Checklist for Making Projects Accessible to All Students


[Picture of students at the Pacific Science Center.]

The following paragraphs provide suggestions for making NSF-funded and other STEM project resources and activities welcoming and accessible to all participants, including those with disabilities. The content is adapted from the DO-IT publication titled Equal Access: Universal Design of Your Project which can be found at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/design.html.

Basically, there are two approaches to access:

  1. accommodations, and
  2. universal design.

Accommodations include alternate formats, assistive technology, and other adjustments for specific students. Universal design is "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design" (The Center for Universal Design, http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/).

Universal design means that rather than designing for the average user, you design for people with a broad range of characteristics. Potential participants include people with a variety of native languages, men, women, people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and those who have learning disabilities and/or visual, speech, hearing, and/or mobility impairments. Make sure that project staff and volunteers are trained to support people with disabilities, respond to specific requests for accommodations in a timely manner, and know who to contact regarding disability-related issues. The universal design of your project offerings will make everyone feel welcome and minimize the need for special accommodations for individual participants.

Examples of questions to address in order to make your facility, information resources, and project activities universally accessible are listed below. The complete list can be found within the publication noted above.

Planning and Evaluation

Consider diversity issues as you plan and evaluate services.

Information Resources

Assure that publications and websites welcome a diverse group of prospective members and that the content is accessible to people with a variety of abilities.

Project and Activity Facilities

Assure physical access, comfort, and safety within an environment that is welcoming to visitors with a variety of abilities, racial/ethnic backgrounds, genders, and ages.

Computers, Software, and Assistive Technology

[Picture of a scholar and a staff member.]

If computers are used in sponsored programs, make sure that the technology is accessible to all visitors. The organization will not need to have special technology on hand for every type of disability but should have available commonly used assistive technology and have a system in place for timely response to participant requests for assistive technology. Purchasing the following products for computer workstations is a good way to start.

Staff

Make sure staff members are prepared to work with all program participants.