Planning Accessible Events

The Manager of Student Disability Services and the 504 / ADA Compliance Coordinator in the Office for the VP for Student Affairs are available to consult with members of Graduate Center community in planning accessibility for events. You may contact the Student Disability Services by e-mail at  or by calling 1-212-817-7400.

CUNY Policy & Resources

General Resources

General Resources

Plan Ahead

Thoughtful planning will minimize surprises and allow you to efficiently and effectively respond to accommodations requests. Inviting participants to let you know in advance what accommodations they need is always the best practice. Invite participants to make requests for accommodations in all of your communications (registration forms, flyers, web pages, e-mails, etc.), and specify the date by which requests should be made.

The person(s) or office sponsoring the meeting or event should assign a contact person for accommodations requests. When the contact person cannot answer a question about an accommodations need, that person should note the question and the contact information for the individual and get back in touch with a timely response. The Manager of Student Disability Services is available to assist in identifying services and implementing accommodations.


When budgeting for events, workshops, and meetings, include accommodating people with disabilities. For example, you might need to allot funds for a sign language interpreter, assistive listening devices, video captioning, printed media in an alternate format (e.g., copies of a PowerPoint presentation or handouts in large print, Braille or on a flash drive). The Manager of Student Disability Services can help you anticipate costs and identify resources so that you are not addressing these needs at the last minute.

For example, in-person real-time captioning is approximately $150/hr and sign-language intrepeting is approximately $100/hr per person (usually requiring two people), both with a two-hour minimum. If you anticipate this expense from the start, it will not be a surprise if a request is made.

If you have a vendor you would prefer to use, make sure that they are registered as a CUNY vendor:
Selling to CUNY

Note on trimming expenses: If your event is taking place at the Graduate Center, contact IT Media Services regarding your needs (listening devices, projection, streaming) to determine which rooms are best equipped to meet those needs, before purchasing equipment or hiring services. In addition, CUNY Assistive Technology Services supports closed-captioning software that would allow you to caption any content you intend to put online, rather than hiring a service. (This is distinct from real-time captioning during the event; any GC-related media content posted online must be captioned.)

Note on online events: As of November 2020, live transcription is available on CUNY Zoom accounts. Hosts should schedule their meeting/event using their CUNY Zoom accounts ( and activate live transcription. Furthermore, hosts can create audio transcriptions of meetings and events (see Zoom meeting recording settings); transcriptions can be shared with attendees who need accommodations. Transcripts can also be input in closed-captioning software (see above), rather than typing everything from scratch.

Promotion & Registration

When promoting your meeting or event and planning for registration:

  • Arrange for all promotional materials (flyers, advertisements, emails, etc.) to be available in alternative formats, such as text format, Braille, large print, or electronic. See CUNY's suggestions for Making Content Accessible , CUNY Assistive Technology Services' Media Accessibility Project, or this handbook on Accessible Graphic Design.
  • On all printed and digital signage, include a QR code that, when scanned, will take the user to an electronic version of the sign, such as a link to the original Word or Powerpoint document.
  • Include an accommodation statement on your promotional materials and registration forms, notifying participants that accommodations can be made for a variety of needs (e.g. visual, hearing, mobility), informing them how to request accommodations, and specifying the date by which requests should be made.

Examples of such general accommodation statements include the following:

  • If you have a disability and require assistance, please inform (planner) by attaching your requirements to this form or call (planner & their contact information.)
  • If you have a disability and require accommodation in order to fully participate in this activity, please check here. You will be contacted by someone from our staff to discuss your specific needs.
  • For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations please contact (name) at (include phone and an e-mail address so that someone with a hearing or verbal disability can make inquiries). Two weeks advance notice of need for accommodations is requested.
  • If any accommodations are needed, please contact (individual’s name) at (telephone number and TTY). Requests should be made as soon as possible but at least (time frame) prior to the scheduled meeting.

If using a general statement such as one of those above, staff responding to requests should be prepared to ask detailed questions so that appropriate and effective accommodations can be provided.

A more detailed registration form requesting information on specific accommodation needs can also be used, such as the following:

I will need the following accommodations in order to participate:

  • __American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter
  • __Note taker
  • __Assistive listening device
  • __Captioning
  • __Large print
  • __Braille
  • __Flash drive containing printed materials
  • __Wheelchair access
  • __Reserved seating
  • __Orientation to facility
  • __Dietary restrictions. List: __________________
  • __An assistant will be accompanying me:  Yes ____    No______
  • __A service animal will be accompanying me:  Yes _______ No _______
  • __Other: ___________________________________________________________

Site Selection

A site visit to the meeting or event location should be conducted well in advance to determine whether barriers to accessibility exist and how they will be addressed. This visit should be conducted even in instances where the facility is well-known in order to identify any modifications or temporary barriers. The event coordinator(s) should consider accessibility for individuals with a variety of diabilities (e.g., visual, hearing, mobility) and should assess all of the different physical spaces that will be available to attendees without disabilities including:

  • Accessibility/availability of parking, shuttles, and public transportation.
  • Location of drop-off point for persons with disabilities.
  • Accessibility of entrances and interior doorways – width, slope of ramps, presence of automatic door openers, etc.
  • Accessibility of restrooms and drinking fountains.
  • Navigability of corridors, doorways, and aisles – width for wheelchair access, absence of protruding objects or displays.
  • Elevators – easy access and adequate number.
  • Signage – clearly marked location of accessible bathrooms, entrances, exits, etc.
  • Meeting and event rooms – allow for extra room capacity & table space to accommodate wheelchairs & assistance animals, including in banquet/reception/meal areas.
  • Seating - allow extra space for wheelchairs and a clear line of sight to the speaker/interpreter/captionist from an appropriate number of seats in the audience; seating for persons with disabilities should be integrated with regular seating.
  • Accessibility of dining facilities & catering (including ability to accommodate dietary restrictions).
  • Toileting space for service animals.
  • Accessible, appropriately equipped sleeping rooms for overnight events.

Links to detailed check lists are provided in the “Resources” section below.


When planning for who will be working at the event or meeting, identify individuals who are willing to serve as readers, escorts, and to perform other functions related to accommodating participants with disabilities. Be sure that these individuals are included in any staff orientation and ensure that they have training on how to work with people with disabilities.

Visit the CUNY Disability Etiquette webpage for information.

Social Functions & Meals

When planning social functions and meals:

  • Include personal assistants and interpreters in the estimated number of participants at no additional charge.
  • Make adequate provisions for integrated seating so that participants with disabilities are not marginalized (e.g., do not place persons in wheelchairs or those who use walkers or dog guides on the fringes of the dining area).
  • If offering a buffet, have servers available to assist; buffets can be particularly difficult for persons with mobility or visual disablities.
  • Determine the accessibility of any outside entertainment and transportation services offered to participants.


The event planner(s) should work with invited speakers and presenters to ensure that presentations are accessible to persons with disabilities.  Depending on the accommodations requested, these are some of the considerations that may be required:

  • Choose well-lit and easily accessible meeting rooms.
  • Control background noise to the greatest extent possible.
  • Choose a meeting room with good acoustics and an auxiliary sound system, if possible.
  • Ask the presenter(s) to include the key points of any presentation on handouts or slides, preferably with large print and sharp, contrasting colors.
  • Ask the presenter(s) to provide a copy of the presentation materials well in advance to allow for preparation of alternative format versions (large print, Braille, etc.). 
  • Videos to be used during the presentation should be captioned in advance. 
  • Ask the presenter to verbally describe any visual aids, including slides and handouts, used during the presentation. 
  • Check for the needs of speakers or presenters with disabilities (e.g., ramping or podium requests, accessibility of microphone at the appropriate height, a reverse interpreter, sighted guide for a person with limited vision, etc.).

Emergency Evacuation

Establish an emergency evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities. Never assume that all individuals with disabilities need special help in an evacuation. Always ask before providing assistance. See Graduate Center's “Evacuating Persons with Disabilities Procedure.”

Other Resources

Planning Accessible Meetings Tool Kit
American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights

Hospitality: Planning Accessible Meetings
Mid-Atlantic ADA Center

Making Accessibility Real: A Guide for Planning Meetings, Conferences and Gatherings
The Home and Community-Based Services Resource Network

Accessible Best Practices (resources for accessible science centers, museums, exhibits, displays, presentations, tours, and meetings):
Association of Science and Technology Centers

A Planning Guide for Making Temporary Events Accessible to People With Disabilities

Credit: University of Georgia's Equal Opportunity Office