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How To Make Your Event More Disability-Friendly

November 16, 2017

From street festivals, craft fairs and music/sporting events to weddings, reunions and parties – life is full of enjoyable ways to socialize and celebrate with friends and family. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination and mandates accessibility in all public venues, but there are many additional ways to ensure people with disabilities feel welcome and included.  

Here are simple ways to plan a disability-friendly event that everyone can enjoy.

First, think about your event site. While it may be difficult to find a “perfect” location, keep accessibility high on your list of criteria. Consider the surrounding area, too. How easy is it to get to the location? What is the parking lot and sidewalks like? How can you be more inclusive, from start to finish?

Once you’ve decided on your location, add the following steps to your event planning checklist:      

  • Give plenty of notice for your upcoming event to allow people to arrange for any transportation or assistance they may require. Whenever possible, offer multiple registration options (online, telephone, text or email) – with the opportunity to identify special accommodations or accessibility needs.


  • Have funds allocated in your budget to cover the cost of any accommodations. Remember to book any sign language interpreters, real-time captioners (RTCs), note-takers or other support personnel in plenty of time to ensure availability.
  • If you are serving food let participants indicate dietary restrictions prior to the event, if possible. If you will be serving a buffet, have servers available to bring food to tables as needed. Allow for easy movement for wheelchair and motorized scooter users – with wide aisles and plenty of space around tables. A good rule of thumb is 38” or wider between chairs and tables 36” or higher.
  • Train event volunteers how to respectfully assist people with disabilities and to respond to any accessibility requests that may arise. Make sure that volunteers are easily identified with name tags, etc.
  • Reserve special seating areas throughout the venue – not just in the back. Provide seat reservations in the front for people who have auditory or visual limitations. If a participant has a guide dog offer a bowl of water and provide directions for where dog can be walked.

Got an event coming up soon? This comprehensive Planning Guide from the ADA National Network is a great place to start.

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