Chapter 14.5: Academic support - Courses involving laboratory work

14.5.1. Basic principles

  • Traditional laboratory environment and work are often inaccessible to many students with disabilities. The inaccessibility deprives many students with disabilities of the equal opportunities of actively and fully participating in laboratory work to gain and demonstrate science knowledge.
  • Do not immediately assume the stereotypical inability for students with disabilities to engage in laboratory work or exclude them from the laboratory work at the outset.
  • Establish an accessible laboratory environment.
  • Course instructors and laboratory technicians discuss with students with disabilities and identify any potential danger. Work out safety precautions and a laboratory emergency evacuation plan.

14.5.2. Active participation of students with disabilities in laboratory work

  • Ensure that students with disabilities have active and essential roles in any hands-on laboratory work to benefit from the actual laboratory work to the fullest extent.
  • Some students with disabilities may work with the laboratory assistants. Students with disabilities can give instructions to the laboratory assistants to participate in the laboratory class, for example:
    • Sighted laboratory assistants can describe the changes in the chemicals and students with visual impairment can enter the observations in the computer data file.
    • Students with mobility disability can describe what chemicals to add and what type of test tube to use and laboratory assistants perform the actions accordingly.
  • Reasonable accommodations should be made to allow guide dog access to the laboratory. Potential exposure of the dog to hazardous chemicals and possible protection should be considered.

14.5.3. Essential design of laboratory environment and apparatus

  • A Braille name tag on the laboratory coat and apparatus would also be useful to students with visual impairment.
  • The aisles should be clear and wide enough for students who use wheelchairs to maneuver their wheelchairs in the laboratory.
  • Tactile floor map showing the setting of the laboratory is useful to the orientation of students with visual impairment.
  • Provide adjustable laboratory workstations that allow certain degree of flexibility.
  • Benches with adjustable height and removable cabinet doors ensure a clear knee space for students who use wheelchairs to approach the workstations.
  • Provide laboratory facilities, devices and apparatus that are adaptive and more accessible for students with different disabilities.
  • Some laboratory equipment with audible output, such as colour detector, talking voltmeter and conductivity meter, may be operated independently by students with visual impairment.
  • Emboss printing and the combined use of some simple materials such as “Play-Doh” with toothpicks might facilitate students with visual impairment to get a sense of different molecules, shapes, materials and texture.
  • Amplified stethoscope is essential for hard-of-hearing medical students.
  • Students and/or teachers may connect the microscopes to computer control interface for easier manipulation of the microscope to accommodate students with different disabilities and personal preferences.

14.5.4. Recommended guidelines