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Guidelines for Planning Accessible Events

Physically Accessible Location | Print Communication
Auditory Communication | Audio-Visual Material | Dining | Living Options
Finding help | Sample Materials | Concluding Comment

Christ's example and the entire testimony of Scripture compel us as a Christian campus community to practice hospitality. Furthermore, both College policy and federal law require us to arrange all campus events so that they will be accessible to persons with diverse abilities. Our desire and commitment are to minimize barriers in architecture, communication, and attitude that would impede the full participation of anyone in this community.


Selecting an accessible site is the first decision to be made and is basic to ensuring the participation of persons with mobility impairments. Members of a planning committee should do a walk through of the areas being considered for use with a view to identify barriers for persons who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and/or other mobility devices. Here is a checklist of specific considerations:

  •  Meeting rooms are free of stairs or levels that would make essential areas inaccessible.

  •  Barrier free restrooms are located nearby.

  •  Drinking fountains can be used from a wheelchair.

  •  Reserved parking for persons with disabilities is conveniently located.

  •  An elevator allows access to all levels where the event is being held.

  •  Accessible seating areas are available, especially if a fixed-seat auditorium is to be used for the event.


Printed material for campus events should be made available in large print and Braille formats. If distribution of this material is to occur prior to an event, the availability of agenda, programs, and the like in alternative formats should be noted in registration materials. Large print versions can be created easily by using the "enlarge" option on most photocopy machines. The Coordinator of Services to Students with Disabilities can assist with the preparation of Braille materials if they are requested in advance by event participants. A Braille printer is located in the offices of Student Academic Services so that any material created electronically can readily be converted to hardcopy in Braille.

It is hospitable to prepare at least some large print and Braille copies of print material that is to be distributed at the time of the event only. For example, large print and Braille concert programs will be appreciated by many who would never think of requesting them ahead of time.


Individuals who are hard of hearing and deaf must not be overlooked. For events held in the Chapel, the Fine Arts Center, and Gezon Auditorium, audioloop systems are in place which allow individuals with hearing impairments to hear amplified sound through FM receiver sets. Event planners should check with the Special Events Office to make sure these are available. Event promotion should also include a notice that "assistive devices are available for individuals with hearing impairments."

For events held in smaller venues around campus, planners need to consider whether standard sound amplification equipment will be necessary and sufficient.

College policy requires that sign-language interpreters be hired if requested at least forty-eight hours before an event. Event publicity must include notification of the availability of this service to potential attendees. While the cost of this service is the responsibility of the group hosting the event, the Office of Human Resources or the Coordinator of Services to Students with Disabilities may be able to assist in locating qualified interpreters.


Audio-visual material to be used at events must be handled with sensitivity. A person with a visual impairment may need to have an overhead projection or videotaped material explained by someone. A person with hearing impairment may require that closed-caption videos be used or may need to have tape-recorded material interpreted. Advance planning is very helpful so that it is possible to anticipate who may be attending. If a registration procedure is used for your event, it is wise to ask if registrants need any specific accommodations.


If meals are to be served by having participants proceed through the cafeteria lines in one of the dining halls, assistance may need to be offered to individuals with mobility impairments, are visually impaired, or have communication difficulty. Event hosts should look for opportunities to offer assistance such as carrying someone's tray, describing food selections, and interpreting choices to food service personnel.

Dining areas themselves must be roomy enough to allow passage between tables for persons using crutches, wheelchairs, or other various mobility devices. Recommended width between tables is 5 feet 6 inches.


Participants at events which use campus housing need to have a way to request barrier free accommodations. Kalsbeek-Huizinga and the Bolt-Heyns-Timmer complex provide barrier-free dormitory rooms on the main side of campus; and at Knollcrest East, Phi-Chi has two accessible apartments.


Since planning accessible events may be a new experience for you, feel free to consult with Calvin's Coordinator of Services to Students with Disabilities whose office is housed within Student Academic Services at 455 Hiemenga Hall. At present, that person's name is Karen Broekstra (Ext. 6114 or email kbroekst@calvin.edu).


A section should be included on registration material that allows registrants to indicate special needs. For example:

Accommodations: Please indicate any special needs.

_____ Sign language interpreter

_____ Assistive listening device

_____ Large print materials

_____ Braille materials

_____ Audio-taped materials

_____ Accessible lodging

_____ Campus accessibility map

_____ Other (please specify)


Exercising hospitality in the ways described above will enable participation in your event by people who have too often been overlooked. Enabling everyone's participation will enrich the experience for everyone by adding the perspective of individuals whose voices have not always been heard.

Rev. 9/2001

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