Is Your Summer Event Welcoming and Accessible to People with Disabilities?

Laura Akgerman Disability Services Coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility

Summer is the season for outdoor events – street fairs, farmers markets, county fairs, and Agritourism. If your event or business is open to the public, it must be accessible to people with disabilities.

The American’s with Disabilities Act is a federal law that requires businesses and events to be accessible to everyone. Not only will ADA guidelines benefit the 14% of Ohioan’s who have a disability, they also make your event open and welcoming to everyone.

Having accessible entrances is the first step to providing access to your facilities and programs. Facilities which have wide entrances with ramps or no steps, easy to open doors, and large restroom stalls are easier for people with baby strollers or carts, as well as people who use canes or walkers.

However, providing access is more than getting people through the gate, it also includes, advertising, parking, restrooms and more. Here is a list of topics to consider when making your event accessible to people with disabilities.

Promotional materials and websites

All websites and advertisements should be accessible. Include information for whom to contact about requests for accommodations to the event, such as sign language interpreters, accessible seating, or accessible programs or maps. If the event is accessible, including an accessibility symbol on advertising indicates your event welcomes everyone.

Parking

When parking is provided for the public, accessible parking spaces must be allotted for those with disabilities. For every 25 spaces, at least one space must be designated as accessible. The accessible parking space should be the space closest to the accessible entrance.  If you have van accessible spaces, there should be additional space located either to the right or left of the space, to serve as an access aisle. This additional space allows a person in a wheelchair or other mobility device to get out of the vehicle freely. Accessible parking spaces should be on level ground, and should be free of debris or obstructions.

Walking paths and surfaces

Walking paths should be designed for easy travel. They should be clear of debris, equipment, and other barriers (for example hoses, tools, or piles of dirt). Their surface can be a solid or hard packed material, easy for a person using a wheelchair or walker could safely and easily traverse.

Entrances and ticket booths

Entrances for buildings and facilities must contain at least one accessible entrance. Accessibility can be achieved with a ramp, or an entrance with no thresholds, steps or barriers. Accessible entrances should be at least 36” wide.

Accessible entrances must be unlocked during business hours, and if the door or entrance does not have an automatic opener, it should have a bell or buzzer to notify staff to open the door.

If your event has ticket booths, the counter height of at least one ticket booth should be a maximum of 36” high. If you use turnstiles, there must also be a gate, or accessible entrance to bypass the turnstile.

Signage

Clear, easy to read signs are necessary to direct people to accessible entrances, parking, and restrooms. Signs in or around permanent buildings should have both text and braille lettering.

Restrooms

ADA Standards require that at least 5% of portable toilets be accessible. Permanent bathrooms should have at least one toilet and sink that are accessible.

Counters and dining tables

Counter height should be a maximum of 36” high, with clear floor space under the counter to allow a person in a wheelchair to pull up to the counter.

If tables are provided, 5% of tables should be accessible, with at least 27 “ of space between the floor and the underside of the table.

Access to stage areas and seating

Accessible seating must be available throughout an event space. If someone attending your event needs to go on the stage, the stage must be accessible. Ramps can be rented to make a stage accessible, or a temporary lift can be used to allow access to the stage.

Service animals

According to the ADA, service animals are dogs or miniature horses only. There is no required or official certification for service animals. The animal must be under the handler’s control at all times, and may be asked to leave if the animal is aggressive or out of control. The handler is responsible for cleaning up after the animal.

To determine if an animal is a service animal, and must be admitted to an event or business, there are only two questions you can legally ask:

  1. Is the dog/mini horse required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

(You cannot ask for a demonstration of the animal’s work)

Emotional support or therapy animals are not covered under the ADA guidelines, and do not have to be admitted to events or businesses.  However, emotional support and therapy animals are covered under certain housing laws; if you offer temporary or permanent housing, the animals may be admissible.

More information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov. Specific information about how the ADA applies to small businesses can be found under the Technical Assistance Materials link on the ada.gov website. For information about making temporary events accessible, go to https://adata.org/publication/temporary-events-guide

For more information please contact Laura Akgerman, Ohio AgrAbility & OSU Extension Disability Services Coordinator, at Akgerman.4@osu.edu, or 614-292-0622.

Blue Ribbon and the Winner goes to…YOU!

The start of the county fair season in Ohio is just a few weeks away, Paulding County is the first Ohio fair and begins on June 12th and ending the season is Fairfield beginning October 8th. The county fair countdown begins as soon as the previous year’s fair ends. I know firsthand, my hometown has a rolling advertising sign with a daily countdown at the fairground entrance. The excitement, food, entertainment, youth displays and well, adult displays too!

Did you know that the Agricultural Societies were created for the purpose of communities to bring together farmers and homemakers to display their crops and wares? Of course, there is friendly competition but it was all based on agricultural achievement, recording of new agricultural methods and reporting those results to the State Board of Agriculture. You know, that stuff we call science and white papers to help improve our practices!

Not to long ago I watched an “Andy Griffith Show” re-run where Aunt Bee made her prized pickles to take to the county fair. Clara had been the blue ribbon winner for years and Aunt Bee was determined. She was so proud but everyone knew they were the worst tasting pickles around. But oh did they have fun watching the judging of the event. That is what it is all about, family, friends, and who canned the best pickles!

Each state has their own version of ag societies and how they recorded their outstanding production. From each state, then there is the county fair at the local level. Adults were the primary participants for many years and then youth started getting involved through 4-H and FFA projects. While our youth today seem to be the focus of our local county fairs, highlighting their agricultural achievements, record keeping and displaying their projects, (sounds familiar) I want you to think about what YOU, the adult, could participate in during your upcoming fair.

Do you have a talent for making jams and jellies, baking pies or cakes  , growing flowers, vegetables, fruits and grains? Maybe you like to preserve those vegetables and fruits.

How about sewing , needlepoint, rug making, painting, etc.

Are you an amateur wine or beer maker?

Do you like showing livestock? beef or dairy cattle, poultry, rabbits, horses, etc?

Adults can participate in the senior fair or adult portion of their local county fair, below is a short list in many categories.

  • open beef cattle show
  • bakery and pantry products
  • needle craft, art, ceramics and pottery
  • flower and horticulture
  • grains, vegetables, herbs and seeds
  • poultry
  • Grange
  • rabbits
  • wine making
  • open horse show
  • photography
  • quilting
  • antiques

Each county has their own set of rules and guidelines for participation in said events. Sometimes you can cross county lines and participate in more than one county! Visit your local county agriculture society to find out more information on the projects and events, rules and guidelines for participation.

“And the blue ribbon and the winner goes to YOU!”  

Selling Food from Your Farm or Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ Market Season is here! Lots of markets are opening this week and especially this weekend. I do hope that you will check out the markets in your area and support your local producers. And if you have ever considered selling agricultural products yourself, here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive.

Can I make food in my home to sell? In Ohio we have Cottage Food Law that allows individuals to make food in their own home. There is a specific list of the foods that can be made including lots of baked goods (cookies, cakes and pies); jams and jellies; and dried mixes. These foods all have minimal risk of causing foodborne illness and do not require any temperature controls to keep them safe for us to eat. There is no inspection of the home kitchen and no fee required. The foods must be properly labeled and have the declarations “This food is home produced.”

It is also possibly though to make cream pies that require refrigeration or other baked foods that are potentially hazardous like cheesecakes or noodles or fry pies. These require a home bakery license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). This is only $10 per year and requires an inspection. You can learn more about these under “Fact Sheets” at ODA Food Safety .

Can I sell salsa or sauces that I can in my home? Since these are processed foods that could be potentially hazardous, they cannot be made in the home and sold. You can make these types of foods in an approved kitchen. This can be any facility outside of your home that has been approved by ODA including another structure on your property, an ODA registered church kitchen, or a shared use facility that co-packs foods.

What are the rules for selling eggs from my farm? In Ohio we can sell eggs from our farms without an inspection or license as long as we maintain 500 or fewer birds. You can find more information from ODA at ODA Egg Producer Fact Sheet

What are the rules to sell eggs somewhere other than my farm? If you want to sell eggs at a Farmers’ Market or restaurant or retail store, then ODA will inspect your farm. They will make sure that water quality is acceptable for washing eggs, that the refrigerator is in working order, and that egg cartons are labeled properly. The only time that a license is required to sell eggs is when selling off farm at a Farmers’ Market. This Mobile Retail Food Establishment (MRFE) license can be obtained from our local County Health Department.

Today I’ll leave you with this quote from Mother Teresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Ohio Crop Progress and Conditions

Are you curious about what is happening around the state with regard to weather conditions, how crops are fairing, and the ability for farmers to get out into the field?  The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) provides this information each week from April through November in The Crop Progress & Condition Report. A group of volunteer reporters across the state provide feedback on these topics each week. The NASS compiles the data and publishes a report each Monday by 4 pm. Reports dating back to 2015 through the most current posting can be accessed here. The website also allows you to subscribe to receive updated reports and other information via email!  Hopefully, this information will be useful in your daily operations!

Recap of the East Ohio Women in Agriculture Conference

A favorite part of early spring each year is hosting the annual East Ohio Women in Agriculture Conference. This year 74 Ohio women travelled to Massillon to learn about everything from equine dental to conflict resolution, from beekeeping basics to appropriate farm tasks for children. This year’s keynote speaker was Marlene Eick who challenged and encouraged the women to know themselves well, and then to expect more.

There is something pretty special about being around a large group of people who want to learn more. I enjoy the energy and the questions. However, for me it is equally refreshing to have time to quietly reflect and research certain topics to greater depths. How are you doing in the learning department? Are you actively seeking out opportunities to learn more about a topic that interests you?

If there is something that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, make the choice this week to take the first step. Whether its reading a book that broadens your view of the world or a conversation with an expert who is passionate about a certain subject, I encourage you to expect more of yourself this week. But not in a guilty way like you should be pushing yourself to do more. Instead expect more of yourself in the noble way of pushing yourself to “be” more.