Equal Access: Universal Design of Computer Labs
[Narrator] On campus, computers are a fact of life. Good education today requires access to technology.
[Narrator] In planning a computer lab, universal design is crucial. That means thinking about every potential visitor's abilities and disabilities.
[Dan] It's important to think about universal design early in the design process, if that's possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it clear that equitable access is a requirement.
[Narrator] Visitors to your lab may have obvious disabilities such as blindness, hearing impairments, or mobility impairments. Or they might have disabilities that are not apparent, such as low vision or learning disabilities.
[Karalee] As we look at all of the things that we're going to need for a lab, we need to consider everybody that's going to be using it, or everybody that's potentially going to be using it.
[Narrator] By planning ahead, you can make sure everyone has a positive experience in your lab. The first step is getting there.
[Narrator] If they can't find the lab, they can't use the lab. Eliminate those external barriers. Consider these examples:
[Narrator] Once they've found you, visitors should feel comfortable using the lab. Staff members may need some communication training, even when they mean well. Don't do it this way.
[Visitor] Hi. Could you show me where the voice output computers are?
[Librarian] Oh, sure. They're right over there.
[Librarian] Will she be needing any help?
[Librarian] Oh, let me help you.
[Librarian] Okay, well, there must be something I can do.
[Visitor] Oh, no, I'm fine.
[Narrator] Obviously, there are better ways to communicate. Be aware of people's disabilities in ways that are helpful, but don't treat the people as helpless. When you're working with someone who has a disability, keep in mind that you're dealing with a person first.
[Librarian] Well, it sounds like you have taken on quite an adventure.
[Narrator] Talk directly to that person and find out if assistance is desired before giving it.
[Librarian] Hi. May I help you find something?
[Visitor] I'm looking for a computer that I could use with one hand.
[Librarian] We have those.
[Librarian] Follow me, right this way.
[Visitor] You do?
[Visitor] Thank you very much.
[Narrator] Pay attention to what the person really needs.
[Visitor] Hi, could you show me where the voice output computers are?
[Librarian] Yes, they're just to your left. Would you like me to show you?
[Visitor] Oh, sure. Thanks.
[Dan] The main thing to remember is that people with disabilities are perfectly capable of asking for help if they need it. So don't just plunge in and offer help unless it's really apparent that somebody is struggling. It's usually better to wait until they ask for assistance.
[Narrator] Now for the lab itself. Look at the physical details for users. Remember that people with various abilities will be using the room. For example:
[Damien] We really try to focus on making wide and open pathways from our access points, particularly for students that have physical disabilities.
[Staff person] Hi, may I help you?
[Visitor] Yes. Do you have any computers on adjustable tables?
[Staff person] Yes, we do.
[Damien] We try to make sure that there's a lot of clearance on desk heights, so that students can get underneath things, and that there's generally kind of a large work space.
[Staff person] Okay. And you can control it yourself...
[Narrator] Another thing to consider is the accessibility of your lab handouts or documents. Be prepared to provide lab documents in large print and Braille. Put them in an accessible format on your website. Internet access will make those documents available to all lab users, including students who are blind and using speech output systems to read the text.
[Dan] Put it under the screen, and you can change the size with the center knob.
[Narrator] If you provide a magnifying system, a visitor with low vision can read your printed material. A large magnifying glass is a lower-cost option. Design the documents themselves in a clear and consistent format. This is especially helpful to people with learning disabilities. Finally, be sure that printed materials are within easy reach from a variety of heights. And that furniture doesn't block access. Once everything is in place, think about people actually using the computers.
[Computer] Another place to begin is C&C's Computer Training..
[Narrator] Plan on having adaptive technology available, but don't worry about trying to anticipate every possible request.
[Stuart] People mostly are interested in the adjustable table, on our special keyboards, and on Braille production.
[Dan] The main thing is to have the basics that most people are going to need. You don't have to have every little thing that's out there.
[Dan] Can you find the message area?
[Visitor] Yeah, it's right here.
[Dan] It's important for staff to know about the basics and to be able to talk to the clients about what those basics are. And if a student is in need of a more involved accommodation, then those staff need to know where to go to make those additional arrangements.
[Narrator] Keep it simple at first, adding new technology as requested. For people with visual impairments, you might want to start with:
[Narrator] For people with mobility impairments, you could provide:
[Narrator] For all users, but especially those with learning disabilities, grammar and spell checkers should be available. And finally, be sure that Web pages and other electronic resources offered in your lab are designed to be accessible to people with a variety of disabilities. For example, provide text alternatives to graphic images.
[Sheryl] Almost every unit on campus now has a website to document their services and provide electronic resources. And most of these people who are developing these websites don't have the expertise on how to make them accessible. And so in most cases it's useful for that person to work with the central computing organization staff to develop strategies for making an accessible website.
[Narrator] The key to all of this is simply equal access. Everyone who needs to use your lab should be able to do so comfortably. As you plan services in your computing facility, consider all of your potential users, including those with disabilities. Make sure everyone feels welcome. Ask yourself if visitors can:
[Stuart] Is everything working properly?
[Narrator] Make sure also 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 those key issues in mind, you'll be able to make your lab accessible to everyone. To get started:
[Narrator] To help you in your plans, there are many resources for locating and selecting assistive technology, for designing accessible Web pages, and for dealing with other lab accessibility issues.