Planning Accessible Events

As a public entity, the University must make events accessible

As the home of the Independent Living Movement, the Disability Civil Rights movement, we have an ongoing obligation to ensure maximum access for disabled people on our campus. This reflects requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) and the University itself have developed internal policies and guidelines--including UCOP PACAOS Policy 20 and PACAOS Guideline 140--that prohibit discrimination against disabled people and require that reasonable accommodations be provided on request. This includes for events on campus.

This guide is intended to help you think through engagement with a spectrum of people with and without disabilities in hosting an event. Some sections of this guide are requirements that all events hosted on the campus and sponsored by university units must address in their event planning. Those requirements will be clearly marked. Other sections of this guide are intended to help you frame your event from its conception as an accessible one where access and event planning are synonymous start to finish.

Please note, no list of recommendations for accessibility comprehensively addresses the needs of all people with disabilities. 

If you have any questions or require additional advice, please contact Disability Access & Compliance (DAC) for support.

Planning for Disability Access and Accommodations: Access Coordinator

Start early!

Access for all community members takes time as well as commitment. By working proactively, event planners can better identify access barriers and make their events accessible to the widest range of participants possible. To head off common questions, think about the closest accessible parking, restrooms, and entrances to your event venue. Specifics on where to find that information are listed below.

Requirement: Designate an Access Coordinator (AC) for Your Event.

In order to make sure that all access requests are addressed in a timely manner and that those requests are met to the best of our ability, one person should be designated the Access Coordinator for every event.

Characteristics of an Effective Access Coordinator:

  • The AC needs access to the complete set of event details and logistics.

  • The AC must have the capacity to receive requests and respond promptly.

  • The AC must have authority to modify the language on promotional materials and advertisements.

  • The AC needs reasonable authority to approve an accommodation if it leads to an additional expense for the event.

Take Note of What Goes Well (and what could be better in the future).

The best way to provide better event access is through the experiences of event planners. If your department hosts events with many different people responsible for different events, keep resources like notes on past experiences in a single place. That could include points of contact, venue-specific plans or information, or anything else that will build institutional memory.

Lowering the Barriers for Making Requests for Event Accommodations

Talking About Access as a Part of Planning

Access needs should be shared, and talked about openly and without shame. Make space for your group members, guests, and participating community members to clearly define their access needs at regular meetings as well as special events. Many people’s access needs are invisible. They should feel welcome to share those needs without fear of reprisal, so an intentional space for sharing is very important!

Requirement: Promotional Materials

All promotional materials across all formats (print, web, email, carrier pigeon, etc.)  should include an accessibility statement. Here’s a sample accessibility statement for use in your event promotional materials:

"If you require accommodation for a disability for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact [name of AC] at [contact information: phone number and email] with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event."

At a minimum, the accommodations statement must include the name of the person serving as access coordinator and a method for contacting them directly (i.e. a phone number or email address).

Responding to Accommodations Requests

Requirement: Our Obligation to Provide Access

The campus must provide equal access for people with disabilities to all university sponsored programs, services, and activities. Even when we are uncertain about funding or logistics for an accommodation, we should proceed assuming that the service should be provided. Disability Access & Compliance (DAC) staff can help determine the best approach to responding to any situation where an event planner needs guidance/support.

Responding to a Request

In general, we assume that every accommodations request is valid. DAC can help you determine the legitimacy of a request if you have serious doubts. Before confirming the availability of a specific accommodation, collect the details of the accommodations needs for the guest/event participant including:

  • Their contact information

  • Their requested accommodation(s)

  • Any preferences issued about that accommodation

(If your event receives multiple requests for a similar accommodation, collect the contact information of every person making that request. This can help our service providers understand how to deliver that accommodation most effectively.  

If the request is for an accommodation or information that you need help in answering, please contact DAC with as much advance notice as possible.

Requirement: Giving a Good Faith Effort

Even after careful planning, some requests will come too late to get addressed or other logistical problems might prevent us from addressing an accommodations request. Although this outcome feels bad for all involved, we are only responsible for trying with all reasonable resources to make an accommodation work.

If you are unable to meet an accommodations request, explain that clearly to the guest/participant and try to hold compassion in the process. Humility goes a long way in holding the frustration a person experiences when their needs are not met.

Resources and Support

Disability Access & Compliance can help you with all of the steps and processes described above. Most importantly, we provide technical advice in implementing accommodations, planning support and consultation, and can connect you with service providers to meet accommodations requests.

Advice, Consultation and Planning

If you need consultation in the planning stages of the event, DAC can provide the following:

  • A review of promotional materials to tailor them to your specific event

  • Event-specific information about restrooms, parking, and paths of travel to and from your event

  • Connection to other campus resources for event access/mobility access

  • Explanations of campus policies and practices re: disability access and accommodations.

Funding for Accommodations

In certain cases, DAC can provide resources and funding to support the accommodations needs of people with disabilities participating in campus events. In order to qualify for Direct funding support, an event must:

  • Be hosted by a university department or unit;

  • Be broadly open to the public or campus community;

  • Be located on a property owned or leased by UC Berkeley, or remote events (e.g., Berkeley Zoom or Google Meet);

  • Have the specific name and contact information of the person requiring an accommodation to participate in the event readily available and clearly identified;

  • Must be a one-off event (we do not cover events that are held annually or regularly);
  • Must not charge for admission*;

*Please contact DAC if your event charges nominally to cover only the cost of hosting the event or in order to verify event participation (such as a reservation fee of $10).

Note: Events recorded for later public viewing are charged extra when ASL interpreters are included in the recording.

If the event does not meet these funding criteria the Access Coordinator for the event will need to Charge-Back the payment for the services to the DAC account. The Access Coordinator will be sent an email with a link to our DAC Charge-Back form (with instructions) and two attachments (the original event Communications Request form (CR) PDF and the paid Invoice for the services).

Role of DAC in Providing Accommodations

Although DAC provides logistical support and connects event planners with resources, service providers, and funding, the event sponsor is responsible for providing equal access to their program.

When to list DAC as the Point of Contact/Access Coordinator

Under certain, limited, circumstances an event qualifies to list DAC as the Access Coordinator for an event. In order to do so, an event must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Major public events, such as those served by Parking & Transportation (Note: Individual departments, colleges, and schools hosting commencement ceremonies must  identify an Access Coordinator as described above, with the exception of the L&S Commencement Ceremony);
  • Events with a theme covering topics highly pertinent to people with disabilities when a large number of people with disabilities are expected to attend;
  • After consultation with Disability Access & Compliance (DAC) 

Please email with any questions.