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Every year, Hoosiers flock to street festivals, craft fairs, barbecue cook-offs, homecoming celebrations, music events, state and county fairs, parades, political rallies and other temporary events.
Not only do these festivities celebrate our communities and our diversity, they have something else in common: Many are still inaccessible to people with disabilities.
By not ensuring that an event is accessible, organizers may be unintentionally closing the gate to thousands of visitors. On the other hand, working to make sure all event participants are able to take part in activities creates an environment that is welcoming for everyone.
For equal opportunity enjoyment, all events must meet the legal requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal civil rights law designed to prevent discrimination and enable individuals with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of society. The ADA applies to temporary and permanent services, programs or activities of a town. Facilities and structures that are built or altered for temporary use must comply with the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA Standards for Accessible Design (except construction trailers).
Advanced planning is key to hosting an event that is accessible to everyone. To help with planning for a temporary event, see Accessible Temporary Events, A Planning Guide. This manual can help meet ADA obligations. In addition, it offers recommendations to assist in the creation of environments and events that are truly universally usable.
To purchase a copy of the planning guide, see The Center for Universal Design publications list.
What makes an event accessible?
Events can create reasonable accommodations by making sure that individuals with disabilities are able to:
Remember, the meeting of the above requirements does not mean that the specific event is compliant with all ADA regulations. To ensure that an event is completely accessible according to ADA regulations, see the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
When planning temporary events for an entire community, such as a town festival or concert, the town should review ADA Title II requirements and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The standards provide guidance to help event planners ensure that the event and location meet the necessary ADA requirements.
It is very important to consider accessibility requirements when the event is in the planning stage, so that accessible facilities can be identified and incorporated in a manner that does not require extensive construction or last-minute modifications.
Effective communication requirements also apply to temporary events. It may be necessary to provide qualified sign language interpreters or other auxiliary aids and services as requested, such as print material in a large-print format or on computer disk. The event planner may choose when to provide interpreters and publicize a schedule for interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services. Auxiliary aids or services should be provided in response to individual requests, unless to do so would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. Promotional material for a temporary event should explain how the public can request a particular auxiliary aid or service and be informed of when specific auxiliary aids and services may be available.
To plan an accessible event, start by developing a policy that documents your group's positive attitude toward accessible events. For example, your policy should state that your organization will hold events only at facilities that have been determined to be accessible. Using a survey, such as the Checklist for Readily Accessible Achievable Barrier Removal, shows your agency's good faith effort to include everyone in your events.
Following are some tips on planning meetings, conferences, fairs and other events in which everyone can participate. Even when you may not know in advance whether any of your participants needs special accommodations, you should be prepared to:
Facility staff is legally responsible for ensuring the site is in compliance with the ADA. But the event planner has a responsibility to only schedule meetings and events at sites or facilities that are accessible and barrier-free.
To ensure that you're using facilities with accessible environments, make an on-site visit and evaluate the physical environment. For this purpose, the U.S. Department of Justice publishes the Checklist for Readily Accessible Achievable Barrier Removal.
Meetings are such an integral part of our everyday lives, we often overlook ways in which meetings can present barriers to people with disabilities. By taking steps to create a welcoming and accessible environment, you eliminate the need to scramble at the last minute to accommodate all participants. Remember that creating an accessible environment is a work in progress. You are likely to find efforts to create a usable environment are enjoyed by many participants and will make for a more rewarding experience for all.
Accessible meetings require many of the same aspects of planning as other temporary events. To start, using the Checklist for Readily Accessible Achievable Barrier Removal is a highly effective way to ensure the location is accessible. Features of the physical environment that should be accessible include parking, entrances, signage and restrooms. To view these areas and suggestions for temporary modifications in more detail, see the Center for Universal Designs booklet, Removing Barriers: Planning Meetings That Are Accessible to All Participants.
Following are some things to consider when arranging for an accessible meeting space:
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