Plan an Accessible Meeting

Advanced planning may help to ensure that the accommodation needs of people
with disabilities are anticipated and acted upon ahead of time. Even when you
may not know in advance whether any of your participants may need accommodations,
you should be prepared to arrange your meeting or event to be accessible
so that people with disabilities can participate fully.

Short workshops, information sessions, focus groups, media conferences or events
of a few hours in duration may not require the same detailed preparations
that lengthy conferences or conventions require, such as determining dietary
requirements when planning menus and arranging overnight guest rooms. However,
many of the same pre-event planning steps apply to both.

The following guidelines are meant to help you plan your meeting or event.
They reflect an optimal level of accessibility. Some facilities may not meet
all of the criteria outlined below. If you are in doubt about the level of accessibility
at a potential venue, it is recommended that you consult with
a local disability group who has expertise in barrier-free access and/or meeting

Two important areas need to be considered when arranging accessible meetings
– physical access to the meeting space and access to the meeting contents and

Here are some general points to think about when planning an accessible meeting
or event.

Here are some specific points to consider.

Choosing the location

Exterior Access



Sidewalks/Path of Travel

Accessible Transit

Interior Access

Entrances and Lobbies


Accessible Washrooms

Hallways and corridors

Meeting and Conference Rooms

Making refreshment and dietary arrangements

Producing invitations and promotional materials

Ensuring accessible communications

It is important to consider the communication needs of your whole audience
when preparing your meeting or conference, and accessibility is one important
component of your communication plan. However, accessibility to print documents
is not the only need you must take into consideration. It is important
to make any oral presentation available to people who are deaf through a qualified
sign language interpreter. Print materials need to be made available
in French and in formats readily accessible to people who are print disabled.

When preparing for any public event, with or without a disability focus, it
is suggested that you:

Communication support services help people with disabilities access information
presented orally at meetings, conferences, and public events. In pre-event
planning, each participant should be asked if they require any special accommodations.

Sign Language Interpreters

A sign language interpreter is necessary whenever communication is required
between deaf and (non-signing) hearing people. Interpreters should be available
at events, meetings or presentations attended by people who are deaf, deafened
or hard of hearing.

Real-Time Captioning (also known as CART)

Real-time captioning can make a meeting or presentation accessible to people
who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing and who may not use sign language.
It provides simultaneous (real-time) speech to text translation. A real-time
captioner uses a court reporting steno machine, coded to type verbatim text
with minimal keystrokes. The steno machine is connected to a laptop containing
special software that converts the key strokes and displays the text being
spoken for the user to read on an overhead screen or monitor.

Computerized Notetakers

Computerized notetaking is a service that can make a meeting or presentation
more accessible to people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. It may
also be requested by people with visual disabilities because it allows them
to refer to the saved electronic notes afterwards using screen reading software.
Notetakers use a laptop computer with a standard keyboard and an overhead screen
or monitor. Computerized notetaking is not a verbatim transcript, but
summarizes what is spoken while still maintaining accuracy and the sprit and
intent of the speaker.

Assistive Listening Systems

An assistive listening system receives a feed from the audio system found in
lecture halls or meeting or conference rooms. This communication support makes
it easier for people who are hard of hearing to hear and understand speech even
from a distance. For example, a wireless FM system, which consists of a
transmitter and receiver, can be used with or without a hearing aid.


Intervenors may guide and interpret for people who are deaf-blind. Intervenors
are trained in special sign language that involves touching the hands of
the client in a two-hand, manual alphabet or finger spelling.

Communication Support Attendants

Communication support attendants help people with intellectual disabilities
access information presented orally at meetings, conferences, and public events.

Providing attendant care services

Attendant care services to people with disabilities include assistance with
personal care and escorting to community outings. To ensure that adequate arrangements
are made, ask the participant prior to the event about the level and type of
service required. Clearly describe the specific needs of the participant to
the vendor.

Meeting Accessibility Policy of the Canadian Hearing Society

The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) supports the rights of people who are deaf,
deafened and hard of hearing and is committed to ensuring accessibility to
information communicated during all meetings, workshops and other communication
sessions. It is therefore the CHS policy that any meetings, workshops or
other sessions follow the following guidelines for accessibility and communication.
It is the responsibility of the designated Chairperson of the meeting
to ensure the policy is adhered to and that accessibility issues are prepared
for prior to the commencement of the session in question.

Interpreters and Real-Time Captioners/Notetakers

Every session will have sufficient interpreters and/or real-time captioners/notetakers.
Which service(s) will be provided will depend on the participant’s
request. Based on availability, a real-time captioner will be the preference.
Presenters must remember that the captioner/notetaker is in a fixed position
due to equipment. All equipment must be in good working condition. Should there
be any problem with accessibility requirements e.g. interpreters or captioner/notetaker
not available, equipment not working, the session will be cancelled. Furthermore,
should accessibility requirements falter during the session e.g. equipment
stops working, the session will be stopped until the required adjustments are

Facilities/Meeting Flow

Prior to beginning the session, the Chairperson will ensure that all physical
adjustments are made e.g. blinds and lighting adjusted as required. The Chairperson
will designate someone to keep a speakers list to assist with time management
and the flow of the meeting.


Everyone (including interpreters, captioner/notetaker) must be able to see
each other and the presentation clearly. Seating must be made available for
who lip read to ensure sightlines. Tall objects such as water bottles should
be kept off the tables. Equipment must be positioned in the least restrictive


Common background noises can interfere with hearing speech (for anyone). All
present should avoid noises such as flipping pages, rocking chairs and sliding
coffee mugs while speaking. Likewise, if the overhead projector is not being
used, it should be turned off. Consider visual noise as well. One example
is to avoid cluttering the wall directly behind the presenter with flip chart
paper. Avoid mannerisms or bright clothing that create visual distractions.

Reading Time

Presenter should pause to allow participants to look at overheads, papers,
or other visuals. Stop speaking and wait for the participants to resume eye

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