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Ensure Accessible Events for People with Disabilities

Headshots of Dori Kirshner, Rebecca Wanatick and Lauren Appelbaum. Text: Training: How to Ensure Accessible Events: Both Live and Virtual Across All PlatformsThis week, almost 400 people registered for the exciting session, “How to Ensure Accessible Events: Both Live and Virtual Across All Platforms.” By now, you’re probably aware of our  Disability Access and Inclusion Training Series for Jewish Organizations and Activists offered by a coalition of over 45 Jewish organizations. If not, this week is the place to start. Perhaps the most exciting thing about our record-breaking numbers is that, even if everyone only follows the tips and tricks we gave this week, it would be a quantum leap forward in access and inclusion for the Jewish world. Combining that with next week’s session, “How to Ensure a Welcoming Lexicon, Accessible Websites and Social Media and Inclusive Photos,” we will literally revolutionize the way your organization approaches disability inclusion. There is amazing learning to be acquired in all seven webinars; yet if your time is limited, I strongly recommend watching the accessible recording of this week’s webinar, and then register for the one on Tuesday.

The panelists included moderator Dori Kirschner of Matan (no relation to me), Rebecca Wanatick of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and Lauren Appelbaum, our own Vice President of Communications here at RespectAbility. They delivered a comprehensive set of tools. First, Rebecca took us through all the considerations for traditional in person events, though many of the tips are applicable even beyond that. She reminded us that physical accessibility was only the beginning, and that a true mindset of inclusion was of utmost importance. She also emphasized the importance of having a point of contact who is ready to work with individuals to find out what would make an event accessible for them.

Next, Lauren shared key learnings that RespectAbility has developed for virtual events. To this end, she introduced our viewers to our toolkit, “Ensuring Virtual Events Are Accessible for All,” a resource that we designed for all organizations taking the programming virtual in light of COVID-19. It was full of useful technical tips, from how to use interpreters and captioning – including effective use of interpreters on the Zoom platform – to sending materials in advance, and verbally describing slides, because a PowerPoint shown on Zoom is not screen-reader accessible for those who are blind.

Dori wrapped up by sharing some global considerations identified by Matan that are key for any event. She highlighted the importance of connection over content, of small groups and multiple formats, and of items like fidget toys to allow people to comfortably focus. It was fantastic, and the webinar this Tuesday will pick up right where they left off.

After Tuesday’s webinar, the series will be taking off a week in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In celebration, RespectAbility is hosting our #ADA30 Summit 2020, with daily virtual events from Monday, July 27 through Friday, July 31. The #ADA30 Summit 2020 is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Comcast, NBCUniversal, the Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company.Specific days will be devoted to employment, education, leadership and civic engagement. One day will focus on authentic representation in entertainment media, and is called, “Fighting Stigmas with Hollywood.” Each day will begin at 1 PM Eastern, 10 AM Pacific time and will run for 2 to 2 ½ hours. All events are free and fully accessible with ASL interpreters and live captions. It will be a truly star-studded event, with politicians, business leaders, civic leaders, and entertainment luminaries. Registration link is imbedded here.

All of our Jewish inclusion work is made possible because of the continued strides that people with disabilities have made in the secular world thanks to the ADA. Yet, just like the work of Jewish inclusion is not finished, so too is our society a work in progress. Join us to learn how the work continues, and to explore how  you  can play a pivotal part as we look to ADA 40 and beyond.

Following the conference, we will finish out our amazing series with our last two webinars:

Tuesday, August 4 – “How to Create and Implement Successful Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Tuesday, August 11 – “How to Ensure Legal Rights and Compliance Obligations

As always, you can register for them at https://www.respectability.org/jewish-events and we encourage you to share the series with anyone whom you think will be interested in including Jews with disabilities.

Thank you and Shabbat shalom,
Matan Koch


In our Jewish Disability Perspectives newsletter, RespectAbility welcomes a wide spectrum of voices. The views expressed in each Jewish Disability Perspectives contribution are those of the guest contributor. If you would like to write for the newsletter, contact Joshua Steinberg at joshuas@respectability.org.

Meet the Author

Matan Koch

Matan A. Koch is Vice President for Workforce, Leadership, and Faith Programs at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. A longtime national leader in disability advocacy and a wheelchair user himself, he is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. Koch oversees RespectAbility’s workforce engagement and education portfolio, advocacy pipeline including, speakers Bureau and civic engagement initiatives, and our Jewish and other faith-based programs. He also leads RespectAbility’s California office.

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