ATC - Equal Access: UW Computer Labs
As increasing numbers of students with disabilities attend the University of Washington (UW) and as more professors use information technology in their courses, assuring the accessibility of computing facilities and resources for all qualified students is critical. In simple terms, everyone eligible to use your computer lab should be able to do so comfortably, effectively, and independently.
To make your lab accessible to all students, employ principles of universal design. Universal design means that, rather than design your facility and services for the average user, design it for people with a broad range of abilities. Keep in mind that faculty, students, and staff using your lab may have learning disabilities or visual, speech, hearing, and mobility impairments. Make sure all potential visitors can:
- get to the facility and maneuver within it.
- access printed materials and electronic resources.
- make use of equipment and software.
Be sure that staff are trained to support people with disabilities and have a plan in place to respond in a timely manner to specific accommodation requests.
Minimum Access Guidelines
The following suggestions provide guidelines for making computer labs at the University of Washington accessible. For further information consult the UW Access Technology Center in Mary Gates Hall room 064, email@example.com, http://www.washington.edu/itconnect/accessibility/atl/.
__ Assure that there is a direct accessible line of travel from the entrance of the building to the lab and that accessible routes/signage can be clearly viewed.
__ Know the location of other accessible features within your building and near your area such as accessible restrooms, building entrances and parking.
__ Make sure pathways and entrances to the building are wheelchair-accessible, doorway openings are at least 32 inches wide, and doorway thresholds are no higher than 1/2 inch. Consider providing automatic door openers for large or heavy doors. Consult the Disability Resources for Students Office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 3-8924) for more information on architectural requirements for accessibility.
__ Make aisles wide and clear for wheelchair users. Remove protruding objects for the safety of those who are visually impaired.
Policy and Procedures
__ Develop written policies and procedures that assure access to lab facilities, computers, and electronic resources for people with disabilities.
__ In key lab documents, include a statement about your commitment to universal access and describe procedures for requesting disability-related accommodations An example of statement wording is: "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 Disabilty Resources for Students (543-8924) to request specific accommodations."
__ Require that software vendors describe the accessibility of their products during the procurement process and, when possible, purchase software with accessible features.
__ Develop a procedure to assure a quick response to requests for adaptive technology that you do not currently have available or for other disability-related accommodations. The UW Access Technology Center (email@example.com or 5-4144) provides consultation regarding adaptive technology; Disability Resources for Students (firstname.lastname@example.org or 3-8924) provides consultation on other disability-related accommodations.
__ Train staff on built-in accessible features of products as well as adaptive technology available in the lab and for appropriate communication with students who have disabilities (see Helpful Communication Hints), and on procedures for addressing requests for accommodations.
Computer/ Laboratory Software
__ Provide printed resources in a location that can be reached by a wheelchair user.
__ Provide at least one adjustable-height table for each type of workstation in your lab.
__ Use high contrast and large print on signs.
__ For lab resources on the World Wide Web, employ principles of universal design and apply the campus accessibility guidelines provided at http://www.washington.edu/itconnect/accessibility which suggest that you begin by adhering to web accessibility standards of the federal government at http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/guide/.
__ 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 and/or is available at relatively low cost. Provide:
- a trackball or other mouse alternative;
- simple text-to-speech software;
- software to modify keyboard response such as sticky keys, repeat rate, and keystroke delay (these options often provided with modern operating systems such as Windows XP and Mac OS X); and
- large print keytop labels, basic screen enlargement software, and a large monitor (at least 17 inches).
Consult the ATC for information regarding access technology.
__ Label computers with accessible features; use large print and Braille for the labels.
Once a lab is established or has greater user requirements, consider adding additional software and/or hardware such as:
- a scanner and optical character recognition (OCR) software;
- a CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) to enlarge text of printed documents;
- a Braille embosser and Braille translation software;
- word prediction software;
- additional alternative pointing devices;
- alternatives to standard keyboards such as mini keyboards, extended keyboards, a head pointing system, a switch based interface, one-handed keyboards, or virtual keyboard software;
- screen-reading software;,
- speech input software; and
- hearing protectors available for users who are distracted by noise in the facility.
Contact the Access Technology Center for information about commonly used and supported products.
UW Guidelines for Making Web Pages Accessible can be found at http://www.washington.edu/computing/accessibility/.
The Access Technology Center (ATC) at the UW provides services and consulting in providing access to computing for people with disabilities. Its web site is at http://www.washington.edu/itconnect/accessibility/atl/.
A video presentation and publication about making computer labs accessible, entitled Equal Access: Computer Labs, can be found at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Video/equal.html.
Videos, publications, and web resources about adaptive technology and universal design of electronic resources can be found at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Resources/technology.html.