A Place for Everyone at the Table: The Importance of Accessible Event Planning

Jennifer Lin Perry January 19, 2023

The Northeast ADA Center has received several requests recently for training on hosting accessible events. These requests have ranged from businesses hosting meetings and conferences to groups hosting outdoor festivals. We are thrilled to provide this type of training for any and all stakeholders with an interest in learning more about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to events. It is great to be part of a growing interest in being more intentionally inclusive when planning events.

An Increasing National Awareness

As a nation, we have seen a push to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies to ensure inclusion for all. Accessibility plays a large role in this. For example, in June 2021, President Biden issued the Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) for the Federal Workforce. The Executive Order states that the term “accessibility” means the design, construction, development, and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs, and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them. Accessibility includes the provision of accommodations and modifications to ensure equal access to employment and participation in activities for people with disabilities, the reduction or elimination of physical and attitudinal barriers to equitable opportunities, a commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities can independently access every outward-facing and internal activity or electronic space, and the pursuit of best practices such as universal design.

Proper Planning

When preparing for an event, whether large or small, accessibility is one of the most important aspects of the planning process. People with disabilities want to access their communities and attend events with their friends, families, and co-workers. Bringing this to fruition often requires considering the needs of all attendees in advance of an event. Some things to consider are how the event will work for individuals with mobility disabilities who may have difficulty with movement, stamina, or balance. Other attendees may have cognitive or learning disabilities that can affect their understanding and ability to give or receive communication. Some individuals may have dietary restrictions, chemical sensitivities, or hearing or visual disabilities that impact how they experience the event. Attendees may also have “hidden” disabilities that might not be apparent, but nonetheless impact their experience.

Providing an accommodation statement in your registration materials will go a long way to letting attendees know about your willingness to provide disability-related accommodations for an event. Ask registrants to indicate accommodation needs (consider using a checklist on the registration form—the list could include, sign language interpretation, alternate format of materials, attendance of a personal aid, etc.).

The ADA National Network developed a guide to Planning Accessible Temporary Events that highlights the importance of people with disabilities being able to do the following at an event:

  • Obtain information and directions prior to the event.
  • Arrive at the site in the same ways as others can (e.g., via private automobile, taxi, public transportation, event shuttles).
  • Find and use accessible parking.
  • Get from accessible parking to entrances.
  • Obtain additional information and directions on site.
  • Move around the site as needed.
  • Attend performances, participate in activities, and enter exhibits.
  • Experience and enjoy activities, even if the participant’s disability affects their ability to communicate.
  • Select and purchase items at concessions.
  • Use public toilet rooms, telephones, water fountains, shelters, first aid stations, and other common amenities.

This comprehensive guide is an excellent resource for individuals interested in learning more about accessible event planning considerations. Also, the Northeast ADA Center recently hosted a webinar on this topic, A Place at the Table, that you can view for more information.

The Northeast ADA Center is here for your technical assistance questions and/or training needs if you would like to learn more about accessible event planning. Feel free to contact us at 800-949-4232 or