Making Extra-Curricular Activities Inclusive
Summary of Practical Tips
“How [can I] get the word out to students with disabilities about coming to the Student Union with their concerns if they feel we could assist them more effectively?”
Provide Sign language / Oral Interpretation
When a person who is hearing impaired or Deaf is participating in an activity, it is often necessary to provide some interpretation assistance. This can be done by way of sign-language or oral interpreters. The costs of these services vary. Check with the participant prior to making arrangements in order to provide the correct type of interpretation.
The disability service centre on campus may be able to assist you in finding interpretation services. You may also consult the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA), the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) and the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS). See Resources for contact information.
Provide event material in alternate formats such as Braille
Students who are blind or visually impaired cannot easily access regular print information. Instead, they use Braille, large print, or electronic text documents. Many students with learning disabilities also use alternate format materials.
When a student who is visually impaired is participating in an activity (especially meetings), you should attempt to provide them with the materials for the event in a format that they can read. Ask the student what format works best for them.
Often preparing alternate formats is as simple as increasing the font size of a document or copying files to a diskette. Your disability service centre may be willing to produce alternate format materials for you.
You can obtain these services from one of the following: Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), T-Base Communications, Canadian Braille Press, or Braille Jymico. See Resources for contact information.
Ensure any event signage is accessible
When using posters or other forms of signage you should take into account that not all students will be able to read your message. Consider using a large font with high contrast (white on black, black on white, etc.).
Identify alternate media for conveying your message that are accessible to students who are visually impaired or have a learning disability (e.g. web sites, radio commercials).
When the location of an event has changed, consider not only posting a sign at the original location, but having someone available to redirect people.
For permanent signage for offices and other common areas, consider using signs that are in large-print and have Braille. These sign can be purchased from Eye Catch Signs International (www.eyecatchsigns.com).
Ensure any web pages are accessible
Students who are blind, students with visual impairments, and students with learning disabilities may have difficulty accessing information from websites. Blind students often use a text reader to view websites. Include text descriptions of any pictures on the site. Also ensure that the colors on the site have good contrast and that the text is a reasonable size. For more details on making a website accessible, refer to www.w3.org/WAI/gettingstarted/.
Choose movies with captioning
Students with hearing impairments may have difficulty understanding any movies that are played as part of an event. When selecting a movie, ensure that it includes closed-captioning. Subtitles are also acceptable, although they do not include all the details that closed-captioning does.
When choosing outdoor venues, ensure they are accessible and navigable
Ensuring the accessibility and navigability of outdoor venues allows students using wheelchairs to fully and easily participate in the event. Also make sure that wheelchair users can access the washrooms on site.
Avoid grass-only surfaces
Grass surfaces tend to pose mobility difficulties for wheelchair users. Choosing a location with some pavement allows for students in wheelchairs to get around more easily.
Make location and layout of student association / club spaces accessible and navigable
Ensuring that club space is in an accessible location and that the layout is accessible is important so that students with disabilities can have access to the space.
Ensure that any washroom facilities are accessible and adequate in number
It is important that students with disabilities have easy access to accessible washrooms, and that there are an adequate number of them in convenient locations on campus.
Confirm that off-campus facilities, such as pubs, are accessible
When booking an off-campus facility, ask if it is accessible to people with disabilities. Inquire about the lighting, accessibility of washrooms, stairs, Braille signage, etc.
Establish a communication plan targeted at students with disabilities
Try specifically targeting students with disabilities in your promotion plan. Make it clear that all students are welcome and that accommodations will be provided upon request.
Make presentations to students with disabilities promoting club accessibility
Students with disabilities are often not members of clubs and organizations because they do not believe the groups are accessible. If you make presentations to students with disabilities that promote the accessibility of your club, they may be more willing to join.
Include a statement in event literature describing an event as being welcoming to all
Many students with disabilities choose not to participate in events because they do not believe that their accommodations will be met and they will not be able to participate fully in the activity. By advertising an event as accessible, you make it clear to students with disabilities that there will be accommodations available.
Identify someone responsible for overseeing accommodation requests
By making one person responsible for overseeing accommodation requests, you ensure that as many requests are met as accurately as possible. It also allows for one specific contact person for students with disabilities, which makes it easier for them to request accommodations.
Encourage students with disabilities to identify accommodations requirements ahead of time
If you are aware of the specific accommodations that may be necessary, it will be easier and more cost-effective to provide them. Also, by encouraging students to ask for accommodations that they require, you inform them that you are interested in providing whatever is necessary for them to participate.
Put a process in place to gather accommodation requests
By asking students with disabilities what they require in order to attend an event, you can be sure that you are providing the accommodations that are necessary. Advertise that the event planners are willing to make accommodations for anyone who requests them and provide a contact to a person who is in charge of those requests. One way of gathering requests is to use an accessible online form.
Follow-up with students with disabilities
In order to determine how well accommodations are being provided, it is necessary to get feedback from the people who require them. A phone call or email asking students with disabilities who participated in the event about their experience with the accommodations that were provided can determine what worked well and what may need some improvement at future events.
Give someone in Student Government explicit responsibility for disability issues
Assigning a representative for students with disabilities ensures that someone is always focused on the needs of those students, and that their accommodations are not forgotten.
Make accessibility for students with disabilities a criterion for any funding requests
By requiring that any group requesting funding is accessible to students with disabilities before giving them support, you can help to ensure that clubs and organizations are all accessible for all students. Create a list of accessibility requirements that clubs must meet in order to receive funding. The leaders can then pass the information on to the rest of the members.
Sensitivity training for the leadership of clubs / organizations at least once a year
Sensitivity training for the leaders of clubs and organizations can help to ensure that all campus groups are more inclusive for students with disabilities. It can also help to increase the number of students with disabilities who participate in these groups.
Include students with disabilities in the planning and running of events
By including students with disabilities in planning and running of activities, you will be more prepared to meet the needs of other students with disabilities. These students can give a first-hand perspective and valuable ideas on how to make events more inclusive for students with disabilities.
Build a team of volunteers to help deliver special assistance where needed
By creating a team of volunteers specifically to deliver assistance to students with disabilities, you are better prepared to deal with any disability-related issue that may arise. The volunteers are trained to deal with those issues, and are available if any students should require assistance.
Provide sensitivity training for event volunteers and staff
Many people are not aware of the issues surrounding students with disabilities, and therefore are unsure of how to deal with these individuals. It is important to provide volunteers with information regarding the needs of students with disabilities so that they can be prepared to address issues that may arise.
Consider post-event facilities
Can volunteers with disabilities make it to post event activities? When planning an after-party or other post-event celebration, consider whether the facilities are accessible for anyone on your team that has a disability.
Ensure sports facilities are physically accessible
Students who use wheelchairs may want to use the sports facilities in order to either participate in or be a spectator of sports events on campus. Consider putting in ramps, elevators, and accessible washrooms. Ensure that all areas of the facilities are accessible to an individual in a wheelchair, and that any equipment can be used by a wheelchair user.
Ensure scoreboards are easy to read
By making scoreboards easy to read, you help students with visual impairments and learning disabilities to follow the event easily. Ensure that the numbers displayed and the background color for those numbers are contrasting colors. Make the numbers as large and as clear as possible.
Announce scores audibly
Where possible, announcing scores out loud allows students who are blind or visually impaired to fully participate in the event.
Provide accessible / designated seating
Providing specific seating for individuals who may require extra room or a seat closer to the front ensures that all students with disabilities will benefit fully from the event. Advertise that there will be accessible seating for anyone who requires it, and make sure that attendants are accommodated. Create signs and/or barriers that indicate where the accessible/designated seating is.
Promote scent-free events
“These festivities invariably take place in local bars and restaurants which are not wheelchair accessible.”
Some students have serious allergies or other negative health reactions to strong scents. Promoting scent-free events allows everyone to enjoy the event equally. Advertise that the event will be scent-free, and make sure that it is clear that scents include perfume and cologne.
Think outside the box for frosh activities and games
Changing activities so that all students, including those with disabilities, can participate, allows the students with disabilities to gain the same benefits from frosh as their non-disabled peers. Keep all students with disabilities in mind when planning events. Make changes to activities that would exclude any students.
Confirm that transportation is accessible
Making any transportation accessible for students with disabilities allows them to get to and from the event easily. Provide an accessible bus that students in wheelchairs can have access to. Contact your disability services office for more information.