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Consider making a statement welcoming all persons to your event or place the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion’s inclusive space poser at the event entrance way.
Here is a sample:
Fostering an inclusive, barrier-free, and safe space to host [EVENT TITLE] is paramount. We aim and are committed to ensuring that while attending this event, every person feels safe, respected and free from harassment and discrimination. All event participants, speakers and guests are expected to uphold these values and York’s commitment to being a “welcoming and approachable campus, embracing global perspectives and differences in cultures, people and thinking, by engaging communities in collegial dialogue” (York University Free Speech Statement of Policy 2018, s.3(1)).
We want to ensure everyone can fully enjoy this event, and can bring their whole selves to the experience. If there are barriers we may have unintentionally created, please let us know. [INSERT CONTACT INFORMATION].
We will work to provide reasonable accommodations and solve matters that are brought to our attention, as soon as possible. With that in mind, we hope that you have a wonderful experience and share in the exchange and expressions of knowledge, creativity, and innovation.
A land acknowledgement is where people make a formal statement to recognize the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. It occurs as the first item on any agenda. Anyone can make the statement but it is important to acknowledge the correct relationship.
Here’s what we use at York:
“We recognize that many Indigenous nations have longstanding relationships with the territories upon which York University campuses are located that precede the establishment of York University. York University acknowledges its presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous Nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been care taken by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Wendat, and the Métis. It is now home to many Indigenous Peoples. We acknowledge the current treaty holders and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory is subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.”
Consider putting aside some funds to offset the costs of transportation for people who might require additional financial support to travel to your event.
The Multifaith Action Society provides a good list of religious/spiritual observance days. Keep in mind that not every religious/spiritual observance is on the Gregorian Calendar.
Be mindful that people who are caring for family members may have a harder time participating in an event if it is held on a statutory holiday. For example, children will typically be out of school and will require someone to watch them.
It’s imperative to designate someone to be the point person for accommodation requests and arrangements from the very beginning of your planning process. It is recognized that you may or may not be in a position to meet all requests.
Don’t forget about your emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, performers, volunteers, and staff!
With any accommodation, there can be many reasons why people make requests – such as religious or health reasons. It is best not to ask why, but to acknowledge their request and seek to accommodate it.
It is best practice to provide vegetarian, halal or non-dairy food options. There can be many reasons why people make food requests – such as religious or health reasons. It is best not to ask why, but to acknowledge their request and seek to accommodate it.
Don't forget to order enough food for your service providers, volunteers, and all the people contributing to your agenda!
Having a list of ingredients is a good way to ensure that dietary requests were met and give confidence to those with allergies that approach food with fear.
A good sound system is vital to people with differing hearing abilities. It is best practice to arrange for microphones and speakers even if your presenters prefer not to use them to ensure all peoples can benefit from the event.
Participants may ask for accommodations relating to handouts so that they can participate fully in your event. Examples of these accommodations include large font or electronic format (to enable the person to use a screen reader).
For more information on:
-Accessible print design, visit York University’s Accessibility Hub.
-Creating text in braille, visit York University's Printing Services (go to the ordering section or call them).
Depending on the content of your event, having counsellors on hand to provide support might be wise. If you do, be sure to have a space where people can go to speak with a counsellor privately. This space should be windowless and close to the event room. People should not have far to walk to obtain privacy or need to walk down secluded hallways with a counsellor they do not know.
To obtain counsellors, contact:
Glendon Counseling Services
Personal Counselling Services (Keele)
Don't forget to ask how the counsellors will be accessed at the event so you know what to tell your attendees.
Some faiths require their followers to undertake faith activities throughout the day. Providing a space close to your venue enables them to attend the event as well as meet those requirements.
People have the right to breastfeed anywhere. However, some people prefer to do this in private. A suitable space for breastfeeding means a clean and private space that ideally has a sink and is not a bathroom.
Providing childcare services has liability concerns for you and the University, therefore you should always ensure your service provider is certified. If you should need to arrange for this service, call the York University Cooperative Daycare Centre or the Lee Wiggins Childcare Centre on campus to see what services they can offer you or a service provider they would recommend.
York policy is to provide American Sign Language (ASL) and Real Time Captioning (RTC) upon request. However, it is advisable to have these services regardless of requests and to book at least one of these services as soon as you know the date of your event. To book these services, contact:
-Counselling and Disability Services for recommendations on York service providers.
-The Canadian Hearing Society for external ASL and RTC services (if on their website, click the "Programs and Services" tab and look under Accessibility Services to find out more about interpreting services in Ontario).
-Neeson Reporting for external RTC and other transcribing services.
-External providers will travel to York to provide services.
-It is typical to have two people providing the services so that they can take a break.
-Plan for the cost. The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion offers funding support to support such accommodation requests (check out their Equity and Diversity Fund).
-Providing an agenda, speaking notes, and presentation decks to service providers (preferably in advance of the session) assists them in preparing for the words that would need to be translated.
-Interpreters typically ask the audience to confirm that their services are required. If they are not, the interpreter will still stay for the event and will keep checking with the audience periodically to ensure they are meeting the audience's needs.
-If using RTC, be sure to arrange for a dedicated screen for these services. You cannot project RTC on a screen you are using for other purposes.
Keeping time is critical for those who have pre-arranged transportation, organized childcare, or need to take public transit home. Explain the necessity to those on your agenda so that they fully understand the need for staying within their time slot.
Having emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers send their presentations in advance enables you to print copies of their presentations. Having print copies available at the event assists people who may be unable to read the screen or hear the presenter clearly. Providing presentations in advance to those providing interpretation services enables them to look up unfamiliar terms in advance so that they translate the words properly.
Some emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers view their materials as intellectual property. They may or may not be comfortable with you having copies on hand. If they are not, consider asking them if they are comfortable with just a few copies so that you can provide them to interpretation service providers or to people who might have difficulty seeing the screen in case an accommodation request is made.
Check out the CNIB Clear Print Accessibility Guidelines and consider forwarding this to your presenters.
Be sure they know how to turn on any accessibility function associated with any videos they are planning. Here's a link to the process of doing that [link coming].
People process information differently. Ensure your emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers don’t assume that everyone can read their slides or what they are projecting onto the screen. Ensure they are willing to use a microphone so that everyone has the best opportunity possible to hear what they have to say.
If your presenter requires a screen and you have organized Real Time Captioning services, be sure to determine where each screen can be positioned for optimal visibility.
It is often difficult to know how the content of a presentation or performance might affect people. However, emotionally charged content, such as content relating experiences of war, torture, assault etc., would be situations where you should know of in advance so that you can take appropriate actions.
It’s best to avoid hosting events that invite people to wear costumes or a particular style of dress. Often, people do not realize the origins and meanings behind the attire that other people wear. For example, Indigenous clothing has specific meaning for Indigenous People. When people of non-Indigenous decent decide to wear such attire, it is called cultural appropriation. Wearing such clothes may be viewed as disrespectful by Indigenous Peoples or as a form of desecration.
Requiring people to wear specific dress, such as a uniform, can pose conflicting situations for people who might have clothing that doesn’t align with the uniform or style of dress - for example, asking people to wear a particular head covering, when they wear a turban. As a rule, just avoid a dress code for your events.
Inclusivity training is important for those who are at the front line of your event. The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion offers it. Write them at email@example.com to request training.
Contact your faculty or Dean to see what commitments they have made to inclusion. They'd be happy to share this source of York pride for their department.
If you are charging an entrance fee:
a) Consider charging a sliding scale or putting aside funds for people who might not be able to afford the entry fee.
b) Be sure to provide a variety of payment options (cheque, cash, etc.) so it doesn't limit who can purchase a ticket.
Advise the participants as to when and how they can provide you feedback on your event.
Not everyone may be aware how goSAFE services work. Let them know whether they need to call them or if you have arranged for goSAFE to arrive at particular times or for other transportation services that will assist them in arriving home safe, that these services are available. Visit the goSAFE website to learn more.
Noting the length of the event and asking the audience about their need for breaks enables people who have difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time to know when to expect a break or ask for what they need.
Chances are people who needed them used them when arriving. But you never know who might end up needing them so be sure to announce their location and let them know the accessibility features it has (see notes in question 3 above on elevators).
If you have arranged this service, be sure to point out who your counsellors are and let people know the process for accessing them and how confidentiality will be maintained. Sometimes, given the content of an event, if people get up to leave, a counsellor will approach them unless they indicate the services are not needed. Check the protocol with your service provider.
You’ve taken care to arrange services for your participants. Be sure that everyone knows where to find them.
People can arrive at your event for any reason and therefore might not be well versed in the content of it.
It is good to keep in mind that people come to events with differing experiences. As such, it is advisable to note the focus of your event at the commencement so people can choose whether the event is right for them.
You've taken great care to ensure that your participants have access to washrooms - both gender neutral and accessible washrooms. Let them know where to find them!
Announcing where and when to find nutrients helps the audience plan and know that you've taken care of their dietary needs.
Check the entrances to ensure they are accessible for people using mobility devices such as whether or not a wheelchair can fit through it. Door handles should be those that have a "push down handle" to enable people who cannot grip the handle or who are assisted by service animals to open it.
When you review your space, think about how you will use it, such as what you need in the room. Be conscious that spaces around tables or chairs should be a minimum of 36 inches to enable wheelchairs or strollers to pass through, and plan the layout with this in mind.
Look for angular walls that might be problematic for people using canes (e.g. they might trace the footer of the wall with a cane and knock their head on a wall or fixture that juts out at an angle).
Many buildings have accessible parking spaces, but make sure you determine if they are close to your event location and have ramp access.
There should also be a drop off area by the venue's main doors and ramp, especially for people using services like Wheel-Trans.
It is good to know in advance what happens when an emergency alarm is activated so that you can plan to ensure people who cannot hear or see the alarm system at work get out safely. Be sure to appoint one of your team members to be responsible for ensuring that everyone is notified in the event of an emergency and for assisting people who may have difficulty exiting the building on their own.
Ensuring the pathways are well lit, including clearly marked exit signs, contributes to the accessibility and safety and security of your event in many ways - whether it be related to people traveling alone or people using assistive devices. Be sure to see what the lighting in these areas are like and do a walk through the space a few days before so that if bulbs are out, you have enough time to request them to be changed.
Encourage people to download the York University Safety App with text like “Seeking safe and accessible transit? Download the York U Safety App”.
Let your participants know how to access your event, and what to expect in terms of accessible parking, ramps, etc. If you can’t fit this information on a poster, place the information on your online advertisement, and add a line to your printed poster/flyer stating “See for transportation information.”
Be sure to provide a map or links to one so that people can find there way easily!
Scents, whether natural or not, can adversely affect people. Declare your event scent-free - unless there is an agenda item that makes it not so (e.g. smudging ceremony).
Using an easy to read font such as Arial, Lato, and Source Sans and in a large size (minimum 14 point on printed documents) enables people with varying levels of sight to read text more easily.
The pronouns “he”, “she”, “him”, and “her” represent only some members of the population. Avoid their use, or substitute a person’s name, or use “they” or “their”.
Check out the York University Senate policy on gender-free language and the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion resource guide on gender free language (Under the Resource Tab, go to Resource Guides to find the "Gender Identity & Gender Expression: A Guide for Students, Faculty and Staff").
No one expects you to be an expert in accessible design. Ask the people responsible for the space about whether they have accessible desks available and ensure they do. Consider measuring the desk and keeping that information handy for anyone who requests accessible desk accommodations.
No one expects you to be an expert in accessible design, however, you should always be sure that you ask whoever is providing you with the space about the availability of accessible bathrooms.
You can always check the following list provided by York that indicates the level of bathroom accessibility in each building - for example, whether there is a push button to enter the bathroom or not.
Event still, it's a good idea to ensure you check to see that the bathroom is functional, including the push buttons at the door.
Here's a tip sheet on how to use those buttons correctly.
You may only have a few emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers, but it is important to ensure that as best they can, they represent the diversity of the York community. Below are a few groups/organizations/units that you can contact for links to particular communities. Where specific communities are attached to them, they are noted in brackets:
- The Centre for Aboriginal Student Services (CASS) (Indigenous)
- Enable York (Persons with disabilities)
- SexGen (LGBTQ*)
- Race Inclusion and Supportive Environments (RISE) Working Group (Racialized persons)
- York Federation of Students
- York University Graduate Association
- Glendon College Student Union
- TD Engagement Community Centre
While your presenters will typically use a microphone, the audience might view their usage as optional. Direct people to use the microphone when speaking to the audience so that everyone has the best chance of hearing what they have to say.
Obtaining feedback and then circulating it to the relevant parties is key to maintaining and enhancing the inclusivity of your event and the process you have undertaken to get there. Everyone who participated in it should be aware of their successes as well as areas for improvement.
Be sure to incorporate your learning into your next event - and tell us if there is any other guidance we could have provided here. See the About the Project section of the lens for who to contact.
If you decided to circulate your evaluation form after the event to participants, but sure to make an announcement at the end of the event if not also mid-way through to ask people who didn't register for your event in advance to be sure to visit registration and provide their email address for evaluation purposes.
Visit York University’s Accessibility Hub and click on the Tools and Resources tab for information accessible print design.
The Council of Ontario Universities has provided information on different accessibility symbols.
York has several gender neutral washrooms, but they may or may not be close to your planned location. Click here for the campus map that indicates their building locations and here for the list that indicates where they are in each building.
York is well serviced by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), but not all TTC vehicles are equipped with the ability to accommodate passengers using assistive devices or have the request-stop service for women traveling at night.
Before confirming the time of your event, you might want to check to see if the availability of accessible vehicles differ at different times of the day and at what times the request stop service operates.
Also consider calling goSAFE to see if they can swing by your event at specific times and York's Transportation Shuttle Services so you fully understand the services they provide.
This way, you'll know what services are offered for your attendees and can plan around these services or advise attendees what is offered.
People have various levels of vision and you never know when you might need to adjust the lights. Learn how in advance or ensure you have a technical person on site who knows the lighting system.
York has lots of information available online to assist you in assessing some basic accessibility information. Use the York search function on its website to search for “Accessibility Map” and “Accessible Parking”.
The York Transportation Services website has information on the various modes of transportation options people have for visiting York’s campuses. You can check out the websites of each of the public transit companies to determine what they offer in terms of accessibility.
Additionally, some spaces frequently used for events at York will provide information on accessibility on their websites so be sure to check them out if you are hoping to use specific spaces (e.g. York Libraries, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design).
Be sure to keep in mind that no matter what you are told about the accessibility of a space, it is important to visit the site and ensure that everything is in order.
Finally, if you are curious about the details of what makes a space accessible according to government regulations, conduct a search online, but be sure to search for the information as it applies to the Province of Ontario.
Chances are you have already undertaken your group membership recruitment or formed your event planning team. You may or may not have people around you who represent the diversity of York’s campuses.
Consider partnering with groups who can speak to the needs and interests of various groups and co-plan your event with them. To assist you in building these relationships, check out these links:
How to become an ally
What does being an ally mean?
See the resources provided in the next question for more information on who to contact.
If you have opted to confirm your American Sign Language (ASL)/Real Time Captioning (RTC) and child-minding services only if requested by your attendees, be sure to advertise your event well in advance so that you have time to notify the providers whether their services are required. These providers are in high demand and your last minute cancellation can impact on the services they provide others.
Keep in mind that advertising early enables your attendees to arrange transportation and child/elder care and ask for accommodations.
“For all accommodation requests and inquiries (food, childcare, American Sign Language/Real Time Captioning, alternative format handouts, transportation subsidies, sliding scale tickets, service animal or support person accompaniment), please contact X (insert contact name, email or phone number).”
The language you use when engaging with someone or to describe someone should be self-determined by the individual or communities. Ask people how they want you to refer to them.
It’s best to avoid symbols unless you are 100% sure of their origins and meanings and have consulted various community members as to the appropriateness of it appearing on your advertisement.
In the Planning section, question 2, we provided you with groups/organizations you could consult. If you have questions about the symbols you are using, try contacting them for advice.
Depending on the request, available services, and your budget, it may or may not be possible to provide the accommodation. If funding is an issue, please contact the person responsible for student group management. They can advise you as to the current funding available for student groups to access.
It’s one thing to collect accommodation requests, but it is another to ensure that people know whether you can meet their needs. People who ask for accommodations know it can’t always be so. Be sure to follow up and let them know what you are able to offer.
It is preferable to enable people to sit anywhere in the audience and not separate them based on whether they require assistive devices, service/therapy animals, support person accompaniment, or need American Sign Language (ASL) or Real Time Captioning (RTC) in order to participate in the event. However, you might not have an option depending on your room set up.
To provide access to people with varying hearing, RTC services is preferred as it enables people to sit anywhere; however, it depends on the screen placement and size, and the size of the room. If you need to use ASL instead for a large event, the interpreter might be hard to see from a distance. Consider projecting the ASL interpretation on a large screen. If this isn't an option, you may need to designate an area for ASL close to the interpreter.
Whether you choose RTC or ASL, be sure that there is space for persons with assistive devices and consider that some people with assistive devices might also need ASL/RTC access.
Be sure you have created bilingual signage for service providers – breastfeeding spaces, childcare, American Sign Language, Real Time Captioning, catering-and the sign for a gender neutral washroom (if there isn’t one already). The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion has created signs you can download and print to designate a washroom gender neutral (link coming).
Draft your evaluation form early. Visit the “I’m evaluating an event” tab to assist you in formulating questions that link to measuring the inclusivity of your event.
If you plan to conduct your evaluation after your event, and intend on circulating it by email, be sure to have attendees register for the event and provide an email address. Registration could be organized to collect this information from everyone at the door, or you could ask people to pre-register and provide an email, and then capture anyone who doesn't pre-register at the door.
Whatever you choose, ensure you think of this at the planning stage or you will miss out on obtaining feedback from attendees as to how inclusive your event was.
Ensuring staff and volunteers are easily identifiable has several benefits, particularly in relation to those people who might have requested an accommodation or have accessibility needs. Consider having them wear the same t-shirts, or name badges with the word STAFF or VOLUNTEER in large font.
Many buildings on York’s campuses have an elevator. While this makes spaces accessible for some people, it may not for others if they can’t reach the buttons, don’t have access to Braille or raised number markings on the elevator keypads, or audible floor announcements aren't part of the elevator system.
While you aren't expected to create these various accessibility features, it's always good to visit the location to see which ones the elevator has. You will then know what might be needed and be better prepared to provide assistance to people who could benefit from them.
It’s important to evaluate the services provided by your staff and volunteers, emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers, and the venue's accessibility. What you learn can inform the next event you organize.
We recommend that hard copy forms use 14 size Arial font so that they are easily read and that you create an online version of the form for people who are unable to complete the form onsite (e.g. need to leave before completing it or are physically unable to complete a hard copy version). Consider posting it on your advertisement site or circulating it by email after the event. If after the event, be sure to have your attendees' email addresses!
Be sure your staff and volunteers are well informed as to the procedure to giving out subsidies. The process of accessing the funds should be confidential and easy for the person making the request.
Announcements relate to those listed in Question 8 of the Planning Stage. For convenience, we’ve listed them again here:
The technical support person is one of the critical persons to have at an event as their contribution can make or break it, particularly for persons requiring accommodation or using assistive devices. Be sure you and all your team know who and where they are.
It is valuable to engage your emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers in evaluating the success of an inclusive event and how you can work to improve it. Don't forget to consult them.
York’s population is diverse. It is best to avoid people representation as it can lead to questions about who is being represented and how. However, if the photo is of a performer or presenter, this is typically acceptable.
Your emcee, performer or presenter may need an accessible stage. Be sure you have checked with them before you book the space to determine if you need one.
Depending on the space, you may need to bring in sound equipment to ensure people with varying hearing capacities can be accommodated. Before you order it, check to see if it is built in.
Sometimes people are hesitant to provide honest feedback. You can encourage them to do so by not requiring people to add their name to the form they submit.
There was a list of requests you made of your emcees, facilitators, speakers/presenters, and performers in the planning stage to ensure all participants could benefit from the event. Asking this question assists you in assessing whether you achieved this and to incorporate the feedback into your planning for your next event.
The services offered can make or break a participant’s experience of the event. You’ve spent time arranging these services. It’s important to find out how you did and incorporate any feedback into the planning of your next event.
Allowing people to comment as they would like means you obtain feedback that you might not have otherwise received. To measure the inclusivity of your event, try questions like
“Did you find it easy to participate in this event, and if yes, why?”
“What could we have done to make you more comfortable participating in this event?"
It is valuable to obtain feedback from those at the front lines in evaluating the success of an inclusive event and how you can work to improve it.
York is made up of two campuses (soon to be three), one that is bilingual (French-English). Be sure to communicate in both official languages.
York’s population is diverse and may of our community members speak other languages or relate to languages differently (e.g. literal understanding). Try to avoid jargon, slang, and colloquialisms, as they won’t carry the same meaning for all people.
Don’t use coloured text on a coloured background and avoid large amounts of small white text on a dark coloured background. Ensure there is a high contrast between text and background. Keep in mind that red is the most common colour that poses challenges for people, so it’s best to avoid its use where possible.
It is best to avoid paragraphs of text. Keep it short and to the point with key information. You can always refer people to a url that provides additional information.
Clearly articulating the focus of the event is particularly important so that people know what to expect. This makes them better able to determine if they are in a position to attend.
Declaring the duration of the event enables people to make the needed transportation (e.g. WheelTrans, goSAFE) or childcare arrangements and to understand what to expect in terms of sitting or standing for periods of time that might compromise their health.
Use the Inclusive Space icon (coming soon) on your advertisement to send a message to folks you have taken steps to ensure your event is inclusive – such as using this inclusion lens.
“American Sign Language” commonly referred to as ASL is a primary language used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It employs signs created by moving the hands, facial expressions, and body postures.
“Real Time Captioning” refers the instantaneous translation of the spoken language into text which is then displayed, usually on a large screen.
“Dietary restrictions” refers to the foods a person cannot eat due to food allergies or sensitivities or for religious/spiritual or personal reasons.
“Service Animal” refers to a specially trained and certified animal that provides a vital service to a person with a permanent disability or medical condition.
“Therapy Animal” refers to a specially trained and certified animal that helps to reduce a person’s temporary condition (e.g. anxiety and stress).