Creating accessible laboratory practicals

Practical classes and laboratories can create barriers for some disabled students and finding ways to overcome these barriers is not always easy. On this page we offer some good practice guidelines that may assist lecturers and demonstrators to meet the needs of disabled students, and some adaptations that disabled students may require.

  • Consider meeting a disabled student prior to classes starting to show them around the lab, giving details of the type of equipment to be used and the tasks to be performed. This will enable the student to determine the support they will need during these practical classes.
  • Consider what the core elements of the lab work are. This will help you and the student to decide what adaptations may be necessary.
  • Remember that there may be adaptive technology available which will assist the student in practical classes. Talk to the student about this or suggest they contact the disability advisor. The lab technicians may also have some helpful suggestions.
  • A disabled student may have a laboratory assistant who may (under instruction from the student) perform certain tasks that the student is unable to execute. The laboratory assistant is there to facilitate student learning.
  • For students who are unable to perform certain lab activities, there may be alternative forms of learning that they can access, e.g. computer simulations.
  • Consider giving laboratory protocols and experiment details to students in advance. This may enable students to pre-empt any difficulties; it also allows dyslexic students to familiarise themselves with the material in advance and reduces the pressure on them to read and understand information quickly, in the lab.
  • It is good practice to give instructions in both a written and verbal format; this allows all students to refer back to the instructions while they are working, but also helps to ensure that those with a print disability have access to them. (A 'print disability' is a disability that makes it difficult for someone to read or access standard print. The term usually refers to students with vision impairments and those with dyslexia.)
  • A disabled person in a lab is not a health and safety risk per se. Evaluate any possible risks and, if necessary, seek guidance from the disability advisor and the occupational health team.
  • In case of an emergency, have an evacuation plan in place that meets the needs of disabled students. It may be necessary to locate a 'safe area' in which a student can wait until they can be evacuated. The Safety Office will be able to provide information to help you.