Guide to Handling an Accommodation Request

This guide provides information and important steps for responding to an accommodation request.

File: Guide-to-Handling-an-Accommodation-Request.docx

(Last updated: April 7, 2023)


UW-Madison is committed to ensuring its programs, services, and events are accessible and provides reasonable accommodations to students, employees, program participants, visitors and guests with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Event hosts are responsible for timely responding to requests for accommodations and providing reasonable accommodations.

Information and important steps for responding to an accommodation request are provided in this guide. For more information, contact the ADA Coordinator.

Responding to an Accommodation Request

    • Provide an accessibility tagline statement on the event website or publication to inform participants how they can request a reasonable accommodation. It is important to advise participants how much notice you need to obtain or implement an accommodation. Two weeks is generally advised.
    • Acknowledge the request as soon as possible, within 24-72 hours.
    • Clarify with the requester if a specific accommodation is not requested.
    • If the request is straightforward or seems feasible, let the requester know it is approved and begin organizing the accommodation.
    • If the requested accommodation is not straightforward or does not appear to be reasonable, engage in the interactive process with the requester to determine the accommodation or the barriers to address to make the event accessible. Contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center’s Visitor Access Consultant for assistance.
    • If an accommodation is requested at the event without prior notice, do not panic. Ask what you can do to try to accommodate and do your best. Inquire what you can do post-event (e.g., send a recording or transcript of the event) to include the participant to the greatest extent possible.

Interactive Process

This is a conversation with the requester to determine the reasonable accommodation when the requested accommodation seems unreasonable, is unclear, or the disability and nature of its impact are not obvious. The interactive process can occur in-person or over phone, video conferencing, or email, and strives to determine how event access can be secured for the requester based on the nature of the disability, or what the barriers are that need to be addressed.

The following questions can help in determining the reasonable accommodation. Information obtained during the interactive process should be kept confidential and only shared with those with a legitimate need-to-know, such as in securing or implementing the accommodation:

    • What is the disability and the nature of its impact?
    • What are the barriers of the event’s design or service that are directly related to the disability?
    • What accommodations do you need to have access to this event?
    • What are accommodations you have received in the past for a similar event?

Determining if an Accommodation is Reasonable

Accommodations that do not fundamentally alter or change a program or service, or result in an undue administrative burden or hardship to the university are reasonable. The cost of an accommodation is generally not considered an undue hardship to the university, however, with the exception of accommodations that ensure effective communication, such as sign language interpreting or professional live captioning, the university may implement alternative accommodations that are effective in lieu of the requested accommodation.

Secure the Approved Accommodation

If the requested accommodation is reasonable, or if there is an alternative accommodation that is effective, work to secure the accommodation after confirming with the requester the accommodation will be provided:

Denying an Accommodation

A timely requested accommodation request may not be denied without first engaging in the interactive process and consulting with a University Disability Authority. All requesters who have been denied an accommodation must be informed, in writing when possible, of their appeal rights. Contact the Visitor Access Consultant before issuing your decision.

Accommodation Cost

Hosting units are responsible for covering the cost of accommodations. In rare circumstances when an accommodation exceeds an unit’s budget, the unit should consult with their school, college, or division. The cost of a reasonable accommodation is typically not a sufficient reason to deny the request.

Questions or Need Assistance?

Contact a University Disability Authority:

The following university accessibility units can provide assistance:

Guide to Obtaining Sign Language Interpreting, Real-Time Captioning, Transcription, Media Captioning or Audio Descriptions

This guide provides information on how to obtain sign language interpreting, real-time translation/live captioning, transcription, or media (video) captioning for your event.

File: Guide-to-Obtaining-Sign-Language-Interpreting-Captioning-Transcription-Media-Captioning-or-Audio-Descriptions-11.28.2022.docx

(Last updated: November 28, 2022)


This guide provides information on how to obtain sign language interpreting, real-time/live captioning (CART), or media (video) captioning for your event.

Beginning 7/1/22, disability-related accommodations for sign language interpreting and CART services provided for UW-Madison units through the McBurney Disability Resource Center will now be centrally funded by the university. This includes accommodation requests for these services from students, staff, faculty, and visitors/guests.

If these services are provided proactively without a specific accommodation request, they will be billed to the respective department.

Sign Language Interpreting

Professional sign language interpreters can be hired in the following ways:

For more information about sign language interpreting, review this Professional Sign Language Interpreting guide from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

Professional Real-Time/Live Captioning (CART)

Professional CART captioners can be hired in the following ways:

For tips on hiring captioners, review this guide through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Transcription, Media Captioning, and Audio Descriptions

Guide to Planning an Accessible Event

This guide provides information on how to plan and create an accessible, inclusive event for attendees.

File: Guide-to-Planning-an-Accessible-Event-1.docx

Download Accessible Event Checklist

(Last updated: March 10, 2023)


Use this guide to create an accessible, inclusive event for everyone, including people with disabilities.

Event Announcement

    • Announce the event or meeting early
    • Put event or meeting information on program website, even if sending an email or flier:
      • Include text of email attachments in email body to improve screen reader access.
        • Use the Center for User Experience’s Email guides for more suggestions.
    • Include an accessibility tagline statement informing attendees how to request a disability accommodation.
      • Do you use Starfish for appointment scheduling? Include a tagline statement in your profile letting individuals know how to inform you about accessibility needs.

Program Materials

    • Include the following statement on print materials:
      • “This document is available in alternative formats upon request by contacting (name, host department) at (phone number/email).”
    • Some individuals may need materials electronically or in large-print. Have items available and maintain a:
      • Digital Copy by posting to Box or Google drive and generate a shortened URL to provide to participants.
      • Large-print copy by using a sans serif font that is font size 18 or larger.

Parking and Transportation

Accessibility begins outside the event/meeting space through accessible parking or bus service. The university’s parking lots have accessible parking in accordance with the ADA, and campus transportation complies with disability accessibility requirements.


The following table provides information to review to ensure your facility is accessible:


Facilities Feature



    • There is a clear, smooth path of travel at least 36” wide from the bus stop or parking lot to the main or alternate entrance
    • Main entrance has no steps or leads to an elevator or wheelchair lift, and is at least 32” wide
    • If main entrance is not accessible, ensure posted signage indicating accessible entrance location
    • Avoid using a separate entrance for wheelchair users (if the building’s main entrance is not accessible, make the accessible entrance the main point of entry to create inclusion)
    • Does the entrance have power-door openers? If yes, test to ensure operating status
Emergency Exits
    • Emergency exits must be clearly marked and accessible
    • Restrooms must have accessible stalls
    • Automatic door openers are helpful
    • Host event/meeting space on same floor as the accessible restroom to promote inclusion
    • Ensure elevator or ramp access for event/space and restrooms

Event Room/Space


Room/Space Features



Accessible Path of Travel
    • Provide an unobstructed and 36″ minimum wide pathway to and throughout an event/meeting space allowing for wheelchair and mobility access
    • Cables, cords, and other items should not be draped across an accessible path of travel
    • Any thresholds (usually in doorways) should not exceed 1/2″ in height
    • Provide wheelchair accessible ramp if stage has steps
    • Stage space or passage or wheelchairs must be 36”-minimum
Seating For events:

    • Designate seating space for wheelchair users and individuals with mobility disabilities:
      • Place space near projection screen and podium
      • Include companion seating next to reserved seating (usually 1-2 additional seats)
    • Reserve seating for sign language interpreters, captioners, personal care attendants, and clear space for service animals

For meetings:

    • Ensure chairs can be removed to create a 36” minimum space for wheelchair users
    • Provide at least 60” of diameter space for wheelchair users to turn around to exit a space or room
    • Provide space for a service animal or a mobility device, such as a walker
    • Sign language interpreting or captioning must be provided if requested and approved as a reasonable accommodation
    • Consider the experience your audience has with the content to ensure communication access for all participants, with or without a disability:
      • Language
      • Vocabulary
      • Level of detail
    • For large events, use a microphone for all verbal communication by anyone (speaker, audience)
    • If someone asks a question or speaks without a microphone, repeat what was said into the microphone
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
    • Have ALDs available and synced to microphone for individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Projection Screens
    • Use a large screen to display content
    • Ensure display can be seen from all locations within a room
    • Test room and window lighting to reduce glare

Other Considerations





Before and During the Event
    • Inform volunteers about locations of accessible bathrooms, parking, and emergency exits
    • Notify volunteers about any service providers – sign language interpreter or real-time captioner – who will be attending the event
    • If a guest didn’t request an accommodation, check in with them and see what they need to have access. Implement accommodations as possible given the short notice
Service Animals
    • Service animals are not pets and are generally permitted wherever the public can go. They are used by individuals with disabilities and have the following features:
      • Protected under disability laws
      • Usually a dog or miniature horse
      • Must be trained to perform a specific task or work for the individual with a disability
      • Must be under the handler’s control at all times. Service animals are not required to be leashed or tethered if it will interfere with the animal’s trained duties
      • Documentation is not required

      View this service animal guide for more information

Maintaining Accessible Events
    • Including accessibility features allows individuals with disabilities to independently access your event and reduces your obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation
    • Budget for accessibility features and accommodation requests

Questions and Additional Information

Have questions or want to discuss or review a specific event or meeting space?

Guide to Planning an Accessible Office Meeting

This guide provides information on how to plan an Accessible Office Meeting.

File: Guide-to-an-Accessible-Office.docx

Download Accessible Office Space Checklist

(Last updated March 10, 2023)


Use this guide to create an accessible office space for meeting with students and colleagues with disabilities:


  • Include an accessibility tagline statement on departmental website and scheduling application (i.e., Starfish) to let individuals know how to request a reasonable accommodation.
  • Put information about nearest available parking lots with ADA parking stalls or bus stop, and any known accessibility barriers on department website (i.e., the building is under construction, the only accessible entrance is at the southeast corner, an accessible bathroom is only on the first floor, etc.).


  • Ensure your building has an accessible entrance
  • If there is no accessible entrance, inform participants and prepare to meet in an alternate, accessible location
  • If not all entrances are accessible, inform visitors of accessible entrance locations
  • Check that power door openers are operating
  • Review that there is a 36” wide path of travel from the accessible entrance through the building to the office space (can reduce to 32” for entry way)
    • Path of travel must be free of debris, draped cords
    • Elevator or wheelchair lift can make up the accessible route
  • All doorway thresholds should not exceed 1/2” in height
  • Know the location of the accessible bathrooms
    • If there is no accessible bathroom, locate which nearest building has one

Office Space

  • Check that the entryway into your office space is no less than 32” wide
  • Maintain a 36” wide clear path of approach to the meeting table or spot
  • Ensure 60” of clear floor space for wheelchair maneuvering and turning to exit the office
  • If the meeting table height is not adjustable
    • Check that the height to the top surface is between 28” – 34”
    • There should be 17” of clear space depth underneath the table for wheelchairs
  • Chairs should be easily moveable to create space
  • Have an array of chairs – with and without arms and oversize – to accommodate varying needs
    • Have extra chairs available for sign language interpreters or captioners
  • Ensure ample floor space for service animals or mobility devices
  • If office lighting is not dimmable, have a floor lamp available to reduce overall brightness
  • If temperature cannot be well controlled, have a fan to help cool the space

Print Materials

  • Maintain a large-print version of materials that will be used during the meeting
    • Font size at least 18 points
    • Line spacing at least 1.15
  • Use strong color contrast between text, images, and paper color
  • Have materials also available electronically with a short URL link to provide to individuals who need them for their assistive technology devices

Digital Materials

  • All images should have alternative text making them accessible to screen readers
  • Use strong color contrast between text and background color
  • All videos should have captions

Have questions or want to discuss or review a specific meeting space?


The Guide to Creating and Maintaining a Safe Learning and Work Environment at UW-Madison: Responsibilities, Resources, and Reporting Requirements provides you with this information on how to report and respond to acts of criminal behavior including sexual assault, sexual violence, and child abuse and neglect; and non-criminal behavior including sexual harassment and consensual relationships between employees. Training information and campus and community resources are also included.

File: Safe-Learning-and-Work-Guide-Spring-FY18-Highlights-Hmong.pdf

Safe Learning and Work Environments

All faculty and staff members at the University of Wisconsin-Madison share a responsibility to create safe learning and work environments and a positive campus climate. To do so requires all of us to understand certain federal and state compliance obligations, meet our reporting responsibilities, and know the appropriate campus resources to address safety concerns.

UW-Madison Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

This policy prohibits acts of sexual harassment and sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking) in all programs and activities of the University.

This policy prohibits acts of sexual harassment and sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking) in all programs and activities of the University.

UW-Madison Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence