New resources to help Ontario universities make science labs accessible to students with disabilities

(Toronto - June 24, 2014) - A new report has been released by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) on how to break down barriers and make labs accessible to students with disabilities who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Students with disabilities are not well represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and are frequently deterred from pursuing careers in these fields by perceived and actual barriers. The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) explores these barriers, and discusses possible solutions and accommodations in its paper, Creating an Accessible Science Laboratory Environment for Students with Disabilities:

The paper’s recommendations are based on best practices and not all of the described provisions must be followed to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). All suggestions, however, are directed toward building inclusive laboratory environments and supporting a culture of accessibility for all undergraduate and graduate students at our universities.

This comprehensive paper, prepared on behalf of COU, looks at a number of key areas:

-  Legal requirements for accessibility at Ontario universities.
-  Key role of faculty in building accessible learning environments.
-  Universal instructive design and inclusive teaching practices.
-  Accommodations and universal design as it applies to physical accessibility.
-  Opportunities for faculty mentorship of students with disabilities.

NEADS has also produced a comprehensive Checklist for Making Science Labs Accessible for Students with Disabilities, which will help educators to assess the accessibility of individual elements that make up the laboratory setting. As well, NEADS has produced the following additional resources for educators:

-   Identifying the Essential Requirements of a Course or Program
-   Inclusive Teaching Practices in the Lab Setting
-   Overview of Assistive Technologies
-   Selecting Accessible Science Equipment
-    Planning Accessible Science Lab Sessions
-    Ensuring Effective Faculty-Student Interaction
-    Faculty Mentoring Students with Disabilities
-    Hiring Lab Assistants for Students with Disabilities
-    Glossary of Key Terms
-    Resources on Accessible Content Delivery and Universal Design
-    Annotated Bibliography of Online Resources

“Ontario universities are working hard to make their campuses fully accessible,” said COU President and CEO Bonnie M. Patterson. “University faculty and staff want to ensure that students have the opportunity to study any discipline they’re interested in, and this report is an important resource supporting that goal.”

Visit for additional accessibility resources on and off campus. The documents are available in both English and French.


For further information, please contact:

Wendy McCann
Director, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
416-979-2165 ext. 233
647-271-0825 (Cell)