Computer Labs - Guidelines and Best Practices for Accessibility

This article details guidelines and best practices for making computer labs accessible spaces to support users who need specific accommodations.

Not all of the computing spaces in the Libraries need to be uniformly accessible (however it is encouraged and recommended to implement uniform accessibility whenever possible), but it is vital to ensure that library computing spaces and/or staff have the information and resources available to guide users who require accommodations to the spaces where those needs will be met. If unable to implement all of the following best practices in a library computing space, ensure user guidance is available to direct users requiring specific accommodations to appropriate computing areas.


Guidance sourced from 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design via ada.gov


Height Adjustable Workstations


Height adjustable desks or workstations are an optimal option for providing accessibility. Both manual and electronic height adjustable desks are valuable since they serve different audiences, but if only one type can be made available, then it should be electric. The following are guidelines for height adjustable workstations:



ADA Workstation Guidelines


If height adjustable tables are unavailable, then at least one or more computing stations should follow the guidelines below:


Diagram of accessible workstation


There are four elements to consider with the physical dimensions of the work surface:

diagram of user at accesible workstation


Counters should have at least one section that’s at an acceptable height for patrons in wheelchairs or scooters, at most 36” from the floor, and at least 36” wide (30" wide if approached from the front; otherwise should be adjacent to a walking surface that is at least 30” by 48”).  If writing is required (for example: sign in/out log), then the height should be between 28” and 34” from the floor.


Forward approach counters must have knee and toe space under the counter (at least 30” wide, and extending 17” under the counter with a height of 27” above the floor, which a toe clearance of 6” beyond the knee clearance at a height of 9” above the floor).


Software


Both Windows and macOS have native tools available to accommodate many accessibility needs. Users may have a preference or a greater familiarity with a certain operating system’s tools, so it’s important to ensure both operating systems are available at accessible workstations. An overview of what each operating system offers can be found here:


Windows Accessibility

macOS Accessibility


Beyond what is native to the OS, the InfoLabs program licensed additional accessibility software for the Windows operating system for a more robust toolset on computers with the InfoLabs Windows image. Note: that loaner laptops and public facing library machines do not have this software available, only desktop machines with the InfoLabs image.



Workstation peripherals


At accessible workstations access to controls, peripherals, and ports (USB, audio, media, including drive trays) are between 15” and 48” from the floor and 20" to 25" from the center of where the person’s lap is expected to be.The mice/trackballs should be able to be positioned for either left or right handed users, with adequate clearance between stations. Chairs should have locking casters (ideally, all movable chairs in the lab would have locking casters.) The casters should lock when there is no weight in the chair, and should move freely when someone is sitting in the chair.


The following components should have letter in braille affixed next to them:


The following peripherals could be made available at accessible workstations or could be available for circulation via a service desk:

If these items are available for circulation, advertise them at accessible workstations.


Accessible workstation placement


Accessible workstations should be placed in discoverable areas. They shouldn’t be hidden or obstructed to avoid impacting discoverability. Ideally they are in areas that can accommodate collaboration with other individuals regardless of whether those individuals require accommodations as well.


Workstation spacing


diagram of accessible computer lab aisles


The aisle between rows of workstations (where chairs can obstruct the aisle) should be at least 48”. To allow for an individual in a wheelchair or scooter to turn into an available workstation space, there should be a minimum of 60” between the wall or barrier that the selected workstation is up against (top-center of the image above) and the workstation across the aisle of the selected workstation (bottom-center of above image). Aisles that chairs cannot obstruct should be a minimum of 36”.


Consider having a space available near accessible workstations to place a chair that isn’t needed by the user of the workstation so it doesn’t end up obstructing aisles.


If the space is staffed ensure that chairs are pushed in a frequent interval to ensure aisles remain clear and accessible.


Printing


At least one print release station for each black and white (B&W) and color printing should follow the ADA workstation guidelines mentioned above. All trays of the printers paired with these release stations should be between 15” and 48” from the floor and 20” to 25” from the center of where the person’s lap is expected to be.


Scanning


Access to input/output bins for at least one scanner of each variety available are between 15” and 48” from the floor and 20" to 25" from the center of where the person’s lap is expected to be.


Service Desks


At least one section of the service desk should follow the guidelines in this section from both the perspective of an employee working at the desk or a patron approaching the desk for assistance.


Signs and Documentation


Signs should be printed with the following attributes:



If accessibility symbols are used, they should be the international accessibility symbols.

Signs with tactile characters (Braille) should be positioned so that the baseline of the lowest character is 48” above the floor and the baseline of the top character is a maximum of 60” from the floor.  Visual characters must be at least 40 inches from the floor.

Documentation should be available in both print and braille, and should be positioned no more than 48”above the floor.

An alternative to putting braille on signs around the lab is to have a HTML or Word document available.  Electronic copies of the documentation are an acceptable alternative to braille documents.