter and exit the space.  Inspect the space and address any barriers before selecting the venue, when planning the event, and on the day of the event.

✓ Consider the expected placement of and height of tables and seats. Determine whether all participants, including wheelchair users, have access to all aspects of the event, including food, restrooms, etc. 

✓ Designate seating for wheelchair users.  Allow sufficient space to accommodate participants with service animals. 

✓ Connect with the Georgetown Event Management Services (GEMS) (or the applicable office if the event is off-campus) to determine whether the space is equipped with technology to allow for closed-captioning and any other necessary services.

✓ Designate an individual who can assist with serving food and consider including food options that do not require utensils.

✓ Encourage participants with disabilities to attend.

✓ Ensure the method of communication (email, social media, flyers) is accessible.

✓ Provide written instructions and a map to identify accessible routes to access the event and to identify accessible parking and entrances/exits.  Note:  ADA Accessible parking can be found in the University’s on-campus parking garage, the Southwest Parking Garage

✓ Notify participants whether the event will have flashing lights (e.g., strobe lights), loud music, or loud sounds.

✓ If serving food, include an option for participants to request a particular diet or indicate any severe allergies.

✓ Reference the process for requesting accommodations.    

✓ Use the following (or a similar) tag in event announcements:

“Persons with disabilities who may require special services should contact the following resources: Students at the main campus and medical campus may contact the Academic Resource Center (ARC) at (202) 687-8354. Students at the Law Center should contact the Office of Disability Services at (202) 662-4042. All faculty, staff and visitors may contact the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) at (202) 687-4798. Requests can be responded to more effectively if received in advance, preferably 48 hours prior to the event.”

✓ Consider offering American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and/or Communication Across Real Time Translation (CART) for real-time communication.  Allow for seating close to any interpreters.

✓ Use closed-captions for video footage.

✓ Provide the presenters with microphones, and ensure that there are available microphones for participants to use during the event.  It is a best practice to repeat questions or comments that participants ask without a microphone during the event.  

✓ Consider developing and sharing guidance with presenters in advance of the event on how to communicate clearly and in an inclusive manner during the event.  

✓ Review event materials to ensure they are accessible and can be made available in alternative formats, such as in enlarged print (at least 18 point font), braille, and e-formats.

✓ When practicable, label the food and drinks served and identify any ingredients that may cause severe allergies.

✓ Include clear signage to identify exits and restrooms.

✓ Identify the designated individual in promotional materials and at the outset of the event. 

✓ Ensure the designated individual is familiar with the processes for requesting accommodations, identifying accessible paths of travel and accessible entrance, obtaining materials in accessible formats, and implementing emergency responses, including evacuation plans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that Georgetown University ensure that its programs, facilities, goods and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Under Title III of the ADA, a public accommodation must provide auxiliary aids and services to disabled people if necessary for the disabled person to use the entity’s goods or services. Examples of auxiliary aids and services include sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices, or materials in enlarged print or Braille, etc. However, the auxiliary aids and services would not be required if they would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods or services, or if they would result in an undue burden.

When planning an event, potential guests/participants should be informed about how they may request a disability accommodation. It is important that information be included in flyers, advertisements, or other materials distributed before an event.

It is the responsibility of the applicable department to pay for any costs associated with accommodating individuals with disabilities. Departments are encouraged to anticipate the costs associated with obtaining sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services when developing the budget for your event.  The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) can provide a list of resources for interpreters and other services, and can help troubleshoot the implementation of requested accommodations. 

Additional Resources

Academic Resource Center’s Campus Accessibility Guide

Accessible Events Guidelines

Georgetown Event Management Services

Interactive Campus Map

Language Access and Diversity/Interpreters