Planning Accessible Events

Are you planning a campus-wide event? Is it open to the public? Is your event accessible to individuals with disabilities in the community? To help ensure that your event is accessible to all, please use the following guidelines when planning your next event.

The organization planning the event is responsible for responding to all accommodation requests, forwarding the request to Accessibility Services, and for creating an inclusive experience for every event sponsored by Bowling Green State University. Most of this checklist for planning accessible events can be completed with little to no cost. The event planners should budget for the possible necessity of additional resources, but if the cost of accommodations becomes a barrier, event planners should contact BGSU Accessibility Services for a consultation. Accessibility Services can be reached at 419-372-8495 or access@bgsu.edu. Do not deny any request without first consulting Accessibility Services. Make sure you have a contact person for your event who can work with Accessibility Services, Dining Services, etc.

Make sure the guests and campus community are aware that accommodations can be made for people with disabilities by including the following statement on promotional brochures, flyers, and other materials:

To individuals with disabilities, please indicate if you need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Accessibility Services at access@bgsu.edu or 419-372-8495. Please notify us prior to the event.

General Tips for Advertising for All Events:

  • Including an RSVP form that collects accommodation requests in advance
  • Materials and invitations for the events posted online should use sans serif fonts larger than size 14 using appropriate color contrast
  • Make sure any advertising materials contain the contact information (both phone and e-mail) of a coordinator from your department who can answer general questions, work with Accessibility Services if needed, and work with other vendors and Dining Services if needed, in facilitating any accessibility requests. Accessibility is ultimately the responsibility of the department hosting the event, though Accessibility Services can help if there are any questions or concerns

Press Release Statement for all non-athletic BGSU Events

Guests with disabilities are requested to indicate if they need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Accessibility Services at access@bgsu.edu or 419-372-8495 prior to the event.

What to communicate in advance:

  • Disclose if there will be flash photography, strobing lights, amplified sounds/noise, fog machines, or other airborne chemicals/strong smells
  • If there will be a meal provided, make sure to have a spot to RSVP with any dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, dairy/casein free, Kosher, vegetarian/vegan, sugar-free, or any specific allergies or intolerances. Make sure to order a specific meal for them if needed; if it is a buffet, have plans to accommodate them first to make sure there is no cross-contamination
  • Disclose the location and logistics for accessible parking, ramps, elevators, and restrooms
  • Communicate the presence of construction, detours, or changes to spaces that are typically accessible
    • Select “construction” on the BGSU interactive map linked in resources to view active construction sites
  • When working with a presenter(s) or speaker(s):
    • Require them to use a microphone during their presentation
    • Require them to provide their slides or scripts in advance for the use of interpreting services, conversion to Braille, or other modes of effective communication
    • Advise them to speak clearly without obstructing their mouth, always face the audience, avoid pacing or walking while speaking, avoid using acronyms or colloquialisms, and indicate when they are finished talking

Before choosing whether to hold an event in an on-campus or off-campus venue, consider these initial considerations:

  • Venues off-campus may not have been designed with the same accessibility features as venues on-campus. If there are concerns on the day of the event at an off campus location, Accessibility Services is not able to assist with trouble shooting.
  • If you are considering an off-campus venue:
    • What is parking like? Is there enough ADA parking near the venue for those who need it?
    • What are the paths like, if it is outdoors or requires a distance to get to the indoor venue? Will there be firm, preferably paved, even paths? Dirt, rocky surfaces, soft grass, and other uneven terrain are difficult for wheelchair users as well as people with other mobility aids or mobility disabilities. They can also be difficult to navigate for people with visual disabilities.
    • Will there be any stairs in the venue? If so, is there a reliable elevator in their place?
    • What happens day-of the event if the venue is off-campus and there is an elevator down or an automatic door that will not open?
    • What transportation options are available to the venue? Some people with disabilities are not able to drive. They may have reliable transportation or other plans to be able to get to campus on a regular basis, but not to an off-campus venue.
    • What is temperature control like at the venue? Some people with disabilities have very specific temperature ranges that they are able to tolerate comfortably. There should be air conditioning and reliable heat for indoor venues.
    • Are there nearby clean restrooms and drinking fountains (if beverages will not be served)? Portable restrooms are often not suitable for people with disabilities, who may need clean, reliable, close-by restrooms.
    • Will there be a nearby relief area for service animals?
    • Will there be a meal with required catering? If so, will there be accommodations for people with a variety of dietary needs and restrictions?
    • What cleaning products are used at the venue? What fragrances? Some people may have strong chemical sensitivities.
  • If any of these issues are potential concerns, consider hosting your event on-campus instead. There are many potential venues on campus that can allow for a change of scenery while still being fully accessible to all participants.  

Once you have asked these initial questions, consider the following checklist when choosing a venue and planning your event:

  • The facility you are planning to use for the event is barrier-free
  • Accessible parking is located near the venue's accessible entrance
  • Appropriate space is allocated for wheelchair seating
  • Tables are between 28” and 34” in height
  • Space and a nearby relief area are allocated for service animals
  • Entrances, elevators, restrooms, and lactation rooms are in close proximity, accessible, operational, and clearly marked
  • Doorways and aisles are wide enough for wheelchairs/scooters
  • There are no loose cables or other objects across walking areas, and that if cables are taped down they are done so securely so wheelchairs or other wheeled mobility devices can roll over them easily
  • All stages and platforms are accessible, stable, and have ramps or steps with railings. If participants need to get on stage, stages must be accessible for those in wheelchairs with either a temporary or permanent ramp
  • All emergency exits are clearly marked and accessible. Visual/lighted alarms are available for people with auditory disabilities
  • Microphones are not fixed to a podium taller than 34”
  • Doors are lightweight and easy to open with lever handles or automatic push buttons or automatic assists
  • The speaker uses a microphone (even if they insist they do not need one)
  • The speaker does not walk or pace while speaking
  • Appropriate accommodations, such as interpreters or captioning, are arranged at least five business days prior to the event
  • Appropriate seating is arranged for individuals who need to see interpreters
  • There is a well-lit and raised space with a contrasting solid color background for interpreters to be visible
  • Reserved seating near the presenter is provided for lip reading
  • The Audio-Visual (AV) systems and microphones are operational
  • Assistive Listening Devices are available if requested
  • Unnecessary background music and noise is limited
  • All films or videos are shown with captions included and turned on when viewing

Students or community members who are d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing may request captioning (either Communication Access in Real Time or Remote Text Interpreting) or an interpreter for the event. Choosing one of these services will depend on individual preferences and event type; event planners should expect to defer to the request of the individual and contact Accessibility Services.

  • Captioning: There are two main types of captioning. Different captioning companies may only offer one method of captioning, and pricing will differ.
    • Communication Access in Real Time (CART) is a live captioning service provided by trained stenographers via a large screen or laptop. The captioning can be done remotely or in person, and often works best when presenters are using a microphone. This is verbatim, word-for-word captioning.
    • Remote Text Interpreting (RTI) is always done remotely via a large screen or laptop. This is meaning-for-meaning (though not necessarily word-for-word) captioning.
  • Sign Language Interpreting uses hand symbols, gestures, and facial expressions to translate verbal communication for d/Deaf/Hard of Hearing attendees in live time. Interpreters work in teams for longer events that require breaks, so prepare for the possibility of working with several interpreters.
    • Make sure that if you are working with an interpreter, you create space for them. A chair with a good line of sight to the speaker and to the audience should be provided for the interpreter. Seats should also be reserved for d/Deaf/Hard of Hearing attendees who need a direct line of sight to the interpreter.

When utilizing either CART or a Sign Language Interpreter, event planners are responsible for setting up the services at least five business days in advance and providing them with any materials or scripts to prepare.

  • Estimated cost for RTI: $60/hr.
  • Estimated cost for CART: $100/hr.
  • Estimated cost for a sign language interpreter: $50/hr.
    • If the interpreter is attending in-person, mileage costs may also be incurred. A team of interpreters will need to be hired if the event is over a certain length, depending on the subject matter, or if a lot of speaking occurs. Additional interpreters would increase the hourly rate.
  • Keep in mind that some companies have minimums, such as two hours of interpreting: you may be charged for two hours even if the event doesn’t reach that time limit.
  • Fees may increase each year.
  • All presentation slides use sans serif fonts larger than size 14
  • Fire and emergency signals have both audible and visual alarms
  • Any glass doors have contrasting door frames, stickers, or bright signs
  • Materials are available in advance electronically or in Braille
  • Use the accessibility checker on all documents (see resources)
  • Check color contrast on slides and handouts (see resources)
  • There is enough seating available for all event attendees
  • Chairs and other seating options are padded, stable, and various sizes
  • Chairs and seating include options with and without armrests
  • The air is conditioned to an appropriate temperature
  • There is enough airflow and filtration
  • There are accessible transportation options available for off-campus events
  • For personal assistants:
    • Make sure there is adequate seating for assistants
    • Assistants are not typically charged for conference or meeting fees; it is up to meeting planners if they are charged for meals
  • For service animals:
    • Make sure to review BGSU’s Service Animal and Assistance Animal Policy
    • Make sure all staff are trained regarding service animals and service animal etiquette
    • Make sure there is space available for service animals to stand/sit by their companions
    • Request that service animals not be treated with any pesticides or groomed with highly fragranced products before attending the event, for those with fragrance/chemical sensitivities

Source & for more information: ADA Hospitality Accessible Meetings Guide.

  • Make sure there is a point person who can make sure all accessibility needs are being met and can troubleshoot any concerns
  • Ensure all food is clearly labeled to indicate allergens and gluten-free, dairy or casein-free, sugar-free, vegan, vegetarian and/or Kosher options. If meals were to be ordered in advance, make sure that you advertised how to order an alternate meal
  • Make sure whoever is serving the meal is aware of cross-contamination issues, especially with buffet-type meals. Once guests have gone through the buffet, they may accidentally use the wrong utensils or drop an item containing a potential dietary restriction into another item, contaminating it. This is why even if it is a buffet meal, RSVP cards should be collected for any dietary restrictions or allergies, and those with restrictions should be allowed to access the buffet first if needed
  • Ensure all displays, food, or equipment are accessible by wheelchair users and placed on surfaces lower than 34”
  • Water or drinking fountains should be nearby
  • Provide enough travel time between events and/or sessions
  • Announce when the meeting or event begins and ends
  • Announce an overview of the event schedule or presentation topics
  • Describe all materials or slides verbally and provide a written description
  • Repeat audience comments or questions into a microphone before responding
  • Allow for regular breaks for attendees to use the facilities
  • Tab and label all paper materials
  • Avoid using long, billowy tablecloths
  • Provide a variety of cutlery options for dining and drinking
  • All electronic materials distributed should include alternative text
  • The meeting organizers should…
    • Be aware of the accessibility features of the online platform they intend on using (Zoom, WebEx, etc.)
    • Distribute all meeting materials two business days in advance of the meeting.
  • The meeting participants should…
    • Annunciate clearly when they speak. Speak clearly, loudly, and slowly.
    • Keep the camera on as much as possible for lip reading.
    • Make sure they follow the agenda sent out prior to the meeting.
    • Introduce themselves and say who they are before speaking.
  • In any advertising for your virtual events, make sure to include the accessibility statement (in the first section of this document)
  • Have an online RSVP form that requests accommodations for any disabilities (especially if captioning or interpreting will be needed) in advance
  • Arrange captioning or interpreting, if needed, through an outside service at least five days in advance (see “to ensure d/Deaf/Hard of Hearing accessibility” in the “assessing the venue and planning the event” section above)
  • Detailed information on captioning is available below.
  • If you are playing any videos or other media, make sure they are captioned in advance (see below).
  • All presentation slides use sans serif fonts larger than size 14
  • Use text that is high-contrast. Avoid italics and specialty or decorative fonts. Use an online color contrast checker (see additional resources).
  • Describe all images used in the slide presentation and read the relevant text from the screen for people who have difficulty reading or seeing text and visual images. Avoid adding too much text and unnecessary images to slides.
  • Balance the need to verbalize visual information with the need to keep the text concise.
  • Leave blank space at the lower part of the slides should the captioning technology platform used cover any text.
  • Send all PowerPoint/presentation documents out prior to the meeting. Content in screen sharing is not accessible for screen reader users in Zoom, Meet, and similar services. If they have the document ahead of time, they can access it on another screen reading device, or, if they use one, a readable Braille device.

The biggest task is transcribing the video, including speaker identification, any relevant background noises, music, etc. as necessary. Almost any video hosting service (YouTube, Vimeo, Panopto, Canvas) supports closed captions in .SRT or .VTT format--these are standard timed-text formats where you take the transcript and synchronize it with the video. You can do this yourself with a text editor like Notepad, a captioning tool like Movie Captioner, or directly in some video editors (Camtasia, YouTube). Specific detailed instructions for using Notepad to create a .vtt caption text file are available in the resources section below.

Captioning using Microsoft Teams:

First, follow these instructions through BGSU to request a team and go through training, if you have not yet done so: BGSU ITS Microsoft Teams. Those requesting a site must be a full-time faculty or staff representative as Site Owner; students interested in a team must have a faculty/staff sponsor to oversee and request the site.

Teams can detect what is said in a meeting and present real-time captions. Follow the Live Captioning in a Teams Meeting instructions in the resources section below. To use live captions in a meeting, go to your meeting controls and select More options > Turn on live captions (preview). Accuracy of the initially generated captions depends on a number of factors, including the quality of one’s internet connection and the presence of any background noises. The speaker should speak slowly, clearly, and directly into the microphone.

You can edit the captions after the meeting by downloading the file. After the live event has finished, click the Calendar Meetings button in Teams and look up the live event. Under Live event resources, you will find Transcripts. You should see a transcript for each of the languages you selected for captions and subtitles. Select Download to download them. For best results, and to edit the captions for accuracy, open the files with Microsoft Word.

Captioning Using Otter:

Otter is an auto-transcription app that offers 600 free minutes of transcription per month. Instructions on using Otter are available in additional resources. First sign up for a free account (link in resources). You will need to introduce your voice and synchronize your Google account. Then, go back to the previous screen and click on the recording link to view a transcription of your recording. You can then edit mistakes and finalize the transcription. You can also import existing recordings to Otter using these instructions: How To Transcribe Speech with Otter.

Captioning Using WebEx:

If someone in your meeting is available to transcribe your meeting in real-time, you can also assign that person to write the captions, using these instructions: Managing and Taking Notes. After you have enabled Closed Captioning, in the participant list, select the participant you want to designate as a closed captionist. Then do one of the following: in Windows: Right-click and select Change Role to Closed Captionist. In Mac: Click ctrl, then select Change Role to Closed Captionist. A closed caption indicator appears next to the participant's name in the participant list.

If the meeting host has designated you as the closed captionist for a meeting, you can type captions on the Closed Captions panel in your meeting window. To type captions, you can use either a standard keyboard, or a steno keyboard and machine translation software.

Captioning Using Zoom:

Using Zoom’s Auto Transcription for Captions

Here is some general information on Zoom’s new accessibility features.

Zoom has recently enabled automatic live transcription. To activate this live transcription, and to be more inclusive of all learners/users in a Zoom setting, follow the instructions below.

  1. Go to the Zoom website, and sign in through SSO with your BGSU username and password.
  2. In the left navigation menu, click Settings.
  3. Under the Meeting section, choose “In Meeting (Advanced)” and scroll to Closed Captioning.
  4. Turn ON (to blue) the button for Closed Captioning.
  5. Check the box next to “enable live transcription service to show transcript on side panel in-meeting."
  6. Turn on the button (blue) for SAVE Captions.

*As the host, you only have to complete these steps once, including already scheduled meetings.

To Type One’s Own Captions in Zoom:

Choose Enable Auto Transcription from the pop-up under CC/Live Transcript button. (If you cannot see the CC icon, click on the “more” icon.) As the Host, you enable “auto transcription” after beginning your meeting. Once enabled, captions may not automatically appear for participants, but they can click the CC button to view the live-transcription, choose to hide or show captions as needed, or select the Live Transcript option to view the time-stamped transcript.

In order to type one’s own captions during a live Zoom session, follow these instructions: Managing and Viewing Closed Captioning. Under Account Settings, select the Meetings tab, and enable Closed Captioning. In a Zoom meeting or webinar you are hosting, click Closed Caption. Click the “Assign Someone to Type” or “I Will Type” options. “I will type” opens the closed captioning window for you to manually type closed captions. If you are a participant assigned by the host to type, once the host assigns you the ability to type closed captions, a notification will appear in your meeting controls.

To give a member of your meeting permission to type closed captions during your meeting, select the “assign to type captions” option under the user. Note: You can only assign one participant to type closed caption, meaning only one breakout room will have closed captions after you start the breakout room sessions.

Participants can click Closed Caption in the meeting controls to view closed captions.

If you do not have someone in your meeting who can transcribe and do not want to use auto transcription:

Hiring a Captionist:

See “Assessing the Venue and Planning the Event,” above. Captioning rates run from $60-$100+ an hour, and many providers have hourly minimums. Captionists should be secured at least five business days in advance.

Using Convorelay Virtual Relay Service (VRS)  with Zoom:

Convorelay is a potential accommodation for Deaf or Hard of Hearing individuals. According to the company: “Video Relay Service (VRS) allows deaf and hard of hearing (HH) individuals who use sign language (SL) to communicate with voice telephone users through video equipment and a high-speed Internet connection. A video interpreter relays the conversation at no cost to the caller. Convo is compensated by the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees.” It is confidential and meetings are not recorded by Convorelay; only the Deaf/HOH client will see the interpreter. Here are step-by-step instructions to link Convorelay with Zoom.

The meeting organizers should:

  • Send out a call for meeting accommodations in advance and appropriately respond to any participant accommodation requests
  • Request the presentation and materials from invited guests for distribution
  • Provide hand sanitizer and tissues for everyone’s use
  • Turn off electronic equipment when not in use
  • Make invitees aware of these policies

The meeting materials should:

  • Be distributed at least two business days in advance of the meeting
  • Pass the accessibility checker on all documents (see resources)
  • Pass check color contrast on slides and handouts (see resources)
  • Be available in Braille if needed
  • Include verbal or written descriptions of photos, tables, and graphs

The meeting participants should:

  • Avoid attending the meeting if they are ill or feeling unwell
  • Avoid using, or limit the use of, scented products such as perfumes, aftershave, or cologne
  • Repeat comments or questions before answering
  • Avoid speaking over each other or using acronyms or jargon
  • Encourage breaks for meetings longer than an hour
  • Make sure there are private, accessible rooms and bathrooms available upon request
  • Check sleeping areas, common spaces, and bathrooms for all mobility devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, or scooters
  • There should be un-bunked options for beds
  • Beds should be between 20” and 23” in height
  • Provide as much information about lodging arrangements to participants in advance
  • Make sure that accessible bathrooms are equipped with safe bath benches and grab bars
  • Ask about visual alarm and alert systems for d/Deaf/hard of hearing participants
  • Make sure service animals and personal assistants are accommodated for, if needed

Additional Resources

If you want to request a handout on the above information on Planning Accessible Events, please email our office at access@bgsu.edu.