Equal Access: UW Computer Labs

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As increasing numbers of students with disabilities attend the University of Washington (UW), the accessibility of computing facilities is critical. The vision is simply equal access. Everyone who needs to use your lab should be able to do so comfortably.

To make your lab accessible, employ principles of universal design (UD). Universal design means that rather than designing your facility for the average user, you design it for people with a broad range of abilities. Keep in mind that individuals using your lab may have learning disabilities or visual, speech, hearing, and mobility impairments.

As you plan services in your computing facility, consider all of your potential users, including those with disabilities. Make sure that everyone can

Also, make sure that staff are trained to support people with disabilities and have a plan in place to respond to specific requests in a timely manner. With these key issues in mind, you can make sure that all qualified students can access your lab.

The following access guidelines provide minimum standards for computer labs at the UW.

Minimum Access Requirements

  1. Develop policies and procedures that assure access to lab facilities, computers, and electronic resources for people with disabilities and demand that accessibility be considered in the procurement process.
  2. Make sure pathways and entrances to the building are wheelchair-accessible and doorway openings are at least thirty-two inches wide and doorway thresholds are no higher than 1/2 inch.
  3. Make aisles wide and clear for wheelchair users. Remove protruding objects for the safety of those who are visually impaired.
  4. In key lab documents, include a statement about your commitment to universal access and procedures for requesting disability-related accommodations, such as, "Our computer lab is committed to making its resources available to all qualified students. Contact lab staff to report access barriers. Contact lab staff or Disabled Student Services (543-8924) to request specific accommodations."
  5. Provide printed resources in a location that can be reached by a wheelchair user.
  6. Provide an adjustable table for each type of workstation in your lab.
  7. For signs, use high contrast and large print.
  8. Make key documents available in formats accessible to those who have low vision or who are blind (e.g., large print, Braille, electronic).
  9. For lab resources on the web, employ principles of UD and follow campus accessibility guidelines.1 Adhere to the federal government's web accessibility standards.2
  10. Label computers with accessible features in large print and Braille.
  11. Although a lab cannot be expected to have specialized equipment for every type of disability on hand, staff should make equipment available that they anticipate will be used or is available at relatively low cost. Provide
    • a wrist rest and forearm rest;
    • a trackball, joystick, or other mouse alternative;
    • software to modify keyboard response such as sticky keys, repeat rate, and keystroke delay (options often provided with computer's operating system); and
    • large print keytop labels, screen enlargement software, and a large monitor (at least seventeen inches).
  12. Develop a procedure to ensure a quick response to requests for assistive technology that you do not currently have available or for other disability-related accommodations. The UW Access Technology Center3 provides consultation (atl@uw.edu).
  13. Train staff on accessible products available in the lab, appropriate communication with students who have disabilities (see Communication Hints at the end of this publication), and procedures for addressing requests for accommodations.

Once a lab is established or if it has greater requirements, consider adding:


Assistive technology and UD of electronic resources4, videos, publications, and web resources.

Equal Access: Computer Labs5 is a video presentation and publication about making computer labs accessible.

UW Guidelines for Making Webpages Accessible.6

Cited Web Resources

  1. www.uw.edu/computing/accessible/
  2. www.access-board.gov/sec508/guide/
  3. www.uw.edu/computing/atl/
  4. www.uw.edu/doit/Resources/technology.html
  5. www.uw.edu/doit/Video/equal.html
  6. www.uw.edu/computing/accessible/web.html

About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #HRD-0227995. Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Copyright © 2012, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.