How do I get disability-related accommodation requests from community members for events? And once someone makes a request, what do I do?!
There are a few simple things we can all be doing to make our events and programs more accessible. One of these is knowing how to seek out and honor accommodation requests.
Before we get to the good stuff, a few housekeeping notes: There is a lot of complexity, human, legal, and otherwise, in making, receiving and providing accommodation requests.
We have a citywide ADA Title II Coordinator, Danielle Brooks, and a Disability Equity Policy Coordinator, Nickole Cheron, both of whom can offer excellent consultation on the nuances of providing accommodations for programs and services in the City of Portland. I am also happy to talk through any general accommodation questions you might have—just call or email and we’ll go from there.
And finally, please know that accommodation and accessibility go beyond disability! People can have cultural, language, economic access barriers, and more that need to be accommodated to fully participate in our programs and events.
Without further ado…here are some practical ways you can get started or get better at accommodations!
Put a contact for accommodations on outreach materials. Have a specific person designated to receive accommodation requests. It’s best if this person can answer basic logistical questions about the event or program and can respond to requesters confirming that they have received the request. There should also be someone responsible for arranging requests—this may or may not be the same person.
A simple statement, like, “Do you need a disability, cultural, or other accommodation to fully participate in this event? Please contact July Ada at 503-726-1990 or July.email@example.com” can let people know you are thinking about including everyone and ready to make accommodations. A direct phone or email makes it least likely that the request will be missed! Don’t forget to put this on all of your outreach materials, like any fliers, brochures, emails or websites about the event or program.
Have a conversation with the person making the request. Once you’ve confirmed that you’ve received an accommodation request, having a brief (phone or email) conversation with the individual will make sure everyone is on the same page about what the needs and possibilities are.
People who use interpreters may have a specific individual or company they prefer. There are standards for “large print,” but most people with visual disabilities have a preference on font size and spacing. And an “accessible” space could be very different for Autistic people, people with mobility disabilities, and folks with chemical sensitivity. And, if you aren’t sure how to meet the request, let the person know! The individual will likely be able to point you in the right direction, whether that’s a preferred interpreting company, the best cues for an accessible space, or a meal that they can eat. A quick chat will save you time and stress!
Look for ways to model accessible, inclusive, and universally-designed spaces and practices in your work (and play!). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) we, and the people we grant funds to, are already required to have accessible programs and events. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. We often do things the way we have always done them, including using inaccessible spaces and perpetuating practices that harm others.
We can be part of changing these practices! By publicly offering and honoring accommodations, holding our events, meetings, and programs in accessible spaces (and checking if we aren’t sure what that means), and modeling other best practices, community members will be more likely to ask for what they need because they know that we are committed to including everyone.