The Alternatives National Conference has decided not to hold an independent conference this year. Instead, Alternatives is collaborating with Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon to host elements of Alternatives in its Peerpocalypse conference, April 20-23, 2020 conference in Seaside, Oregon. We welcome Alternatives to Peerpocalypse 2020 and encourage prospective participants to learn more or submit a workshop proposal at


Alternatives 2019 (#Alternatives2019) strives to be a welcoming, accessible, and inclusive place for everyone. We value each person’s gifts, inner strength, life experiences, and capacity to grow. 

The Alternatives Accessibility Services (TAAS) is committed to addressing the inclusion of all people, whatever their abilities, in all activities. Beyond the physical accessibility of the facilities, we endeavor to welcome all individuals—including those with mobility, visual, hearing, chemical and sensory, developmental, addiction, and other ability issues—into every facet of the conference.

We have evaluated the accessibility of the conference area and dorms. The Catholic University of America (CUA), where the conference will be held, will complete an initial screening for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, and an onsite follow-up accessibilities survey.

Scent-free Conference

Scent-free Conference: To respect the needs of all participants, please do not use perfume, cologne, or strongly scented creams, powders, or cosmetics at the conference. 

Spanish Interpretation Available

Spanish translation is available during the conference. We need to know in advance if you would like this service. Please email to give us advance notice and indicate your desire for Spanish translation on your registration form by June 15th. Please share this information with people who may be interested.

Se ofrecerá traducción al español durante la conferencia. Si le interesa por favor de informarnos con anticipación. Envíe un correo electrónico a e indique en el formulario de inscripción antes del 15 de junio. Por favor ayúdenos a difundir esta información a personas interesadas.

Reserving Accessible Housing

Those in need of accessible accommodations will make their reservation using the same housing reservations system as all other Alternatives 2019 attendees. Please know that staff will be monitoring all dorm room reservations made with ADA requests to ensure people get an appropriate room for their level of need as availability allows. So please make your needs known and reserve early.

Be sure to list required assistive features needed. Please request what you require, keeping in mind there are limited resources so requesting at your level of need and not beyond will allow more people to participate in Alternatives 2019.

Bringing your Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal to Alternatives

Service Animals at Alternatives

The Service Animal must be in good health. Service Animals to be housed in campus housing must have an annual clean bill of health from a licensed veterinarian. A Service Animal must be clean and well groomed, and measures should be taken at all times for flea and odor control. The Service Animal must have current vaccinations and immunizations against diseases common to that type of animal. All Service Animals must wear a current rabies vaccination tag.

Handlers are responsible for ensuring the immediate clean-up and proper disposal of all animal waste, and for any damage caused by the waste or its removal.

The Catholic University of America is committed to promoting full participation and equal access to University programs and activities for individuals with disabilities, and to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Pursuant to these commitments, Service Animals are permitted on campus for persons with disabilities in accordance with the requirements of this policy.

Support Animals at Alternatives

Definition: Support Animal means an animal that provides emotional support, well-being, or companionship that alleviates or mitigates symptoms of a disability. The presence of the Support Animal must be necessary in order to provide the guest with a disability the use and enjoyment of the dwelling. There must be an identifiable relationship between the disability and the support the Support Animal provides to the guest.

If you wish to bring your support animal to Alternatives, 

  1. Please read the Guidelines and return to CUA. 

  2. If you are staying in the campus dorm complete the accommodations request at this link.

  3. Email the required documentation (detail below) one month before the conference to (At least 10 business days are required to review requests for a Support Animal and supporting documentation.)

Submit supporting documentation from a licensed, treating clinician. The documentation should include diagnosis, provide explanations from the treating professional regarding the guest’s disability or condition, the impact of the disability or condition on a major life activity, the necessity of the Support Animal for the guest to use or enjoy campus housing, and the relationship between the guest’s disability and the relief the assistance animal provides. This documentation must come from the guest’s current treating clinician and include date, signature, and licensing information.

It is strongly recommended that the guest submit all required materials to ECS at least one month prior to his or her stay on campus. 

If the University determines that a Support Animal is a reasonable accommodation, the guest must then submit current vaccination and licensing documentation(if applicable).


Alternatives 2019 strives to meet individual accessibility needs to the best of our ability. On your registration form, please let us know of any particular needs you have. 

Some information about CUA and accessibility: 

  • CUA is on a Metro stop, and all Metro stops are ADA-accessible. The newly remodeled Metro stop is open; the pathway to CUA is completed; and signage directs people to the Pryz Center.  

  • All the dorms are equipped with elevators and snack machines. Reservations can be made for rooms with accessible showers. Please make those reservations early.

  • We will provide transportation to / from the dorms by golf carts or accessible vans for those who need it.

  • There are accessible, all-gender/family bathrooms in the conference space.

  • CUA offers affordable meal plans to fit various dietary needs, and there are a variety of restaurants and shops within walking distance.

  • We will conduct a multicultural/disability awareness training for CUA staff in advance of the conference. 

  • We will have a clear plan for reporting/responding to problems.

Washington Metro Accessibility

The Metro is one of the most accessible public transportation systems in the world. Each Metro station is equipped with an elevator to the train platforms and extra-wide fare gates for wheelchair users.

Nearly all of the Metrobuses have wheelchair lifts and kneel at the curb.

Travelers who have a disability can obtain a Metro Disability ID card that entitles them to discounted fares. (Call 202-962-1558, TTY 202-962-2033 at least 3 weeks in advance.) The Metro Disability ID card is valid on Metrobus, Metrorail, MARC train, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), Fairfax Connector, CUE bus, DC Circulator, The GEORGE bus, Arlington Transit (ART), and Amtrak. Montgomery County Ride On and Prince George’s County TheBus allow people with disabilities to ride free with a valid ID card. Read more about public transportation in Washington, DC.

For people who cannot use public transportation due to a disability, MetroAccess provides a shared-ride, door-to-door, paratransit service from 5:30 a.m. to midnight. Some late-night service is available until 3 a.m. on weekends. The MetroAccess customer service number is (301) 562-5360.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority publishes accessibility information on its website: You can also call (202) 962-1245 with questions about Metro services for travelers with disabilities.

Registration for Personal Aides

Personal aides who are attending solely to facilitate the attendance of another may register at a special $55 full-time rate. This personal attendant registration rate is only for those whose presence is required to assist an Alternatives attendee with disabilities or limitations that would preclude them from attending without assistance. Contact to arrange registration for a personal aide.

Planning for Accessibility

We recognize that some Alternatives participants may have needs that might not be apparent, such as those related to traumatic brain injury, some effects of chemotherapy, heart ailments, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome—also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID)—epilepsy, fibromyalgia, etc.

Alternatives can be a fatiguing experience for anyone. We encourage you to take care of yourself. If you need to take a break (or are feeling creative), you may take advantage of the art drop-in center; and if you are feeling some emotional distress, a comfort suite staffed by trained peer supporters is available. 

Please bring whatever makes you independent at home, such as assistive devices, including wheelchairs, walkers, and electric scooters. Bring comfortable walking shoes and mobility devices. 

Take a virtual tour of Catholic University’s campus. See what it’s like to travel across campus, tour a residence hall room, and more:

 If you have mobility or other physical access concerns, here are some places where you can rent assistive devices in Washington, DC:

Scooters and Wheelchair Rentals

  • Scootaround - (888) 441-7575. Scooter and wheelchair rentals available daily, weekly or longer periods of time. Take a tour of DC and the National Mall on a mobility scooter.

  • DC Tours - (888) 878-9870. Rent a mobility scooter or a manual wheelchair. Daily rates.

  • Bike and Roll - (202) 842-BIKE. Electric scooters and manual wheelchairs available. Two-hour, half-day, daily, and multi-day rentals.

  • Lenox Medical - (202) 387-1960. Provides short-term scooter, wheelchair and knee walker rentals to tourists and local residents.

  • Orthopaedic Mobility Rentals provides service daily, weekly or monthly rentals throughout the DC Metro area. Call 571-340-8961 for more information.

Wheelchair Accessible Van Rentals and Sales


Accessible Parking in Washington, DC

Two ADA-accessible parking meters are located on every block that has government operated parking meters. The DC Department of Motor Vehicles honors “handicap parking permits” from other states.

Cars bearing disabled parking tags may park in designated spaces, and park for double the posted time in metered or time-restricted spaces.


Accessible Passenger Loading Zones on the National Mall


Parking Garages Close to the National Mall With Accessible Parking Spaces

  • Colonial Parking in Capital Gallery (6th Street and Maryland Avenue, SW)

  • Colonial Parking in the Holiday Inn (6th Street and C Streets, SW)

  • Ronald Reagan Building (14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW)


Access to Washington, DC’s Major Attractions

While all of DC’s attractions and cultural venues are welcoming and accessible to visitors, the following attractions maintain dedicated web pages outlining their accessibility features, including ramps, sign language-interpreted tours, and wheelchairs. Visit for details, including downloadable maps that identify accessible entrances, curb cuts, designated parking, and more. For questions about programs for people with disabilities, call (202) 633-2921 or TTY (202) 633-4353.

Click on an attraction name to learn more. 

On the National Mall and in the memorial parks, you’ll find permit-only parking adjacent to the FDR Memorial. A limited number of wheelchairs are available for loan at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. You can reach the interiors of the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial using elevators located in the memorials’ ground-level lobbies.

Accessibility Guidelines

Did you know that more than 10% of people attending Alternatives require some sort of accommodation to make their Alternatives experience successful, even joyful? Accessibility Services provides some equipment and services to a variety of people including those with disabilities, health care concerns, and elder members.

During your time at Alternatives, you are likely to meet someone with a disability and, depending on your own experience, may find this tip sheet helpful. Some of these tips won’t be relevant, but know that you can bring this back to your networks as a tool. The most important tip, be yourself!

People in the disability community identify in a number of ways. Some people prefer the term "person with disability" to emphasize that they are a person first, not their disability. Others feel that being disabled is an important part of their identity and prefer identity-first language (i.e. "disabled person"). It's a good idea to ask people how they prefer to identify. In our materials, we use both person-first and identity-first language.

When you are with a person who is blind or has vision problems:

  • When you are greeting a person who is blind or visually impaired, use their name and don’t forget to identify yourself. For example, “Hi Sam, it’s Joe.”

  • Speak directly, not through an intermediary. Use a natural conversational volume and tone.

  • It is really okay to use say things like "See you soon." Feel comfortable using everyday words relating to vision like “look,” “see,” “watching TV.”

  • During a conversation, a person who is blind or visually impaired may not be able to see the expression on your face, so give verbal feedback to let them know you’re listening.

  • Do not take care of tasks for a person that they would normally do. First ask if they need help, and be guided by the person's response to your offer.

  • If you see someone who is blind or visually impaired about to encounter a dangerous situation, be calm and clear about your warning. For example, if they are about to bump into a pole, calmly and clearly call out, “Wait there for a moment; there is a pole in front of you.”

  • Never hold a person's arm while walking. Let the person hold your arm. This will let them walk slightly behind you, and the motion of your body will tell them what to expect. Offer verbal cues as to what is ahead when you approach steps, curbs, escalators, or doors.

  • When you leave, say you are leaving. Never leave a person who is totally blind or severely visually impaired in an open area. Instead, lead them to the side of a room, to a chair, or some landmark.

  • Never distract, pet, or offer food to a guide dog without permission from the owner. The dog is working and must not be petted without permission.

When you are with a person who is deaf or has hearing problems:

  • Look directly at the person you are speaking to. If you are working with a sign language interpreter, talk directly to the person who is deaf, not to the interpreter. While working, the interpreter is not a participant in the conversation, but a transmitter for the person who is deaf.

  • Don’t cover your mouth, and don’t create shadow on your face by standing with your back or side to a bright light or window.

  • Speak at a slow to moderate rate and don’t use exaggerated lip movement. Some people’s voices are easier to understand. Women with soft voices can be more difficult to understand.

  • If there is a misunderstanding about something you’ve said, repeat the same idea using different words.

  • Keep paper and pen nearby. If communication is difficult, feel comfortable resorting to writing key words or brief phrases – and writing phone numbers or addresses is often a good idea.

  • Don’t shout – it won’t help. Hearing aids make sounds louder, not clearer.

  • To get a person's attention, gently tap the Deaf/hard of hearing person on the arm or elbow and make sure they are looking at you before you speak.

  • Be aware that being able to hear conversation in a crowd and/or with background noise is most difficult.

When you are with a person who has a mobility impairment:

  • Look at and talk directly to everyone with whom we converse.

  • Be at eye level with everyone with whom you speak, if possible.

  • Ask how you can best help when assisting a wheelchair user to go up or down a curb.

  • Move crutches, walkers, canes, or wheelchairs only with the permission of the user. Return the devices as soon as possible.

  • Ask if and how you can help in a buffet line.

  • Respect everyone’s individual space. Do not lean on someone’s wheelchair or scooter; or sit in an unoccupied scooter/wheelchair.

  • Allow children to ask questions and allow the person being questioned to answer.

  • Ask “May I help?” when wanting to be helpful. And if given permission to do so, ask “How may I help?”

  • People who use wheelchairs are “wheelchair users,” not “confined to a wheelchair.”

  • Learn the location of wheelchair-accessible ramps, rest rooms, elevators, doors, water fountains, and telephones.

When you are with a person who has an invisible disability: 

  • Always assume there is a person with a hidden disability in a group. So always say “Rise if you are willing and able,” and always plan quick stretch breaks every 30-45 minutes.

  • If a person says they cannot do something, don’t try to coax or cajole or convince them to try anyway.

  • Invite partial participation, and ask what you can do to make participation possible.

  • A hearing impairment is a hidden disability; always assume there is a person in your group with hearing loss so face your audience and use the microphone provided. It’s about their hearing, not your ability to project!

  • Don’t judge another person’s pain or limitations; accept as true what the person tells you.

When you are with a person who is experiencing emotional distress:

  • Respect people’s preferences about how they would like to be approached when they are in distress. It’s good to offer support if someone wants it, but if the person would prefer to be left alone that’s okay too.

  • Use an open, caring, accepting manner; find some common ground on which to interact

  • Be genuine; people pick up on a false or demeaning approach.

  • Try to understand what is being said from the person's perspective; be comfortable even if you feel this person’s mind is working in a way that is different from yours.

  • Stay calm, keep eye contact and retain a calm facial expression and body manner; what is most important is to communicate that you care.

  • Use sentences and words that are short, simple and uncomplicated. If something you say is not understood, repeat the message, using other words.

  • Be a good listener. Don't criticize, lecture, or argue. Try to be supportive. Treat the person with respect.

  • If the person is angry, don’t take it personally, and don’t approach or touch the person without his or her request or permission.

  • If the person is willing or indicates a need, offer to get the help of a friend or trained peer support person.

  • Focus on the person's strengths and what has been accomplished, and treat this in a positive way.

When you are with a person who has multiple chemical sensitivities:

  • Choose personal products that are fragrance-free. Be aware that there are hidden, long-lasting fragrances in detergents, fabric softeners, new clothing, deodorants, tissues, toilet paper, potpourris, scented candles, hair sprays, magazines, hand lotions, disposable diapers, and dishwashing liquids.

  • Use only unscented soap in restrooms, and carefully wrap and dispose of chemical air “fresheners.”

  • Designate fragrance-free seating sections for events.

  • Designate smoking areas away from buildings so people don’t have to pass through smoke when entering, or have smoke waft in through doorways or windows.

  • Adopt a policy of using fragrance-free cleaning products.

  • Provide adequate ventilation; clean furnace filters frequently.

  • Make sure toxic substances are labeled, tightly sealed, and stored in a separate safe area.