The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is committed to facilitate access to communities for persons of disabilities. One in seven Ontarians currently experiences a disability and this number is expected to increase as population ages. Disability is diverse, it might be someone who: has low or no hearing, has low or no vision, experiences a physical challenge, lives with a mental health issue, lives with speech-challenge or struggles with learning demanding.
The purpose of this guide is to provide information for event planners to identify and to overcome access challenges in relations to its participants. Planning access should minimize the need for last minute accommodations and it should foster full participation for persons of disabilities. As well, this is in line with AODAs requirements to ensure disability access for program participants, if the organizer has at least one employee.
• Provide ample notice for the upcoming event to allow people to arrange for transportation, assistants or other supports they may require.
• Include a disability accommodation statement on all event advertising (eg. “For disability accommodations please contact X name, phone number/e-mail by date Z”).
• Include space on registration form or on the event notice for people to identify their accommodations or special needs (eg. “If you have a disability that may require accommodations to participate please indicate here ___. How would you like to be contacted to discuss your needs (phone, email)?” | “Please check the accommodations needed in order to participate: ____interpreting (ASL, oral, signed English) ____large print ____captioned videos ____an assistance dog will accompany me ____a personal care attendant will accompany me ____communication access in real time (CART) ____Braille ____handouts in electronic format ____ wheelchair access”).
• If you are serving food, give participants a chance to request dietary preferences.
• Include contact information (e.g., phone number and e‐mail address) so that attendees can contact you with their special, confidential requests. (see previous examples).
• Follow up with people who request accommodations in a timely fashion to inform them whether or not these will be available.
• Indicate whether there are any fees for admission or materials, note that fees should not apply to any accompanying support persons.
• On posters or information sheets, include international accessibility symbols indicating accessibility (e.g. wheelchair access, captioning, sign language interpretation).
• Promote a scent‐free practice for all events.
• Train event volunteers about how to respectfully assist people with disabilities and to respond to any accessibility issues that may arise.
• Make sure that volunteers are easily identified (use name tags and/or other identifiers).
• Remind your volunteers not to make assumptions about what a person with a disability can or cannot do. Tell them to simply ask, “How may I help you?”
• Book any access supports being provided in plenty of time to ensure availability. (e.g. Sign Language interpreters, real-time captioning, note-takers, attendants etc.).
• Provide interpreters, captioners and note takers with agendas and presentation outlines in advance of the event.
• At the event, be sure the interpreters and/or captioners are introduced and explain what they will be doing during the event.
• If many of your attendees have children and the event is being held during non‐business hours, you may want to offer childcare services.
• If food is provided, ensure the count includes interpreters, attendants, child‐minders, etc.
• Remind participants as well as volunteers and service providers of the scent‐free practice.
• Make sure transport options for getting to the venue are realistic for persons with disabilities (event venue close to public transportation, transit vehicles serving the route should be accessible, knowledgeable to indicate pick-up/drop off areas).
• Provide info about accessible parking and create a sufficient number of accessible parking spaces. Determine approximate distance between accessible parking and the venue. It’s helpful to use arrival, exit and directional signs that are clear and can be read in all light conditions.
• Make sure that wheelchair access is via the main entrance. Alternatively, post clear, legible signs at the main entrance showing alternative, safe and accessible entrances.
• Make sure outdoor and indoor paths are barrier-free (move garbage cans, sandwich boards if needed). Avoid soft, thick pile carpeting or loose mats.
• Make sure persons with disabilities can reach all areas used at the event independently or with assistance from volunteers (e.g., doors, the registration desk, washroom, change room etc.). Check the space inside washroom to see if a wheelchair can manage, check for grab bars and the access to sink, soap and paper towels. Make sure accessible washrooms are available within a reasonable distance.
• Preferably, elevators should have low buttons for wheelchair users, Braille/raised number markings or audible floor announcements for people who are blind or with low vision, and visual floor indicators for people who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.
• Post clear and easy-to-read signs showing locations of accessible washrooms, elevators, phones, etc.
• Allow for easy movement for wheelchair and scooter users (rearrange furniture if needed). Choose a room with wide aisles and plenty of space around tables.
• Include accessible seating areas interspersed throughout the room where possible – front, middle and back.
• Reserve seating for people with various disabilities, and consider the nature of their disability when doing so (people who rely on lip reading will need to sit closer to speakers).
• Provide a variety of chairs with and without armrests if available. Provide seating for those who can’t stand for long periods at events where people will be mostly standing.
• Good lighting (bright, without glare and allows for adjustment).
• Good acoustics (minimal echo). If possible, arrange for provision of Assistive Listening Devices (e.g., an FM system). Wherever possible, try to eliminate or reduce background noise during proceedings.
• Make sure accessible washrooms are available within a reasonable distance.
• Cover electrical cables or cords that cross over aisles or pathways so wheelchair users as well as people who use canes and walkers can traverse easily and safely across them.
• Ensure that all parts of the event are smoke‐free.
• Make sure organizers, presenters and volunteers are aware of emergency evacuation procedures.
Suggestions for effective presenters
• Remind presenters to end meetings or presentations on schedule (important for people making advance transit arrangements and for pre-booked support people).
• Produce materials in large print (16‐point type or larger) and have available electronically in case of a request for such a format.
• It is always good to have a few print copies on hand. Encourage and support presenters to offer copies of their material in different formats before their presentation starts.
• Ideally lectern heights and audio/visual controls should be adjustable to meet the needs of different speakers.
• During the session, presenters should verbally describe contents of videos, or any written materials, including overheads or chalkboard notes for audience members with vision loss.
• Encourage presenters to use captioned videos.
• Organizers or presenters should check with the audience about the need for breaks.
Food and Refreshments
• If it is a buffet-style event, be sure to place food, drinks and utensils in easy reach of a person using a wheelchair.
• Provide bendable straws as well as some cups with handles. People who have limited use of their hands have difficulty grasping or holding objects such as cups.
• Ask volunteers to offer assistance or seated service to guests with disabilities.
• Do not pet service animals.
• Make sure there is a relief area for them and make sure their owners know where it is.
• Provide a water bowl on hand.
Budgeting the event
• Set aside some funds early in the planning stage for accessibility and in the event of requests for communication supports and accessible formats. event
Evaluating the event
• Be sure evaluation forms are accessible and include a section about accessibility of the event. This can provide valuable information for use in planning future event plans.
|Cheryl Blackman is Assistant Vice-President, Audience Development at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) where she is responsible for the quality of the visitor experience. In addition to managing the front of house welcome, she oversees the audience evaluation team. Cheryl created the museum’s Community Access Network, which she has grown into more than 50 partnerships with groups across Ontario. Cheryl has grown this area into a highly successful part of the ROM, which regularly achieves high satisfaction levels amongst our visitors, and wins awards for innovation in all aspects of access and community building. A life-long learner who thrives on a challenge, Cheryl turns opportunities into successful delivery, and she does this by breaking down any barriers. She also completed an MBA in 2016. Cheryl additionally brings 16 years of experience from the airline industry, where she last served as Manager of Operations for Air Canada on the New Terminal 1 project at Lester B. International Airport.|
|Sandra Carpenter is currently the Executive Director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, (CILT), Board Member of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO), Board Member of the Ethno-racial Coalition of People with Disabilities in Ontario and is a Member of the Disability Issues Committee recently renamed Disability Access & Inclusion Advisory Committee. As a person with a physical disability from birth she knows first hand how community supports have grown in Ontario. Sandra has had roles in the Ontario Government with the Ministry of Labour as the Manager of the Centre for Disability and Work and as Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Issues and eventually as the Senior Manager, Disability Issues at the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.
Sandra is proud of the role she played in helping to establish CILT. Her other achievements include the creation of the first ever radio and then television show that featured disability issues and stories (later called Moving On, aired on both CBC television and TV Ontario). While in government she worked to create a centralized accommodation fund for employees with disabilities in Ontario Government, and played a key role in the development of what is now the Direct Funding program operated by CILT.
|Jason DaSilva is a director, producer, writer and disability rights activist best known for the Emmy Award winning documentary, When I Walk. The Emmy award winning film follows his diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis for seven years as he progresses from cane, to walker, to wheelchair.He is also the founder of the non-profit organization AXS Lab and of AXS Map, a crowd sourced Google map based platform which rates the accessibility of businesses. www.axsmap.com
|Pina D’Intino is senior consultant at Felix Global Corp. Leadership, AODA compliance, career transition, project management. Pina has 20+ years of experience in the financial services industry as a senior ICT manager at Scotiabank. For the last 15 years, her focus has been sharing critical knowledge on diversity, accessibility and inclusion. She is an advisor on a number of reviews and initiatives for The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and hold a Master of Design in Inclusive Design (MDes, 2013) from OCAD University in Toronto.
Pina is honored to be a 2013 recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding leadership in accessibility for employees, incubating accessibility at the onset of all projects through initial designs and software development to establishing IT accessibility roadmaps and standards across the organization. Above all, creating awareness that diversity and inclusion is a key driver of innovation.
|Ellen Flanagan is a registered Occupational Therapist and accessibility strategist. She consults with organizations to identify and address both physical and cognitive barriers. She is also the founder of Access Champions, a service that fosters accessibility and usability at Queen’s University, and a team member of AccessTO, which creates in-depth reviews of physical environments in Toronto. Ellen holds a MSc in Occupational Therapy and a BSc in Kinesiology. Ellen draws on her passion for inclusivity and accessibility, particularly for people with disabilities, as well as from her own lived experience.
|Amy Hanen is currently the Assistant Vice President Diversity and Employee Experience Analytics for TD Bank Financial Group working closely with TD’s Diversity Leadership Council to develop and execute a broad range of diversity and inclusion strategies for both employees and customers of TD. TD is committed to accessibility and opportunity for people with disabilities and strengthening relationships with major community partners. Some of TD’s innovations in the area include a state of the art Accessible Technologies Lab and a pilot to provide video remote ASL interpreting for employees and customers. Amy was a founding board member of the ALS Society of Toronto. She is currently on the board of the Canadian Abilities Foundation and a trustee of the HALO foundation.|
|Joanna Lehrer graduated from the University of Victoria Faculty of Law and holds honours degrees in Political Science and English Literature from McGill University. Joanna is a criminal defence lawyer working primarily in the GTA, and occasionally throughout Southern and Central Ontario. Prior to law, Joanna directed a charity for Aboriginal youth in the Canadian Arctic. Joanna is a strategic and creative advocate and believes in the principles of justice and that the institutions that enforce and administer justice must be accountable to those principles.|
|Robin Lobb is Project Manager at Center for Aging, Brain Health and Innovation – Baycrest Hospital. Robin has over a decade of experience focusing on a wide cross-section of challenging health care IT projects in order to build a comprehensive and well-rounded consulting skill set with a desire to contribute in a permanent capacity. He is regularly running multiple projects in multiple areas of business. Specifically, focused on enterprise-level solutions and implementations in which leadership, coaching and relationship management skills are the focus.|
|Tracy Schmitt is unstoppable! Despite being a 4 way amputee Tracy has climbed mountains in Nepal, captained 110 foot tall ships in the Eastern Atlantic and received a bronze medal as a paralympian athlete in alpine [that’s downhill] skiing and that’s just her first 20 years! Her latest adventure was as a Quest for the Gold Athlete where Tracy competed in world cup regattas across North America and around the world embarking on a Paralympic Sailing Campaign for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil!
Tracy was Manager of Planning and Integration at the Pan Am and Parapan Am Toronto2015 Games. As a dynamic individual Tracy’s other work experiences include Teaching in the Educational and Corporate Sectors as a Learning and Development Consultant. While at Air Canada she worked simultaneously with management and the competing demands of bankruptcy looming and several unions in order to implement a restructuring plan that enabled Air Canada to maintain its high standards. This experience has enabled her to develop strong negotiating skills and insights on how to make a team supportive and productive.
|Michael Skinner is currently the President and CEO of the Innovation Cluster as well as the Chief Strategy Officer of RainMaker World Wide Inc. Michael is also the 2011 Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Business Citizen of the Year and is one of this years inductees into the Junior Achievement Peterborough, Business Hall of Fame.
Previously, Michael founded Operitel Corporation, a learning software development company that he expanded worldwide. In 2006, Profit Magazine recognized Operitel as one of Canada’s hottest companies and then in 2008 as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. Operitel has also won the following Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Awards; Entrepreneurial Spirit Award in 2006, Employer of the Year in 2009 and again in 2012. In 2011, Michael had a success exit with Operitel being acquired by OpenText Corporation, Canada’s largest software company.Website: http://www.innovationcluster.ca/
|Janice Solomon is Executive Director at Toronto Entertainment District Business Improvement Area (BIA). The Entertainment District BIA was formed in 2008 and is one of Canada’s largest BIA’s. As Executive Director, Ms. Solomon oversees the day to day management of this mixed use area – with a mandate to promote and enhance the Entertainment District.
|Maayan Ziv is a visionary young leader. She is an activist, a photographer and an entrepreneur. From a young age, Maayan challenged norms and worked within her community to increase awareness of disability issues and improve accessibility. Living with Muscular Dystrophy, Maayan is a passionate and relentless advocate for creating a more accessible world. In 2015, Maayan founded AccessNow, a crowdsourced app to map the accessibility status of locations worldwide. She has since been a regular media commentator in the media on topics such as disability and inclusion. In 2016, Maayan received the City of Toronto Access Award and the David C. Onley Leadership in Accessibility Award in recognition of her innovative solutions and commitment to improving the lives of people of all abilities. As a photographer, she has worked with celebrities, fashion models and other influential individuals. Her photography has been featured in galleries, magazines and on television. Maayan has received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in recognition of her work to increase awareness for disabilities in the arts. Maayan also sits on the boards of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto and the Toronto Arts Council. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts and a Master’s degree in Digital Media at Ryerson University.