Strategic ALignment of Electrical and Information Engineering in European Higher Education Institutions
This section of the Student and Staff Support Hub is aimed to provide information on how electical and information engineering laboratories can be adjusted to support learners with different requirements.
Within the science and engineering fields, laboratories form a key part of the student experience. It is important to ensure that the laboratory is set-up and operated to support all students so that any disability does not hinder a student from full participation in the laboratory. Here, we have identified a number of aspects relating to the design and operation of laboratories to support all learners. In addition, links to work undertaken in developing integrated learning environments are identified.
The focus of this work is the physical infrastructure which here means the laboratory itself (i.e., physical building (access to and internal), along with the furniture, lighting and heating). To put this into context, the diagram below (Fig. 1) shows five core aspects that form the overall laboratory.
The people are the staff (academic, teaching assistants, technicians, administrative) and the students who collaborate within the laboratory environment. Whilst the main concern here is towards students with disabilities, the needs for these students and also their non-disabled peers must be taken into account.
The physical infrastructure is the laboratory itself (physical building (access to and internal), along with the furniture, lighting and heating).
The standard laboratory equipment is the equipment that is used in the laboratory but is not specifically designed to act as an assistive technology.
The assistive technologies are the technologies that the students use whilst within the physical infrastructure in order to undertake their studies.
The learning material is the laboratory notes and supporting material (in audio and visual formats) which the student uses to complete the laboratory experiments and assignments.
In an education environment, laboratory adjustments are changes made to the arrangement, resources and assessment mechanism(s) of the laboratory in order support students with disabilities so that they can fully engage with the learning process and to ensure that their particular disabilityor disabilities do not adversely affect their ability to learn. In this work, arrangement will refer to the physical infrastructure, resources will refer to the laboratory equipment and learning material, and assessment mechanism(s) will refer to how the student would be assessed.
Types of laboratory adjustments
Laboratory adjustments would need to be made where the needs of students with disabilities are not suitably met. These can include: 1.Adjustment of the provided laboratory material.
2.Adjustment of the assessment mechanism(s).
3.The provision of assistive technologies.
4.Modifications to the physical infrastructure.
5.Making the students aware of their rights and responsibilities.
6.Making the staff aware of their rights and responsibilities.
7.Providing staff with the correct training to support students with different disabilities.
An initial point to start with would be to identify as to what adjustment would exactly be required. It is therefore important to identify the different types of adjustments that could be made, what these adjustments actually mean to the operation of the laboratory and what would be required to set-up, develop and maintain these adjustments. For example, adjustments would include:
1.The provision of visual material in different formats.
2.The provision of material in an audio format rather than a visual format.
3.Modification of the experiment procedures and laboratory experiment notes.
4.Modification to the assessment requirements and assessment mechanism.
5.Access to the laboratory outside the scheduled laboratory session times.
6.Providing the necessary access into the building where the laboratory room is to be run.
7.Providing the necessary access within the building to and into the laboratory room.
8.Providing the necessary furniture for the student.
9.Providing access for personal assistants.
10.The provision and integration of assistive technologies such as specialised software support.
11.Suitable lighting, heating and colour schemes.
12.Faciliating access to laboratories. For example, the availability of lifts, ramps for wheelchair users to navigate over steps and power assisted doors. Access to suitable sanitation facilities.
13.Suitable signage (for example room numbering and information text at suitable positions and using a suitable font type, size and colour). In addition, signage in different formats such as Braille can be used to aid room identification for sight impaired students.
14.Provision of additional infrastructure such as power sockets for charging electric wheelchairs to be included within the laboratory room.
15.Ensuring that the staff would be aware of the students’ needs and how to support the students with dignity and respect as core values. This aspect of information dissemination would normally be covered under the country’s data protection act (or equivalent) which would require the institution to ensure that personal information is kept secure and that only the staff who require information on a student are aware of this. In addition, the question would be as to whether adjustments can be made and how health & safety aspects are suitably addressed. For example, what would be the evacuation plans in the case of emergency?
16.Identifying the roles and responsibilities for the staff involved.