Digital Accessibility Lab Opens in Durham Center

Dec 04, 2019

On November 6, Iowa State University celebrated the grand opening of the Digital Accessibility Lab in Durham Center 108 with a dedication ceremony and open house organized by Information Technology Services (ITS) Digital Accessibility Coordinator, Cyndi Wiley. With the lab, students, faculty and staff have access to a suite of hardware and software designed to offer an accessible learning environment.

Available by appointment for the remaining fall semester, the new inclusive space contains laptop and desktop computers along with assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnifiers, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software and eye tracking devices. The lab also houses assistive gaming equipment.

“To be truly inclusive, we have to embrace all,” said Kristen Constant, Interim Vice President and Chief Information Officer. “Doing the right thing is our moral imperative and doing things right gives us a competitive advantage. Being inclusive does both, and the Digital Accessibility Lab exemplifies that initiative.”

Planning for the lab began just over one year ago when Wiley met with a number of her colleagues shortly after taking up her position at Iowa State. Discussions with team members from ITS and human resources during the meeting reinforced the need for digitally accessible hardware and software on campus. The university was once home to another accessibility lab, but it became outdated and eventually closed, minimizing the ready access to certain resources.

With stakeholder approval, planning for the new Digital Accessibility Lab began in 2018, as ITS provided a location for the lab in Durham Center, located immediately west of Parks Library. Wiley contacted universities and organizations across the country to gain insight on best practices in digital accessibility equipment and began working to determine what she and her team could achieve.

After more than a year of planning and outfitting, the Digital Accessibility Lab dedication ceremony was held on November 6 to highlight the commitment Iowa State University is making to create inclusive learning environments.

Wiley, the opening speaker at the event, said, “I wanted to ensure this project was completed with others, not for others,” as she recognized partners like the Iowa State student Alliance for Disability Awareness.

Starting spring semester 2020, the Digital Accessibility Lab will have open hours during the day along with some evenings and weekends; users can soon view the lab’s schedule on the digital accessibility website, www.digitalaccess.iastate.edu.

Looking to the future, Wiley hopes the Digital Accessibility Lab can expand to a larger space to positively impact a higher volume of students. She also sees the current lab as a useful tool in course development. “The current lab could stay small for demos and research, while another larger space would be used to accommodate more students and their schedules,” said Wiley.

Assisting the ITS Digital Accessibility team in opening the lab, additional collaborators included: CALS/LAS Web Development, Engineering Learning Online (ELO); ISU Extension; University Library; Human Computer Interaction / Virtual Reality Applications Center; Student Innovation Center; Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT); University Human Resources (UHR); University Committee on Disabilities; Office of Equal Opportunity; Facilities Planning and Management; Student Accessibility Services; University Bookstore; Information Technology Services.

To schedule an appointment to use the Digital Accessibility lab, email digitalaccess@iastate.edu.