How can postsecondary technology-enhanced learning environments be made accessible?

DO-IT Factsheet #1156

As technology plays an increasing role in K-12, postsecondary, and adult education, educational entities are faced with assuring the accessibility of more technological resources, including computing labs and computer-assisted classrooms. In the higher education environment, colleges historically have addressed technology accessibility by setting up small, centralized assistive technology (AT) labs, often within the context of a disability services office. Many of these AT labs, however, are set up independently of the centrally supported computing environment, and, consequently, students who use them are unable to access the full array of applications and resources or to network with discipline-specific help staff or nondisabled peers. Computer-assisted classrooms present additional challenges for the centralized AT model, since students need access to the computing environment within the real-time context of class work and discussion.

Building an accessible technology-enhanced learning program requires an examination of the environments in which students work and consideration of how those environments might be made accessible to all students, including students with disabilities. The following is a sample process:

Additional resources are available to assist in planning accessible computer labs. For example, DO-IT's document Equal Access: Computer Labs [1] includes a checklist covering building access and physical space, lab staff, printed materials, computers, and software and other electronic resources. Also, the Trace Research and Development Center's document Checklists for Implementing Accessibility in Computer Laboratories at Colleges and Universities [2], although written specifically for 1991 technology, contains many general ideas and strategies that can be applied to today's technology-enhanced learning environments.