Making College Tours More Accessible
For high school students across the nation, it may be vital to visit a college of their choice in order to narrow down their options of application or to know the school they’ll call home for the next few years. College tours are a great asset for these students and their families. Tour guides from the school take groups of students around the campus, allowing them to get a feel for the college and to make a necessary decision about their future. However, a lot of times, these college tours are not the most accessible for prospective students or family members, and can prevent students with disabilities from actively participating.
In this blog, we have outlined a list of specific accommodations that schools should consider when creating inclusive college tours and training tour guides. Please keep in mind that these suggestions are not exhaustive, and there are always going to be more aspects of college tours to improve.
1. ASL Accommodations
The tour guide department at a school should be able to provide a guide who is fluent in American sign language in case one of the prospective students has hearing-related disabilities. The department should also try to have guides fluent in other sign languages, such as Spanish or Chinese, in order to promote inclusivity of students that do not have English as their first language. With this accommodation, the prospective student will still be able to have access to the same information as the rest of the group, and will have an actual person available to whom they can ask questions about the college.
2. Wheelchair Accessible Routes
Ahead of the scheduled tours, the tour guide department should plan out several wheelchair accessible routes to take in case one of the prospective students or parents in their group has a mobility disability and/or requires a wheelchair. In this way, the prospective student will not have to fall behind, lose the group, or have to schedule a separate tour to be able to see the school.
Additionally, tour guides should understand the basic rule of going at the pace of the participant that needs the most time so that the participant can get the same view of the school as all other tour goers. This should be done in an effort to promote inclusivity and understanding that some tour goers need more time than others. The school should also make wheelchairs and wheelchair assistants available for tour participants if at any point they decide they need a wheelchair. Remaining inclusive of all kinds of students is incredibly important, and planning for accommodations can ensure the most effective and accessible tour possible.
3. Virtual Tours
For students who cannot attend a tour on the actual campus, there should be a virtual tour option available that can still assist students. This tour should go over the same general information that is covered in the regular tour, and should provide an easy to understand map of the campus.
In addition, the virtual tour should include both visual and audio elements in order to account for students with visual and auditory disabilities, as well as elements available in different languages, like Spanish. Sound bites played throughout the tour should include closed captions, and videos should have an audio description option included. Scripts of the tour should also be available in this online format, especially for individuals who use e-readers.
4. Printed Materials
Any printed materials handed out during the in-person tour should be available in large, easy to read print, and should be available in braille. Additionally, these materials should be available online, with the link provided during the tour and on the school’s website. Students or families with vision-related disabilities may wish to read the printed materials, but need to do so through the assistance of an e-reader. Having all the printed materials online allows e-reader users to have access to the information that they desire and will eliminate confusions that they may have. Even if the materials are not necessarily handed out in every tour, simply having them available as a resource is important.
5. Inclusive Long Tours
For tours that run over an hour and require a break for lunch, tour guides should stop at a cafeteria that is inclusive and allergen friendly. Keeping in mind that some individuals on the tour may have allergies that need to be accommodated for is key to maintaining an accessible college tour.
Furthermore, if the tour stops for any sort of break, such as a bathroom break or a break to admire historical landmarks, be sure to stop at a place with provided seating. Tables with pullout chairs, benches – all these options and more acknowledge the need for some to take a needed rest before the tour continues.
6. Sensory Issues and Accessibility
Individuals with sensory issues may not be able to attend a tour with many people. For this reason, it is essential to have tours scheduled all throughout the year and for different times. It can also be in the prospective students’ or other attendees’ best interest to schedule a private tour with the school, which is an option that should be available for all. In this way, the student and their family can see the school at their own pace and with the correct accommodations.
7. Having a Flexible, Understanding Tour Guide Department
Oftentimes, accommodations for students with disabilities or their family members need to be personalized, and general accommodations do not satisfy everyone’s needs. In that case, families should be encouraged to call a tour guide department and let them know what they need for their tour. As stated before, there should also be an option to schedule private tours, if need be.
It is vital that guides should be receptive to a family’s wish for accommodations, and make the family and their student feel comfortable around the campus. A helpful staff that is willing to be there for all prospective students is vital for the safety, inclusivity, and enjoyment of those attending a college tour.
College can be a strange and often scary place for new students. They do not know the traditions of the school, where their lectures might be, where the best dining hall is, etc.. Through college tours, these students can get a better sense of what to expect in their future. Oftentimes, their tour experience can be a defining one, which makes college tour accessibility so incredibly important. Being there for all kinds of students – regardless of disability or health condition – can prepare them for their college years and can give students and their families greater peace of mind.
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