Checklist for Making Informal Learning Accessible to Students with Disabilities

A student in a wheelchair looks at brochures in a display.
An activity that can lead to more inclusive informal learning.

Name and location reviewed:
Reviewer name(s):
Contact name, phone, email:

Students with disabilities face access challenges to typical informal learning settings. Access barriers may prevent a student from gaining knowledge and fully participating in various educational activities.

Accommodations and Universal Design

There are two approaches to making academic activities accessible to students with disabilities— accommodations and universal design. Accommodation alternate format, assistive technology, or other adjustment for a specific student with a disability. Universal design aspires to create products and environments that are usable by everyone (including people with disabilities), to the greatest extent possible, thereby minimizing the need for accommodations for individuals in the future.

For example, if a science facility contains an adjustable-height work surface or work surfaces of different heights, an accommodation will not be needed for a visitor who uses a wheelchair that is too high for standard-height workstations. This workstation may also be comfortable for a student who needs to remain seated because of a health impairment or someone who is very tall or short in stature.

Making accommodations is reactive, whereas universal design is proactive. It is likely that some universal design strategies are already in place in the facility/program you visit and that others could be implemented with little effort.

Accessibility Review Instructions

Some universal design strategies may already be in use at the location you are reviewing and others could be implemented soon. The following checklist will help you identify both. For each of the strategies listed, indicate the following in the Status section of the checklist.

  • N/A—if the suggestion is not applicable to the engineering lab being reviewed 
  • Done—if the strategy is already in place 
  • [date] —for items that will be implemented by a specific target date/month/year
  • TBC—for strategies to be considered for future implementation 
  • Other—with an explanation



Planning, Policies, and Evaluation



Are people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, men and women, young and old, first generation, individuals with low income, and other groups represented in the project planning processes in numbers proportional to those of the whole campus or community?



Do policies and procedures ensure access to facilities, events, and information resources for people with disabilities?



Are disability-related access issues and other diversity issues addressed in data collection, evaluation plans, and instruments?



Are issues related to the inclusion of participants with disabilities addressed in grant proposals, perhaps by partnering with an organization with expertise in this area?



Information Resources and Technology



Does the website and key publications include a statement about commitment to access and procedures for requesting disability-related accommodations?



Do pictures in publications and online include people with diverse characteristics with respect to race, gender, age, and disability?



Are all printed publications available (immediately or in a timely manner) in alternate formats such as braille, large print, and accessibly-designed electronic text?



Are key documents provided in languages other than English?



Are printed materials within easy reach from a variety of heights and without furniture blocking access?



Do electronic resources and web pages adhere to accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines ( For example, are text alternatives provided for graphic images and is the website usable by keyboard alone?



Do videos developed or used in the facility or online have captions? Are they audio-described?



Is an adjustable-height table available for each type of workstation to assist participants who use wheelchairs or are small or large in stature?



Do you provide adequate work space for both left- and right-handed users?



Is software to enlarge screen images and a large monitor available to assist people with low vision and learning disabilities?



Do you provide a trackball to be used by someone who has difficulty controlling a traditional mouse?



Are procedures in place for a timely response to requests for assistive technology?



Facilities and Offerings



Are all spaces welcoming, accessible, comfortable, and safe to a variety of abilities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, and ages?



Are there parking areas, pathways, and entrances to the building that are wheelchair accessible and clearly identified?



Are all levels of the facility connected via an accessible route of travel?



Are aisles kept wide and clear of obstructions for the safety of users who have mobility or visual impairments?



Are wheelchair-accessible and child-friendly restrooms with well-marked signs available in or near the facility?



Is at least part of a service counter at a height accessible from a seated position?



Are food and retail spaces accessible? (easy to enter and navigate, counters reachable from a seated position)



Are there benches and seating areas available throughout the facility?



Are there ample high-contrast, large-print directional signs to and throughout the facility, including directions to accessible routes? When appropriate, are these signs marked in braille?






Are staff members familiar with the availability and use of the Telecommunications Relay Service, assistive technology, and alternate document formats?



Are staff members aware of accessibility options (e.g., enlarged text feature) included in computer operating systems and of assistive technology available in the facility?



Do staff members know how to respond to requests for disability-related accommodations, such as sign language interpreters?



Are staff and contractors in specific assignment areas (e.g., web page development, video creation) knowledgeable about accessibility requirements and considerations?



Are staff members aware of  issues related to communicating with participants who have disabilities? Do staff deliver conference presentations and exhibits that are accessible to all participants?


Overall, how accessible do you think this facility is for people with the disabilities listed below? Explain your responses. In the second column summarize the most important recommendations for making the facility/program more welcoming and accessible to people with these types of disabilities.

Disability Type and Access Issues

Accessibility Recommendations

Blind or low vision


Deaf or hard of hearing


Mobility impairment


Learning or other invisible disability


Other disability


Other comments about this checklist, this facility/program, and/or your overall experience:



Adapted from the publication Equal Access: Universal Design of Informal Learning.

About AccessISL

AccessISL supports efforts to develop a capacity building model for making informal STEM learning (ISL) opportunities more welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities. The project also prepares the University of Washington for the submission of a larger accessible ISL grant as collaborators develop and test model interventions, more fully develop replication steps, and gain insight from both people with disabilities and practitioners.

For further information, to be placed on the 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) (toll free voice/TTY)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane
206-221-4171 (fax)
Sheryl Burgstahler, PI
Meena Selvakumar, Co-PI
Scott Bellman, Project Director


This publication is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant #DRL-1906147). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding sources.

Copyright © 2021 University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.