At WWU, we value an inclusive, diverse community. Disability is a part of diversity. It crosses every boundary and affects every group of people. As more and more students arrive on our campus identifying as having a disability, their inclusion in events and activities becomes extremely important as they deserve the same opportunities to network and gain friendships as their non-disabled counterparts.
What is universal design?
As society moves from a medical model of disability which views disability as the cause of barriers to participation and is something that needs to be fixed to a social model of disability that acknowledges that the way our environment is created shapes the ability to be included and that disability is inherently a part of diversity and something to be valued, universal design will help drive necessary changes to inclusion. Its purpose is to help shape the world around us to be inclusive of all people by breaking down the typical barriers to participation from the ground up and plan for people with diverse needs ahead of time. For more information on Universal Design, check out this website: What is Universal Design from the Centre For Excellence in Universal Design.
Helpful tips for creating accessible events
Remember, just because someone with a disability may not have attended your event in the past, doesn’t mean they didn’t want to take part or it wasn’t interesting to them, it may mean it wasn’t accessible.
We all know that on campus, we’re obligated to post the required “if you need accommodations” statement when advertising, which is fine, but that restricts the ability of someone with disability to spontaneously take advantage of the same things their non-disabled peers do. If they make arrangements and can’t attend, it can leave them feeling guilty or ashamed. They may push themselves to attend so that their needs will be met the next time they want to attend something potentially leaving them with affects that impact their daily lives for some time after. With some careful thought and planning, many of those issues can be alleviated ahead of time.
Some things to think about:
- Is the space I’ve chosen accessible? Can people with various needs access it? Does it have space for wheelchairs, walkers, mobility scooters, service dogs, or other medical equipment to sit with their friends? Does it have seating that could have direct line of sight to captioning services or ASL interpreters? Is there a place for low vision attendees to have clear access to any visual aids?
- Is there a clear statement on promotional materials, letting attendees know how to request disability accommodations.
- Is there an easily accessible route to the location? How close is parking?
- Will I have a variety of foods available to accommodate various dietary needs?
- Have I captioned any videos or other visual media to be used?
- Have I planned for captioning services or ASL interpreters if there are speakers?
- Are there accessible facilities for toileting and other needs available within a reasonable distance?
These are not the only things to think about, but it’s a start. As always, think about putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes. What would you need to come out and play?