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Computer Labs FAQ

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Q. UNIVERSAL DESIGN: What is universal design?

A. Universal design is defined by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University as the "design of products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." Universal design increases access to environments, communication and information, and consumer products while decreasing the need for special accommodations. In the case of a computer lab, universal design includes making the facility, computers, software, and printed resources accessible to visitors with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

Q. ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS: How do I know if my facility meets ADA "requirements"?

A. The American with Disabilities Act (1990) requires that individuals with disabilities be provided with access to the same programs and services that are offered to individuals without disabilities. In the case of a computer lab this means that whatever computers, software, and services you support should be made accessible to people with mobility, sensory, and other types of disabilities. Various accessibility guidelines and design specifications have been established. For example, architectural access guidelines based on the Americans with Disabilities Act have been established by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). Guidelines for Web site accessibility have been developed by The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) and the Access Board developed standards for federal agency Web sites.

Q. ARCHITECTURAL MODIFICATIONS: The student computer lab building is not wheelchair accessible. What should we do?

A. Consult with your campus facility management and disabled student services offices to develop a plan for making the facility accessible or relocating it. Temporary solutions will need to be considered, such as relocating a computer system if the lab is inaccessible to a current student.

Q. STAFF TRAINING: How do I train my computer lab staff on disability accommodations and adaptive technology?

A. Contact the campus disability support services office for information on general training on working with students who have disabilities. Lab staff should be trained in how to support students with disabilities, use the available technology, and seek support if additional technology or resources are needed. Consider sending one or more staff members to adaptive technology conferences such as CSUN. Consult the resources page of The Faculty Room for additional on-line information. Some campuses also have an adaptive technology specialist that may be able to provide technical training.

Q. PURCHASING EQUIPMENT: What if the computer lab does not have the specialized hardware or software someone needs?

A. This issue should be addressed in your lab policies and procedures. Outline the steps your staff should take when a student requests equipment or software that is not currently available in your lab. Work with the student and the disabled student services office to create a timely solution. Include in your general lab publications and your Web site a statement about your commitment to providing computer access to all students, as well as the procedures for requesting disability-related accommodations.

For answers to more questions, search the Knowledge Base.