Accommodations and Services - Campus Event Guidance

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Campus Event Guidance for Inclusive Event Planning

Winthrop University is committed to providing an accessible and inclusive environment that creates welcoming and engaging campus experiences. Please use the information, guidelines, and checklist below to ensure accessibility and usability at your next Winthrop event.

 

What’s the difference between Accessibility and Accommodations?

    Accessibility is something we do as a proactive measure to make it possible for people to interact.

    Accommodation is something we do as a reactive measure when someone is not able to interact — or when the available means of interaction are not ideal for that person.

    Example:
    In a physical space, an accessibility feature would be a curb cut or a ramp, while an accommodation might be having a team on call who can come out and lift a person up the curb.  Accessibility is a feature that allows people with an impairment to interact in a way that does not limit them.

    That proactive/reactive difference is critical to understanding why accessibility is such a big undertaking.  Because we can’t predict where we will have a need for accessibility, we can’t limit where we take this on. This is a change in operations that we need to take on across our institution.

 

Who pays for all of this?

    • We’ve already been paid to do it.  As far as the federal government is concerned, if we are an institution that accepts federal funding of any kind (including financial aid for students), then that funding was accepted with the understanding that we abide by the various laws and guidance provided — which includes anti-discrimination laws like the ADA. So, while we may have spent the money on other parts of the university over the years, trying to resist the work based on expense will work against the institution when we face off with enforcement agencies like the Office of Civil Rights.
    • The expense is manageable. In many cases, depending upon the sort of resources we are trying to make accessible, the expenses are not extraordinary. Most of what we need to do is adopt some new skills and behaviors as we do our work, which requires some new training and new effort, not a lot of hard costs.  Accommodations are MUCH more expensive, in most cases, but those are reactive and serve a specific student with a need.
    • Time and effort are the real challenge. Everyone on your campus needs to adopt the new behaviors and values. That means influencers need to be brought on board and the team promoting accessibility needs a lot of upper level support. Make sure that accessibility is written into job descriptions and expectations so that it can be something concrete that is evaluated in performance reviews for staff — and you may want to consider how those expectations can be applied to faculty expectations as well.

 

Is this the Law?

    Higher education has a history of favoring accommodations above accessibility. In fact, accessibility is a fairly recent topic for higher education. The shift to accessibility is largely due to legal action both inside and outside the courtroom. Even so, some components of accessibility currently exist in a gray area, especially when they are applied to non-digital content distribution.
    Nevertheless, there are legal standards everyone should be aware of.  Specifically, institutions need to understand:

    • The Americans with Disabilities Act Titles II and III: Title II prohibits all disability related discrimination by any public entity at the local or state level, and Title III prohibits disability discrimination in public accommodations. “Public accommodations” is a sweeping category that increasingly seems to include most or all public-facing websites.
    • The Rehabilitation Act Section 504 and possibly Section 508:  The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has been amended over the years, but the basic idea is people with disabilities must be afforded equal access to all programs, services, and activities that receive federal subsidy of any kind.  Public institutions fall under 504 by definition.  Section 508 is specific to federal agencies, although in certain cases a college or university might also be subject to 508 directly through the Assistive Technology Act or through contracts with the federal government. Regardless, Sections 504 and 508 are defined in relationship to each other and together function much like a single set of standards.

    Recent Consent Decrees, lawsuits, agreements, and settlements have dialed in what it means to be accessible. Documents like the agreement between Wichita State University and the National Federation of the Blind make it clear that all institutions should be sure to meet the standards of “timely” and “equally effective” in their accommodations.  In order to meet these standards, institutions must resort to improving the accessibility of everything they create, because these standards are very difficult to meet any other way:

    • Timely: access in sufficient time for all students to have an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement as other students.
    • Equally Effective: The underlying format or medium communicates the same information in as timely a fashion as does the original format or medium.

 

TOOLS

Please use the Guidelines and Checklist when planning in-person and/ or online events 

Inclusive Event Planning Guidelines (PDF-241K)

Inclusive Event Planning Checklist (PDF-208K)

 

Office of Accesibility staff can assist you in identifying approved vendors, however the Event Coordinator of the event will be responsible for inquiring in advance if attendees need accommodation, exploring and contacting appropriate vendors, providing event details, arranging services, all invoicing, and billing for their events.

Last Updated: 9/4/20