In-person meetings are great ways to network and collaborate with peers. They give participants a chance to connect on a more personal level than even the most interactive online platforms allow. They are a great way to share resources, as well as give an opportunity to brainstorm ideas with colleagues. However, it is important to make sure that every individual can participate fully in the entire meeting. Namely, it is extremely important that your meeting is fully accessible to all. A first step is to make sure you and all of the meeting’s planners are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s Accessible Meetings document.
The meeting space should provide access to all attendees regardless of disability. Total accessibility includes not only the physical access of the building, room and parking lot, and the public transportation available, but also that other accommodations be made available by request. This could include the print materials being available in alternative formats such as large print, Braille, or on CDs for those that use screen readers. Additionally, a person may request live or closed captioning of the presentations. You should also be prepared to have the handout materials in other languages such as Spanish or Chinese. Additionally, another accommodation that could be requested is a language interpreter that uses another language or American Sign Language.
Below are some basic tips to keep in mind when preparing for an accessible meeting:
- The indoor and outdoor routes and pathways to the site are accessible for someone who uses a cane, scooter, walker, wheelchair, or has a service animal;
- The signage wall mounts include Braille;
- The bathrooms are accessible;
- The meeting room’s seating area is wide enough for pathway travel for someone who uses a wheelchair or scooter, etc. It is best to ask for floor plans of the room in advance of set up;
- Ensure the equipment such as a personal computer and/or laptop, assistive listening devices, microphones, projectors, TV decoders, and teleconference phones are available and in working condition; and
- Print materials are available in alternative formats as well as in other languages.
Below are some additional resources to learn more about ADA and planning accessible public meetings: