New toolkit available to help make rural community events accessible for all

June 2, 2020


Event accessibility, online and off

cartoon drawing of person with curly hair seated at desk typing on laptop

With so many community events going online, it’s still important to remember to make sure they are accessible. While our newest toolkit was designed for use at both indoor and outdoor rural community events, there are many considerations that also apply to online events as well. The spirit of community inclusion, support and connection carries on until once again it is safe for us to gather in person at community events.



Looking for ways to help make community events more accessible? Check out RTC:Rural’s newest toolkit, the Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events (or CAARE) Toolkit. The toolkit was created to help community members make sure their rural community events are accessible and inclusive. It includes resources such as checklists of accessibility issues and tools that help advocates conduct surveys and collect feedback from event attendees. The toolkit also contains materials with step-by-step instructions on how to analyze that feedback so it can be shared with event organizers.

cartoon drawing of stick figure with prosthetic leg standing and holding checklist

 “Disability advocates and event organizers can use this toolkit to work together to plan for accessibility, identifying realistic accessibility goals and using a simple survey tool at the event to learn how people experience accessibility,” said Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director.

“This toolkit provides a platform for building new skills in the areas of fostering greater community participation, creating opportunities for folks of all abilities to contribute in community events, and collaborative problem solving,” said Research Assistant Ari Lissau.


Accessibility and Rural Communities

Sage, Lissau, and Knowledge Translation Associate Lauren Smith worked to put together the toolkit as part of the Inclusion in Rural Community Events project. The toolkit incorporates feedback from numerous people within the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) network as well as Centers for Independent Living in Ronan, Hamilton and Kalispell, MT, and input from the University of Montana’s Disability Services for Students. 

cover of implementation guide“We talked to people at rural events across Western Montana and learned a lot about what people think about accessibility,” said Sage. “Most people strongly support increasing accessibility, but also want to see changes made in a way that preserves their rural community historical and cultural qualities. So changes need to come from the community members.”

“Planning events in rural communities can be a major challenge in ways that differ from urban settings,” said Lissau. “Accessible infrastructure and resources are often limited, creating a need for creative, community-specific solutions. Our goal with creating this toolkit was to provide an easy to use assessment that would guide event planners in not only assessing the accessibility and inclusiveness of their events, but also in finding sustainable and creative ways to address both physical and social barriers, thus making their community events more accessible to people of all abilities.”


More tools to support rural advocacy

“The CAARE Toolkit could make a great a great companion to our Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit,” said Smith. “The Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit helps introduce and teach advocacy skills using improv, which is a unique and fun approach. Once folks have learned advocacy skills, the CAARE Toolkit could be a next step to put those skills into practice. An individual or a group can use the How-To Guide in the CAARE Toolkit and have a step-by-step process to guide them through talking to event organizers and carrying out a public survey.”


Find the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit online here: Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit

Want to learn more?

We made this comic as a way to help promote the CAARE Toolkit! Full text description below the comic, as well as in the PDF download.

The CAARE Toolkit Comic- text-only version

A comic promoting the Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events Toolkit, created by RTC:Rural

First panel:

The CAARE Toolkit: Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events (the letters C, A, A, R, and E are bolded, which is where the acronym ‘CAARE’ comes from).

Image: A sparsely drawn stick figure using a wheelchair says, “Do you even CAARE?” A second sparsely drawn figure standing next to the first person, holds one hand up to their head and says “GROAN- No bad puns, PLEASE!” That figure’s other hand is holding the harness of a service dog, who is facing away from the person using the wheelchair. Thought bubbles coming from the dog’s head say “Let’s leave before the bad jokes get worse!”

Second panel:

Rural community events are important.

Image: Scene from a farmer’s market: A stick figure wearing a pink sun hat hands another stick figure with a cochlear implant a brown box full of vegetables. The figure with the cochlear implant hands the pink-hat wearing stick figure money. The pink-hat wearing stick figure stands in front of a table with other vegetables on it.

Everyone should be able to attend and participate.

Image: Stick figure wearing glasses pops up out of the second ‘e’ of Everyone, and says, “Accessible and inclusive!”

Third panel:

Accessibility needs to be part of the planning process, NOT an afterthought!

Image: stick figure holds giant purple arrow up pointing at the text, which is above their head.

Fourth panel:

The CAARE Toolkit makes it easy for communities to work together to make events accessible!

How do we get started?

Image: Two stick figures, one wearing a blue beanie hat, the other wearing a purple and teal baseball cap and holding a purple cane. The one wearing the blue beanie has an label pointing at them that says “rural event organizer,” and the figure with the baseball cap has a label that says “disability advocate.” Rural event organizer says, “Organizing an event is a lot of work already. I don’t know anything about accessibility!” Disability advocate says, “Hi! I’m a disability advocate! Let me help you!” Rural event organizer says, “Ok!” Disability advocate says, “I’ve got this awesome toolkit!” and holds up the CAARE Toolkit.

Fifth panel:

Why our toolkit is Awesome:

  • Easy to use checklists
  • Links to resources
  • Learn how to conduct surveys and write a report

Image: Stick figure with prosthetic lower leg/foot stands to the side holding a checklist with three of the boxes checked off, and a pencil.

A giant purple arrow points to a bigger image of the cover of Using the Attendee Survey: A How-To Guide. Words next to the image say “Actual cover* of the How-To Guide. (*Not to scale).

Below this, another stick figure with curly brown hair sits at a green desk with a laptop. They type, “Accessibility recommendations: Install ramps. James Earl Jones provide audio descriptions.”

Sixth (and last) panel:

Find the CAARE Toolkit online:

[Note: this weblink is no longer active; current link here: CAARE Toolkit

It’s free!

Images: RTC:Rural logo— ‘RTC:Rural’ in white text on a maroon square, with ‘Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities’ written below.

 Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events (CAARE) logo—white letters spelling out the name on black bars, overtop of a picture of an empty wooden horse corral somewhere in rural Montana, with mountains in the distance and a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.   

Funding acknowledgement: This project was supported by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (DIDILRR), grant number 90RT5025. NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this comic do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government. The opinions reflect those of the authors are not necessarily those of the funding agency.