top of page

Graduation Toolkit

Every graduate deserves a safe and accessible

celebration of their accomplishments.

Colleges owe disabled and high risk graduates equitable access to the commencement celebrations we worked hard for –– COVID risk is a barrier to that access.

With 3 different respiratory diseases (COVID, RSV, and Flu) surging across the United States, it is critical that colleges and graduation event hosts use as many layered COVID protections as possible.

What should our schools be doing to make graduation safer? 

  • Require masks for everyone at the ceremony at all times

  • Use good ventilation 

  • Reduce capacity and create distance    

  • Trace infections from the event

  • Provide meaningfully inclusive hybrid and online options to celebrate. 

  • See our detailed checklist of COVID protections, disability access measures and ideas for alternative celebrations at this link:

Can I ask for COVID-related disability accommodations to give me an equal opportunity to attend graduation?

Yes, under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act colleges and universities must provide ensure that their programs, services, and activities are accessible to students with disabilities as well as any disabled family members – including equal opportunity to participate in graduation ceremonies.

Some reasonable modifications that schools might consider to allow disabled students and family members the opportunity to participate in safe, integrated graduation events during the coronavirus pandemic include:

  • Universal masking requirements

  • Physical distancing

  • Mandatory testing

  • Ensuring adequate ventilation
  • Alternate event formats (ie. hybrid-virtual graduation)


How do I decide if I should go to commencement events? 


Questions to think about:

  • Are masks required for everyone? Indoors or outdoors?

  • How many people are attending? How long is the event?

  • What are the benefits of going to the event compared to the risks? Can you have an alternative celebration for yourself or the graduates in your life? 

  • What aspect of graduation is most meaningful or important to you? Can that be recreated in a safer way?

  • Are there accommodations you can get that lower your risk?

  • Is there time to advocate for better protections for the ceremony as a whole?

    • Final decisions on precautions are often made last minute – it’s worth a shot!

  • Consider how the risk of this event can impact other people in your life too, and make your plans with that in mind. 

What is the current COVID situation right now? 


We are experiencing a surge of 3 different respiratory viruses across the nation (COVID, RSV, and flu). Several different metrics are showing the winter COVID surge starting to ramp up nationwide – case rates, test positivity, hospitalizations, and wastewater levels are all on the rise. This time last year as we headed into the Omicron surge, colleges responded to surges with more protections than we have now. Those protections are needed again.

  • COVID spreads through the air, and particles of the virus can stay in the air for hours inside a venue. The more people, crowding, and time spent in that crowd –– the more virus particles you may be exposed to. 

  • Young adults are still vulnerable to serious COVID outcomes, COVID was the 4th leading cause of death in ages 15-24 in 2021.

  • Everyone is at risk for Long COVID, not just high risk people. Nearly 1 in 5 COVID cases result in Long COVID.

  • Most people are not up-to-date on vaccines – individual protection against complications and hospitalizations is waning. Only 14.7% of US adults aged 18 or older have received a bivalent booster – meaning 85.3% have not and are very under-protected from COVID complications.

  • A vaccinated campus population is not a substitute for safety measures to prevent transmission. Vaccines alone do not prevent spread of COVID or give us enough protection against infection itself. 

Where can I find data and keep track of trends?

Wastewater monitoring: BioBot (virus concentration), CDC (change in levels)

Cases: New York Times, (national & state), Johns Hopkins (state trends)

Test positivity: New York Times, Walgreens COVID-19 index

Hospitals: New York Times (hospitalizations), Johns Hopkins (hospital capacity)

COVID-19 Data Explorer: Our World in Data

Influenza map: CDC

*When looking at COVID case data, remember that cases are under-reported as  testing has shifted to at-home self tests, while free testing resources have become more limited, and less places require testing. When less places require routine testing, we miss asymptomatic cases and people who may not otherwise report their test results.

What makes graduation especially risky? 

Graduation ceremonies, without layered COVID protections, are likely to become superspreader events. Superspreader events in the news like San Mateo High School prom, the White House Correspondents Dinner, the Gridiron Dinner had

fewer guests than many graduation ceremonies will.

How can I protect myself and my guests at graduation events?


  • Your best protection is a well-fitted high filtration mask (N95, KN95, KF94, FFP2, or FFP3) and eye coverage (ie. goggles or face shield) worn at all times.

  • Masking is important for outdoor graduations too, the fresh air lowers the risk but not to zero. You can still get COVID both indoors and outdoors.

  • Take pictures outside!

Class of 2022 has worked so hard to get this far, it’s our job as a community to give them the safe, accessible graduation they deserve!

bottom of page