Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Accessibility Checklist

Software Carpentry values the participation of every member of the scientific community and want all attendees to have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Accordingly, we strive to ensure equal access to all.

Before the Workshop

Life is easier for everyone if accessibility is considered as part of event planning. It's reasonable to ask people to articulate their needs, but it's even better if you anticipate those needs and ensure they are met. Here are some things to think about:

  • Are the building and workshop room easily accessible to those who cannot use stairs, including transportation to the building?

  • Are the elevators available at all times?

  • Are there accesssible restrooms nearby?

  • If participants will leave for lunch, are there nearby accessible places to eat?

  • Does the workshop website give a map of the building and room location?

  • Would there be any problem with having a service animal in the room?

  • Is the workshop room lighting sufficiently bright to allow lip-reading?

  • Is the projector screen large enough to be easily read?

  • If the workshop room is large or in a noisy location, is a microphone available for the instructors?

  • Does the sign-up form ask if learners need advance arrangements (e.g. sign-language interpreters, large-print handouts, special dietary needs, lactation facilities)?

  • Have you checked to see if any instructors or helpers need such arrangements?

  • If any participants are hard of hearing (HOH):

    • Keep the room free of loud background noises, like loud fans, music, outside construction noise, etc.

    • Have the speaker mic'ed if it's a large room.

    • Let the HOH person decide where to sit that best helps her/him hear in class.

    • Make sure the speaker's face is well lit, so the HOH person can read his/her lips.

    • Have the speaker face the audience as much as possible and try not to speak too fast. If somebody in the audience asks a question, the HOH person may not hear it, so it helps for the instructor to repeat the question.

    • If a video is going to be played in class, either have a captioned version available or provide a script before the class.

    • Let the HOH person know ahead of time if there are going to be any exercises or demos that might be an issue (e.g., something that involves audio).

    • Have a "hearing loop" installed, so an HOH person can use the telephone switch on his/her hearing aid. This is likely an expensive option and probably not feasible for a workshop, but some facilities may have them already installed, so ask if they can be turned on.

    As is often the case with accessibility provisions, all of these things will also improve the workshop for people whose hearing is not impaired.

  • If learners and/or workshop staff indicate that advance arrangements are needed, the host needs to follow-up on this to make sure things are ready, and let the instructors and/or helpers know what action may be required on their part. The host institution may have a "Disability Services Office" that can help with physical arrangements; instructors coming from other institutions might be able to make use of their corresponding office for instructional planning. Circulating workshop material in advance electronically can be helpful to many learners, but may be particularly critical for learners who need to adapt it in some way. Additional ideas are found in Unlocking the Invisible Elevator, Practicing Inclusive Access, Making Tech Events Accessible to the Deaf Community, and How to Accomodate a Breastpumping Mom At Your Event.

    During the workshop

    Offering help and asking workshop participants what they need is preferable to assuming that you know what will work best for them. Where possible, it's important to meet those needs in a way that preserves independence and dignity. Some suggestions:

    • If you're posting directions to the workshop room, include maps showing accessible routes.

    • Designate one helper as being in charge of learners' physical needs. Make sure that person knows the locations of the water fountains, (accessible) restrooms, elevators, lactation room, and other important places.

    • Make sure that the text projection screen is large and clear enough to be read by everyone.

    • Use a microphone if necessary for audibility.

    • Consider having everyone introduce themselves when they speak: this is helpful for people with low vision, as well as for everyone else whose memory might be already full.

    After the Workshop

    • Make note of accessibility issues encountered in the host report.

    Dialogue & Discussion

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