9 In Person Events

When we think about logistics of planning an in-person event, there are many factors that can determine the level of accessibility at an event. This section will provide information related to location, paths of travel, room configuration, refreshments and giveaways, as well as transportation.

Included in this section: Location; Getting to the in-person event; Room arrangements; Refreshments, Catering, and Giveaways.


Ask Yourself

  • Does the location of this event support the access and inclusion needs of the intended audience?

Recommended Practices

  • Solicit venues that cater to various accessibility needs, for instance does the location offer the following:
  • Include the venue’s accessibility features, as well as information on how to request a reasonable accommodation in your event/programming marketing, invitations, confirmation communication, and at the event/program. 
  • Ask venue about the historical background of the venue. Avoid facilities that may leave an unfavorable connotation in participants’ minds (e.g., Venue that in the past restricted memberships to a specific race, gender, and/or socioeconomic background). 
  • Consider venues who engage in ethical practices such as sustainability efforts and providing workers with livable wages.
  • Avoid spaces with ongoing construction, new carpeting, newly painted walls, and recently used chemicals for smell-sensitivity.
  • If your event is on campus, communicate with Facilities Management or the ADA Coordinator when there are issues so they can be addressed: Facilities Management.
  • In the case that events are paid, one should consider whether or not cost of the event is prohibitive to participation and seek community feedback as to whether this is a barrier. If cost is a barrier, considerations should be made for lowered cost plans or alternative scholarship strategies. Know your budget and seek diverse perspectives in how that budget should be used to facilitate the success of the event.

Getting to the In-Person Event

Ask Yourself

  • How easy it for various attendees to get to and from your event?

Recommended Practices

  • Provide transportation information that includes exact street addresses, distances and obstacles (if possible).
  • A map and list of the closest parking availability, including cost, accessible spaces, and elevator/ramp access.
    • Example: Iowa Memorial Union (IMU) “The [name of the Parking Structure] is the closest parking structure [# blocks away]; the cost is [$ or $/hour] for an employee with a permit. It includes parking spots for individuals with disabilities, elevators, and ramps. The accessible entrance to the IMU is [location] on [street].
  • Provide directions for multiple modes of transportation (walking, driving, public transportation).
  • Buildings that are utilized should include accessible curb cuts and ramps (accessible route / entrance maps, etc.).
  • If your event is on campus, communicate with Facilities Management and the ADA Coordinator so that any accessibility concerns can be addressed proactively: Facilities Management | (uiowa.edu)

Path of Travel

  • Ensure there is an accessible route from accessible parking spaces to accessible entrance. Consider the path with inclement weather, if relevant.

Accessible Entrance

  • If possible, host the event in a building with an accessible entrance in the front of the building or nearest to the event location.
  • Have a wide width entrance (at least 32-inch-wide door). Note revolving doors are not accessible.
  • Have accessible push-button access.
  • If entry is a manual door (instead of power) ensure an individual can open the door using less than 5 pounds of force. If you are concerned about this, facilities can check the weight of the door.
  • Have a barrier free access ramp into building.
  • If no ramp is present, and you intend to use a temporary ramp, contact facilities management who should assist in identifying an ramp that meets ADA standards.

Path of Travel Through Event Space

Have a clearly marked barrier free path of travel from the entrance through the building, to the registration/sign in location, and to the event space.

  • All events/programs should be in a space that will allow for two-way traffic pathway of at least 64 inches.
  • Hallways should be clear of clutter, allowing for clear two-way traffic of 64 inches wide. Have a barrier free path to any additional rooms that are used for the event/program.
  • All aisles need to be at a minimum of 36 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair or scooter.
  • Accessible restrooms need a clear, marked path to the restroom. Avoid putting tables, signs, or other markers in front of restrooms.
  • Consider the accessibility of the stage. If the event includes invitation of public onto stage, consider proactively ensuring access via ramp or lift.

Room Arrangements

Ask Yourself

  • Can all audience members easily move around within the event space?

Recommended Practices

Accessible Doors/Doorways/Aisles/Entranceways/Exits

  • Check the entrances to ensure they are accessible for people using mobility devices.
  • Door handles should  have a “push down handle” to enable people who cannot grip the handle or who are assisted by service animals to open it.
  • Look for angular walls that might be problematic for people using canes.

Stage or focal points

  • When a stage is setup, make sure there is a ramp to get to the stage and that there is a space for someone who is using a mobility device.
  • Your emcee, performer, facilitator or presenter may need an accessible podium. Be sure you have checked with them before you book the space to determine if you need one.

Space for Interpreters

  • Have well-lit space for Sign Language interpreters, preferably with a dark, solid colored background, e.g. no bright light behind them or distracting wall decoration.
  • Ensure that interpreters have space to rest when not interpreting.
  • Ensure unobstructed view of Sign Language interpreters and CART screen/text. Reserve seats directly in front of the Sign Language interpreters and CART screen for individuals using these services. Check the line of sight for accessible seating and for seating that is being provided as a result of a requested accommodations for individuals who  need to be close enough to read lips, view Sign Language interpreters, or have other reasons to be in a designated seat.


  • Learn in advance how lighting is adjusted in the space.

Event Kit Suggestions

  • Assemble an Event Kit to accompany Event Organizers, so that the items may be used, if necessary.
    • First aid kit with latex-free supplies and earplugs
    • Paper, pens, unscented markers, scissors, tape, duct tape, blank name tags, and clipboards
    • Unscented bathroom and cleaning products
    • Bike tire pump and patch kit for wheelchair tires
    • Juice or regular soda and straws
    • Clean rug or mat
    • Umbrellas and ponchos
    • Water bowl and dog waste bags for service dogs
    • Garbage bags


  • If possible, do not place all accessible and/or accommodation seating in the same area. For example, integrate accessible seating throughout space, not only front or back of seating options.
  • Mark areas designated for accessible seating with reserved signs.
  • Plan for wheelchair-accessible seating paths throughout the space. Be conscious that spaces around tables or chairs should be a minimum of 36 inches to enable wheelchairs or strollers to pass through, and plan the layout with this in mind.
  • Provide a variety of seating and table options.
    • Chairs with and without arms, and bariatric chairs.
    • Table heights
    • Avoid seats attached to tables.
  • If workspaces are an aspect of the event, ask venue if they have accessible desks and/or tables available. Consider measuring the desk and keeping that information handy for anyone who requests accessible desk accommodations.
  • Provide appropriate number of accessible seats, please review the chart below. Accessible seating includes seating that individuals with disabilities can use including individual who use wheelchairs or other mobility aides, as well as individuals with service animals.
Total Seating Capacity Required # of Accessible Spaces
4-25 1
26-50 2
51-300 4
301-500 6
Over 500 6 (plus 1 additional space for each total seating capacity increase of 100)

Refreshments, Catering, and Giveaways

Ask Yourself

  • Are there diverse food options available that meet the needs of participants?

Recommended Practices

  • Gather requests prior to the event.
    • If a change is made due to dietary restrictions, ensure the meal is still balanced.
  • Consider religious and cultural food practices of audience members such as meal preparation and fasting.
  • Provide a range of food that includes: vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, healthy, lactose-free, and Kosher/Halal options.
  • Provide water.
  • Consider varying drinkware needs such as glasses with handles or straws.
  • For allergies consider:
    • Ensuring food options and ingredients that are clearly labeled in large print.
    • Individually packaging or offering in a way that avoids cross-contamination.
    • The top eight allergens: cow’s milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat.
  • Consider your audience, do they need easy to handle food, food that is easy to swallow?
  • If alcoholic beverages are a part of the event, serve non-alcoholic beverages in a similar style as alcoholic drinks.


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Inclusive Events and Programming Guide Copyright © by Authored collectively by the University of Iowa campus community is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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