Planning Accessible Events: New Student Orientation
Welcoming Students to Campus
First impressions are important. How you plan for and conduct your New Student Orientation can make for a successful year.
Design your content and events to include students with disabilities. These tips help you evaluate what you have planned and get you thinking.
Planners should take a big-picture approach to choosing venues and keep in mind paths of travel between buildings as well as step-free entrances. Think about the tours students might take with Orientation Leaders; can a student in a wheel-chair navigate throughout?
Be mindful that large assembly spaces and smaller break-out rooms are wheelchair-accessible, which includes not only spaces to sit, but ample space to navigate and turn wheelchairs around as needed.
Check for elevator and lift access in buildings. Facilities with elevators and lifts that require keys or an attendant should be avoided, since staff might not be available and the student is left behind. If you must use such facilities, secure any keys in advance if elevators or lifts are locked or key-operated.
Seating and lighting. Keep sight-lines from seating areas to stage, podium or front of room in mind. Be aware of obscured views or overly dark rooms that make it difficult to navigate.
Universities and colleges often show a fun and flashy “Welcome” video to students and families that are produced by the campus. Planners should ensure that the video producers have included open- captioning post-production before the video can be shown. This allows the video to be shown to a variety of groups, without having to ask whether a person requires captioning or not each time. Captioning is useful for a range of audiences beyond those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
While disabled students may have already been in touch with your Disability Resource Center (DRC), many might not have. Include a mention and contact for DRC (it might have a different name on your campus) in large group presentations on student services, and include in brochures or other handouts.
In addition to accessible routes, think about the pace of tours and places to sit along the way for students or parents who may need to. Be ready to assist visually impaired or other students with guides; learn how to effectively guide blind people at: https://nfb.org/courtesy-rules
Ensure that any interactive activities for students take a wide variety of characteristics and abilities into consideration. Think how to make visual or auditory components accessible to blind, Deaf or Hard of Hearing students; if they can’t be made accessible, modify the activity so that no one is left out.
Communication access (sign language interpreters and captioning/CART) is essential for the full participation of students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
For students who use sign language for communication, interpreters should be made available for activities as well as formal presentations. They might be needed for unstructured social time as well.
Keep in mind that some participants may have difficulty reading projected material or handouts in standard print sizes. As much as possible, make slideshows and handouts available to participants in digital format in advance of the event, via email, blackboard or other methods.
If using handouts, prepare Large Print versions in advance. Large Print is typically 14 to 16 point font with minimal serifs.
Over-arching everything is the attitude toward people with disabilities. Is the campus welcoming to a diverse student body, including those with disabilities? Do disabled students take leadership roles on campus, or are they excluded from active participation?
If Orientation Leaders or other staff involved in Orientation are not familiar with disabled students, faculty or staff on campus they could meet with DRC staff or the campus Disabled Student Club to learn more and find ambassadors for tours, etc.
The DREAM student organization is another good source for learning about disability: http://www.dreamcollegedisability.org/
Informing potential participants of accessibility is key to successful events. Statements such as those below should be included in all advertisement of your events.
Campus Community or Invitation-Only Events
Sample statement: If you require disability-related accommodations to participate in this event, please contact [sponsoring department] two weeks in advance of the event.
Large Scale Events and Those Open to the Public
Sample statements: This event is wheelchair-accessible and will be interpreted into American Sign Language. Or, Wheelchair and Communication Access will be available at this event.
The Wheelchair Access and other symbols may be used to convey this information as well. Dreamstime.com is one of many sources for accessibility icons.
Additional information about planning accessible and inclusive events can be found at our Inclusive Events page.