Democrats Abroad Accessibility Guidelines & Resources



The ADA  - Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act |
Introduction to the Americans with Disabilities Act |
Laws, Regulations & Standards |

Seal of the U.S. Dept of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division


ADA Information Line

Talk to us at 800-514-0301 | 1-833-610-1264 (TTY)

  • M, Tu, W, F: 9:30am - 12pm and 3pm - 5:30pm ET
  • Th: 2:30pm - 5:30pm ET



  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." This is a legal definition, rather than a medical definition. The ADA definition of disability does not apply to disability-related services such as Social Security.

  • CDC definition - A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).

  • WHO defines disability as an 'umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions, referring to the negative aspects of the interaction between an individual (with a health condition) and contextual factors (environmental and personal factors)'

“Accessibility Barriers”

  • refers to the design of products, devices, services, vehicles, or environments that are factors in a person’s environment that, through their absence or presence, limit functioning and create disability.”    V  a physical environment that is not accessible

  • lack of relevant assistive technology (assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices),

  • negative attitudes of people towards disability,

  • services, systems and policies that are either nonexistent or that hinder the involvement of all people with a health condition in all areas of life.” 



  • Plan Plan Plan 
    • It is easier, less embarrassing and far more productive and enjoyable for all concerned if you are prepared and have the information and resources that are needed.  A bad experience will perpetuate lack of participation.

  • Take participants input and assess needs from their point of view 
    • Imagine that you are a participant with a variety of disabilities and imagine the experience you will have from before to after.  If at all possible, involve people in the planning with some knowledge and training or find someone who by experience “gets it”.

  • Anticipate - “Be Prepared”
    • Know where and how to find and use all the things which might possibly be needed to support PWD (people with disabilities)
    • Consider Plan Bs (will construction really be finished by our date?  The elevator is broken!)
    • Contemplate what might go wrong
    • Plan for emergencies (fainting, seizure, and so on - have those emergency numbers on hand!)
    • Have a process for making changes (as additional requests or situations arise)
    • Brief ALL staff and volunteers thoroughly
    • Set high expectations for facilities and other partners

  • Solve problems 
    • Find a way to “yes” when confronted with a “no” -  (many such situations can be avoided by proper planning and general comprehension of the law.)
    • Keep a watchful eye and be ready to intervene when needed/appropriate - (people may be unable or unwilling to ask for help.)
    • Be alert to what problems may occur - (notice the bump in the rug or the wet floor or closed bathroom)
    • Be creative with your problem solving, it does have to be the obvious answer - something as simple as relocating a person’s chair or asking your audience to take conversations outside can help resolve an unexpected hearing problem.

  • Get input
    • Ask participants for their potential needs and concerns in advance (commonly known as a “request for accommodation”)
    • Collaborate with vendors to learn from their experiences - the hotel or restaurant may have dealt with similar requirements in the past).
    • Have conversations on accessibility with presenters to minimize potential issues 
    • Ask the GDC for help if you need it
    • Elicit feedback at the end of the event or soon thereafter. (a brief set of questions left on chairs and dropped off at the end of the meeting and/or sent via email is an easy way to do this)

  • Be alert and eliminate barriers seamlessly
    • Avoid the need for people to ask for help where possible
    • Do a couple of “run/walk/click-throughs” with eye to potential problems
    • Prepare materials/processes in optimal form
    • Know where to find all manner of things
    • Consider Plan Bs
    • Contemplate what might go wrong
    • Plan for emergencies
    • Have a process for making changes
    • Brief ALL staff and volunteers thoroughly
    • Set high expectations for facilities and other partners

Common Barriers to Participation Experienced by People with Disabilities


  • The view that “the only disability is a bad attitude” about which Stella Young said “You know, no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. Never. Smiling at a television screen isn’t going to make closed captions appear for people who are deaf. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshop and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into Braille,”
  • Stereotyping
  • Low expectations 
  • Fear or avoidance
  • Stigma, prejudice, and discrimination
  • Multiple and intersectional discrimination can intensify attitudinal barriers

Environmental barriers

  • Inaccessible physical environments create disability by creating barriers to participation and inclusion 
  • Inaccessible communication systems prevent access to information, knowledge and opportunities to participate. 
  • Lack of services or problems with service delivery also restrict participation of people with disabilities 

Institutional barriers

  • Institutional barriers include many laws, policies, strategies or practices that discriminate against people with disabilities. 
  • Lack of enforcement and political support for policies can also limit the inclusion of people with disabilities. 
  • Sometimes internalized barriers can severely affect the participation and functioning of people with disabilities in society.  Stigma relating to people with disabilities results in their exclusion from societal interactions). Low expectations of people with disabilities can undermine their confidence and aspirations
  • The lack of consultation and involvement of people with disabilities is a barrier to their inclusion in society
  • The lack of rigorous and comparable data and statistics, combined with lack of evidence on programmes that work, often impedes understanding and action on disability inclusion.
  • One of the most common reasons given for not including people with disabilities is perceived cost.  Inadequate funding and allocations for implementing policies and plans can prevent the inclusion of people with disabilities
  • Other excuses relate to concerns that disability inclusion is too difficult and requires specialist knowledge, or that people with disabilities require special programs.

Programmatic Barriers

  • Inconvenient scheduling;
  • Lack of accessible equipment
  • Insufficient time set aside for activities
  • Little or no communication with participants; 
  • Provider’s attitudes, knowledge, and understanding of people with disabilities.
  • Language limitations
  • The lack of rigorous and comparable data and statistics,
  • Need for more sharing and building on best practices

Communication Barriers

  • Written health promotion messages with barriers that prevent people with vision impairments from receiving the message. 
  • Auditory health messages may be inaccessible to people with hearing impairments, including
  • The use of technical language, long sentences, and words with many syllables may be significant barriers to understanding for people with cognitive impairments.

Physical Barriers

  • Steps and curbs that block a person with mobility impairment from entering a building or using a sidewalk;
  • Mammography equipment that requires a woman with mobility impairment to stand; and
  • Absence of a weight scale that accommodates wheelchairs or others who have difficulty stepping up.

Social Barriers

  • People with disabilities are far less likely to be employed. In 2017, 35.5% of people with disabilities, ages 18 to 64 years, were employed, while 76.5% of people without disabilities were employed, about double that of people with disabilities.2
  • Adults aged 18 years and older with disabilities are less likely to have completed high school compared to their peers without disabilities (22.3% compared to 10.1%).
  • People with disabilities are more likely to have income of less than $15,000 compared to people without disabilities (22.3% compare to 7.3%).3
  • Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities.4

Transportation barriers

  • Lack of access to accessible or convenient transportation 
  • Public transportation may be unavailable or at inconvenient distances or locations.


In advance of meeting or event

  • Send an email to those who rsvp asking them to share any requirements we can fulfill which will enable them to participate more fully and comfortably in the meeting, including advance availability of writing, an ASL interpreter, etc. (these are commonly called “accommodations”.

Request the email, messaging and phone numbers they will be using during the meeting -  in case they are needed to inform them of any special situations..  Ask them to let you know if they’d like to provide you with an emergency contact.

  • Send out any available long/complicated materials in advance to allow people to use any necessary technology to read and understand them.
  • Be super clear on things people need to know during meeting
  • Consider sending out preparation/instruction sheets - and important numbers, including member numbers for voting in a special preparation email that you recommend be printed or saved, retained and studied in advance.
  • Provide contact information in advance,  for before, during and and emergency number

At the beginning of the meeting or event (and periodically during it)

  • Review agenda and rough timing
    • Describe visually and verbally the tools available to make the meeting more accessible - for example, 
    • how to find closed captioning (and how to turn it off if you DON’T want it), 
    • how to enlarge type, 
    • how to rearrange screen formats, 
    • how to zoom in on something, 
    • how to turn on audio description/transcription 
    • how to rearrange gallery
    • and so on. Hopefully all of those options will be available.
    • Not to use emojis as they are voiced by screen readers and make it hard for people using them to hear speakers (you can disable emojis in zoom).

Note: tools can be different in Zoom vs. Webex so be sure to be prepared for both*



  • Speakers should introduce themselves with name, title if appropriate, country, state where they vote
  • The chat box should be used sparingly (not really for chat but for taking votes, **hand up, etc.). There should be another option/alternative for those who have difficulty accessing or using it.
  • There should also be a way to contact someone by phone or email/text/IM if someone is having a problem.  This should be made clear to ALL upfront and reiterated periodically and perhaps it can be added to the chat box.
  • Be prepared with enough backup so that people who may need a lot of help can find it.

During meeting

  • Build in regular breaks and call out any additional opportunities as they arise (we’ll be needing at least x amount of time to do y - so feel free to take a quick x minute break)
  • Absolutely avoid loud noise or music (unless everyone is warned in advance) and flashing or strobing.  Give people a heads up if you are going to play music or have a video with quick cuts of flashing lights.
  • Make sure speakers are well lit, speak clearly and have their mouths visible.
  • Make sure speakers describe their appearance and surroundings.
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds
  • People should always say name again if they return to the conversation
  • Provide, as necessary, an alternate and simple way to vote
  • Keyboard commands/alternatives for those who don’t/can’t use mouse
  • Have ALT TEXT option for visuals and caption images as well (don’t overlap captions with visual)
  • Have anyone speaking wear headphone and mic unless it is a small room
  • Record and share all materials after meeting if possible
  • Summarize/recap actions or results
  • Have people check accessibility features on presentation materials (alt text, for example)
  • Recommend Verdana or Arial size 14 for type
  • Avoid all caps, underlining and italics as these can be particularly difficult to read.
  • Don’t rely on color to differentiate between items
  • If there are links, do not differentiate in color, make bold and underline
  • Try not to confuse the screen readers that some people may be using.  This can happen when people make “quick fixes” to formats like throwing in dashes instead of built in format options or adding extra spaces, etc.
  • Set up/describe what is shown on screen

IDEA: consider asking if there is anyone on your team interested in becoming your disability “advisor” and let us know who it is.  We would be happy to help with training or in other ways.  We would also provide updates anytime we learn of a new resource or another bit of information.  

We want to help but the most effective plan will be to ask for input from your members and to have someone with an eye on accessibility.  It needn’t be a person with a disability, but an ally would be great

Your communications and resources (including websites) should be:

Make content and controls operable by all users.

  1. Can all menus, links, buttons, and other controls be operated by keyboard, to make them accessible to users who are unable to use a mouse?
    More about Designing for Keyboard Accessibility
  2. Does the web page include a visible focus indicator so all users, especially those using a keyboard, can easily track their current position?
    More about Providing Visible Focus for Keyboard Users
  3. Do features that scroll or update automatically (e.g., slideshows, carousels) have prominent accessible controls that enable users to pause or advance these features on their own?
    More about Ensuring Accessibility of Scrolling or Updating content
  4. Do pages that have time limits include mechanisms for adjusting those limits for users who need more time?
    More about Providing Accessible Time Limits
  5. Have you avoided using content that flashes or flickers?
    More about Avoiding Flashing or Flickering Content
  6. Does the web page or document have a title that describes its topic or purpose?
    More about Providing an Informative Title
  7. Are mechanisms in place that allow users to bypass blocks of content (e.g., a “skip to main content” link on a web page or bookmarks in a PDF)?
    More about Facilitating Efficient Navigation
  8. Does the website include two or more ways of finding content, such as a navigation menu, search feature, or site map?
    More about Providing Multiple Ways of Finding Content
  9. Is link text meaningful, independent of context?
    More about Using Meaningful Link Text

Make content and user interfaces understandable to all users.

  1. Has the language of the web page or document (or individual parts of a multilingual document) been defined?
    More about Identifying Language of a Document and its Parts
  2. Have you avoided links, controls, or form fields that automatically trigger a change in context?
    More about Providing Predictable Behavior
  3. Does the website include consistent navigation?
    More about Providing Consistent Site-wide Navigation
  4. Do online forms provide helpful, accessible error and verification messages?
    More about Using Accessible Methods of Form Validation

Make content robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

  1. Is the web page coded using valid HTML?
    More about Validating Your Code 
  2. Do rich, dynamic, web interfaces, such as modal windows, drop-down menus, slideshows, and carousels, include ARIA markup?
    More about Using ARIA for Web Applications



Programs for People with Disabilities |

World Report on Disability (

Disability |

Factors associated with public attitudes towards persons with disabilities: a systematic review | BMC Public Health | Full Text (

Helpful accessibility checklists design recommendations




International Organizations

Other Resources - help/funding/etc.

Mental health issues

Triggers of mania and depression in young adults with bipolar disorder

Physical triggers & Processing Disorders

Why some people get dizzy when hearing certain sounds -- ScienceDaily

Auditory Processing Disorder (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth

Music and epilepsy | Epilepsy Society

Invisible Disabilities

Invisible Disabilities: List and General Information | Disabled World (

Different Types of Disabilities: List of 21 Disabilities (

List of Disabilities | A - Z of Disability and Diseases (

Disability and Health Overview | CDC

Diversity - Invisible Disability Project - videos

Ableism - Invisible Disability Project

Hidden disabilities (

For questions, feedback, assistance or suggestions, please contact

Email: [email protected]


(20+) Democrats Abroad Disability Caucus | Facebook