Planning Accessible Public Meetings

Posted on August 13, 2021

County of Marin
Disability Access Program
Accessibility Guidance Bulletin #4

Planning Accessible Public Meetings

The opportunity to participate in government, including participation in public meetings, is a fundamental right of citizens of the United States. Both state and federal laws guarantee this right. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that an individual with a disability not be denied the opportunity to participate in any government program, service or activity because a government entity’s facilities are inaccessible. The Brown Act, as amended by AB 3035, specifically requires that a public entity ensure that individuals with disabilities are not denied physical or communication access to public meetings. Furthermore, a public entity must ensure that communication with members of the public with disabilities is as effective as its communications with others.

When planning public meetings, County agencies must ensure that the meetings are accessible to members of the public who have a disability. Accessible public meetings require not only physical access to the meeting facility, but also access to the information communicated through the meeting.

This Guidance Bulletin is designed to identify the primary areas of concern related to public meetings, the responsibilities of the meeting planner, and alternatives for providing solutions.


All public meetings must take place in locations that are accessible to persons with disabilities. All parts of the building do not need to be accessible, but parking (if provided), the path of travel into and through the facility, the meeting area, and the restrooms must be accessible. If overnight stays are involved, conveniently located accessible accommodations should also be considered. For a list of accessible meeting sites, contact the Disability Access Program or find them on the MINE at http://mine/mine/PW/Main/docs/ACCESSIBLE_MEETING_SITES.pdf


To facilitate accessibility, use a simple, uncluttered page design for written meeting announcements. It is recommended that the font be clear and simple, such as 12 to 14 point Arial or Courier, and that text be in a contrasting color to the paper to increase legibility for readers with low vision. Be aware that some software programs may not allow people using assistive devices, such as screen readers, to read a document.

Be prepared to design forms that can be made accessible, or post or have available a Word version of the agenda, if needed for an accommodation. To ensure that individuals with disabilities can participate in public meetings, a notice with information regarding who to contact to request auxiliary aids and services (American Sign Language interpreters, assistive listening devices, readers, note takers, real-time captioning) or meeting materials in alternative formats (Braille, large print, audiotape or computer disk/CD) must be included on all meeting notices.

The following notice format is recommended:

Standard Service Footer for Public Meetings

International-Symbol-of-Accessibility Access for Individuals Who are Blind or Have Low Vision TeleTYpewriter (TTY) Sign Language Interpreted Assistive Listening Systems or Devices These systems

All public meetings and events sponsored or conducted by the County of Marin are held in accessible sites. Requests for accommodations may be made by calling (telephone number) (Voice), (TTY number) (TTY) or by e-mail at (email address) at least five business days in advance of the event. Copies of documents are available in alternative formats, upon request.

Always include the name and telephone number of the contact person and timelines for requesting accommodations needed, as well as, the 711 California Relay Service number or a TTY number that can be used by individuals with hearing impairments.

Be sure to designate an individual to be responsible for ensuring the meeting notice and other written materials contain the proper information for requesting accommodations and for processing requests received.


The Disability Access Program is now able to assist individual departments and programs in securing auxiliary aids and services for public meetings through provision of a dedicated telephone number and e-mail address as the point of contact for such requests. Disability Access Program staff can assist in coordinating provision of needed accommodations, however, it is the recommendation of the Disability Access Program that individual departments provide their own contact information within standardized notices for accommodation and alternative format requests. While our office is always available to assist in the facilitation of requests should they arise, we encourage the departmental staff to be involved in the process in order that they may familiarize themselves with handling accommodations. The provision of our centralized service numbers is for those instances where the particular program does not have sufficient staff or resources to handle accommodation requests independently. If you use this service, you must be sure to send a copy of your meeting notice to the Disability Access Program e-mail address.

When using this service, you may use the Disability Access Program contact information:

Disability Access Program
(415) 473-4381 (voice)
(415) 473-3232 (TTY)


Written materials that are distributed to members of the public, such as an agenda or hand-outs, are subject to the requirement that communication be equally effective to persons with disabilities. Therefore, upon receipt of a specific request, a public entity that provides information in written form must make that information available to individuals in a form that is usable by them. Alternative formats may include digital file, audiotape, large print or Braille.

The type of format necessary to ensure effective communication will vary with the individual’s needs and the length and complexity of the communication involved. The county will provide an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to request the alternative format of their choice. An interactive discussion with the individual is encouraged when clarification regarding the type of alternative format to be provided is needed. This discussion may result in identifying practical options for the County that are also suited to meet the requestor’s needs. According to the
U.S. Department of Justice, the expressed choice of the individual must be given primary consideration unless the public entity can demonstrate that another effective means of communication exists. If there is a disagreement, please consult with your Department Head or the Disability Access Program before denying a request.

Although providing documents in alternative formats may result in some additional cost, a public entity may not place a surcharge on individuals with disabilities to cover these expenses. If a document is available to the public free of charge, it must also be available in an alternative format free of charge. If a fee is charged to the general public, this fee must be the same for documents provided in alternative formats.


Upon receipt of a specific request, it may be necessary to provide auxiliary aids and services to individuals with disabilities to allow full participation in a public meeting. These may include, but are not limited to:

Sign Language Interpreters
A qualified interpreter is an individual who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any specialized vocabulary that may be necessary.

Audio Recording
Providing materials in recorded format is a method of making information accessible to persons who have visual, learning or physical disabilities. Audio material is commonly recorded on CD, but it may be provided in other forms of digital files.

Real-Time Transcription
A method of making information accessible to individuals who are hearing-impaired, real-time transcription permits verbal input to be transcribed to a computer which displays a running transcript of the proceedings, much like closed-captioning on a television.

Assistive Listening Devices
An assistive listening device (ALD) is a communication system that enables individuals who are hard-of-hearing to better comprehend speech or music. The four main types of ALDs are: Acoustic, Frequency Modulated, Induction (loop) and Infrared.

Open and Closed Video Captioning
Open captions are captions that have been decoded, so they are a part of the video or television picture, similar to sub-titles in a film. Open captions cannot be turned off. Closed captions are captions hidden in the video signal that remain invisible without a special decoder to decipher them.


Braille and other Accommodations for People with Visual Disabilities

Lighthouse of Marin
Whistlestop Senior Center
930 Tamalpais Avenue
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 258-8496
(415) 258-8501 (fax)
Braille, Transcription and Audiotape Services

Lions Center for the Blind
2115 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 450-1580
(510) 654-3603 (fax)
Training in Use of Assistive Equipment

With Braille vendors:

  • You may send the document to be Brailed by e-mail or on disk
  • The file should be in Word, WordPerfect, or a text file
  • If the file is in PageMaker or other “publisher” software, you will need to convert it to a different type of file
  • If you only have a print copy, it can be scanned or re-typed for an additional fee
  • Costs vary, so confirm estimated cost with the vendor you select
  • Brailed materials will be sent to you with an invoice
  • You may request that the Brailed materials be sent directly to the individual free of charge via the U.S. Postal Service “Free Matter for the Blind”

Spreadsheets and Graphs
Spreadsheets and graphs can be Brailed, but in a different format according to the Braille Code. Usually they will list the column headings separated by semicolons, and then Braille the columnar material in paragraphs, without repeating the heading every time. For the reader, they insert an explanation as to how to read it. If brailing complicated tables, charts and graphs, it is helpful to summarize in narrative form, the information being presented. It is helpful to provide a print copy of the chart as well as the document on disk. Codes for tables and boxes have to be removed, as the Braille program does not recognize them.) It also helps if the chart on disk is set up for 8 ½” x 11” paper, portrait orientation. But they will work with whatever is sent.

Free Postage When Mailing Braille, Large Print, and Audio Tapes
Most alternative format materials can be mailed free through the U.S. Postal Service to people who are blind, low vision, or who cannot use or read conventionally printed materials due to a physical, cognitive or other sensory disability. This includes brochures, information sheets, booklets, and other reading matter, in Braille, large print (14-point or larger), or on tape. To use this service, omit stamps and print the words Free Matter for the Blind & Handicapped in the upper right hand corner of the envelope or package. These materials are subject to inspection by the Postal Service and may not contain any advertising. Handwritten or typewritten letters are subject to regular postage.

Certified American Sign Language Interpreters

  • Bay Area Communication Access
    (415) 356-0405
  • Communiqué Services
    (707) 546-6869
  • Hired Hands
    (510) 659-1882
  • Interpreting and Consulting Services
    (707) 747-8200
  • Purple Services
    (866) 669-7707

You may want to contact each agency in advance of a need for services to determine their rates so that you are prepared to cover the communication expenses, should the need arise.

RID is a national membership organization representing the professionals who make communication possible between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. When scheduling interpreter services, always request RID certified interpreters. Only in the event that certified interpreters are unavailable should you rely on non-certified interpreters.

Individuals who are hard of hearing generally do not use ASL interpreters. Always ask the individual requesting an accommodation what type of accommodation works best for them. Determining what accommodation(s) will be provided is an interactive process. Depending on the situation, accommodating an individual who is hard of hearing may include note writing, use of assistive listening devices, and/or provision of Computer Assisted Real-Time (CART) captioning.

Computer Assisted Real-Time (CART) captioning

Jane James
(510) 530-3989
Jennifer Rodrigues
(510) 888-9825
Katherine Baca
875 Burnett, #8
San Francisco, Ca
(415) 279-7195 (Voice)
Richard A. Walker
Albany, Ca
(510) 525-3327
Laura Brewer & Associates
49 Lyell Street
Los Altos, Ca 94022
(650) 949-1900 (Voice)










The Marin Center for Independent Living (MCIL) may provide referrals to additional service providers. They can be contacted at: (415) 459-6345.


It is always a good practice to conduct public meetings in close proximity to accessible public transportation. There must be a safe and accessible path of travel leading from the transportation stop to the facility entrance. (Title 24, CCR section 1114B.1.2)

If parking is provided, the parking area must have the correct number of appropriately marked accessible parking spaces. In most circumstances both van and passenger vehicle access aisles must be provided. In addition, there must be a safe path of travel provided between the parking area and the entrance to the facility. (Title 24, CCR section 1129B.1)

At least one set of restrooms within the facility must be accessible. If there is more than one set of restrooms, but not all are accessible, there must be directional signage that indicates where the accessible restrooms are located. (Title 24, CCR section 1117B.5)

Whenever possible, public meeting locations should have at least one accessible telephone and one accessible drinking fountain. At least one telephone per floor should have amplification capabilities and be accessible to persons using wheelchairs. Where drinking fountains are provided, at least one per floor must be accessible to persons using wheelchairs and must be enclosed in an alcove or not encroach into an accessible route. (Title 24, CCR section 1117B1.2 and 1117B.2)

Meeting rooms and break-out rooms must be arranged with consideration for the full participation of persons with disabilities. All public meeting space should be wheelchair accessible. This should include integrated wheelchair seating, turning room, and adequate aisle space. (Title 24, CCR section 1118B)

If there is a raised platform, an accessible ramp must be provided, as well as an accessible path of travel leading to the platform. Microphones should be adjustable in order to adapt to the height of the speaker. (Title 24, CCR section 1133B.5)

There must be an emergency evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities. One should not assume that all individuals with disabilities need special assistance in an evacuation, but should always ask before providing assistance.

Accessible Portable Toilets
Ajax Portable Toilets – (800) 282-8988
JW Enterprises Portable Toilets – (800) 350-3331
Portosan Portable Toilets – (800) 545-5516
Waste Management – (800) 862-4659

Accessible Portable Sinks and Toilets
United Site Services – (800) 322-2263

Portable Wheelchair Lifts
somArts – (415) 863-1414 (extension 105)

Accessible Van Transportation
MV Transportation – (707) 863-8980

Accessible Bus Services

Note: Provision of lists of resources does not constitute endorsement by the County of Marin, nor does omission imply non-endorsement. Our goal is to provide you with information on some key resources available. Please let us know if you’re aware of a useful resource missing from this list.

Additional information may be obtained from:

The Federal Access Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
(800) 872-2253
(800) 993-2822 TTY
(202) 272-0081 FAX
U.S. Department of Justice
Disability Rights Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20530
(800) 514-0301
(800) 514-0383 TTY
(202) 307-1198 FAX
Division of the State Architect
Universal Design Program
1102 Q Street, Suite 5100
Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 445-8100 (Voice/TTY)
County of Marin
Disability Access Program
Department of Public Works
3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 304
San Rafael, CA 94913
(415) 473-6065 (Voice)
(415) 473-3232 (TTY)
(415) 473-3799 FAX


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