Accessibility: making Extension events welcoming to all


Most of us have seen statements on advertisements for events and programs that say “If you have questions concerning access, wish to request a sign language interpreter or accommodation for a disability, please contact . . .”

If you do not need accommodations for a disability, you may never have thought about what an accommodation is, why someone might need it to attend and participate in an event, or to even be able to get into the building where an event is held.

It may seem like a lot of trouble and expense to ensure that all programs and events are accessible and welcoming to everyone, but to the 14 percent of Ohioans who have a disability, knowing that they can participate in an event or program (or get inside the building where the program is held) is vital to being an active member of their community.

Being proactive when planning your event or program ensures that everyone will be welcome, and can eliminate the need for last minute adjustments to make your event accessible.

Why do ALL OSU Extension events and programming need to be accessible?

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that requires businesses and events which are open to the public to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires government and public institutions (and those who receive federal money) to ensure that all of their services, facilities, events and programs are accessible
  • Architectural and Barriers Act requires equal access to public services (public housing and transportation) and money for vocational training

Planning an accessible event or program

All advertisements and promotional materials should include contact information to request accommodations/modifications, sample statements are available at the Ohio State ADA Coordinator’s Office site:

If you do not ask for accommodation requests, accessibility will be assumed.

An accommodation or modification is an alteration to the way a program is offered, so that a person with a disability can attend and participate.  

Examples include:

  • Providing reading materials in alternate format (electronic, audio, braille, large print)
  • Holding the event in an accessible building (ramps or lifts if there are steps, accessible bathrooms)
  • A path or walkway that is clear of obstructions or debris, and is smooth and firm enough for a wheelchair or other mobility device
  • Alternate communications (closed captioning, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter)

Before you plan your event, review this accessibility checklist.

If you receive a request for accommodations, who pays for accommodations?

While many accommodations are free or low cost (scheduling events in accessible buildings, providing reading materials in large print, reserving seats in the front row for a person with limited vision), you may be asked for an accommodation that does cost quite a bit – such as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

  • The person requesting the accommodation cannot be charged for the accommodation (beyond the same fee that any other participant would pay).
  • The cost of the accommodations is paid for by the organization hosting the event.
  • Example: If a Master Gardener volunteer requests an ASL interpreter, Ohio State University Extension must hire an interpreter (sometimes two interpreters, depending on the length of the program). The cost hierarchy is: county, then Extension, then CFAES, then (if the college cannot pay) Ohio State ADA Office.
  • If the ADA Office is asked to pay, they will ask questions about the budget of the county, Extension, and CFAES to ensure that there really is no budget to pay for the interpreter, and they will cover the cost in order not to discriminate against the person with the disability (and will encourage CFAES to include possible costs for accommodations, i.e. ASL interpreters, in the next budget).
  • If an outside organization is hosting an event at an OSUE property, the outside organization would be responsible for arranging and paying for the accommodations.

The ADA is long and complicated, and you may not want another factor to consider when you are planning your event. Extension and the Ohio AgrAbility Disability Services Coordinator, Laura Akgerman, can help with development of best practices, solutions and ideas for making Extension programming and information accessible to individuals with disabilities. Laura has been with OSU Extension and Ohio AgrAbility since May 2016, and has an educational and career background in disability services in higher education, and in the community. For more information please contact Laura Akgerman, or 614-292-0622. – Laura Akgerman