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Accessible Laboratory Resources

The following lists provide ideas for making laboratories more accessible to all geoscience students. They focus on the physical environment of labs by offering suggestions for individual accommodation and adaptable equipment. The last section discusses the digital side of geoscience labs and the accessibility options of specialized software.

Highly accessible labs provide both individual accommodation and adaptable equipment. The availability of various kinds of adaptable equipment is a part of universal design and widens the usability of a laboratory to include students with a range of abilities and disabilities. Needs that cannot be provided for by universal design can be met through the implementation of individual accommodation.

However, there are other aspects to lab accessibility that must not be ignored. Interpersonal attitudes and biases against d/Disabled students held by educators, lab managers, and even other students can be as harmful to inclusion as a physically inaccessible lab space.



This is not a comprehensive list of accommodations that can be made for a student in the lab. If none of these suggestions fulfil the needs of your student, brainstorm other options with that student, who knows their needs best. You should check in with your student periodically to assess the effectiveness of the accommodation(s) that they are using so that adjustments can be made if necessary.

  • Lab assistant/partner
  • Extra time to complete work
  • Completion of virtual copies of lab worksheets with a word processor
  • Use of voice recorder for notetaking or work completion
  • Brief breaktimes to rest or eat
  • Preferential or special seating considerations for mobility/sensory/fatigue reasons
  • Introduce students to equipment/procedures before lab day to reduce anxiety


Adaptable Equipment

This is also not a complete list of adaptable equipment that is commercially available for lab use. Some equipment that is needed to assist a student with a certain disability with a given task may not be on the market at all. In that case, creative solutions can be custom-made for a specific use.


Notes about service dog PPE:

Lab coats are not currently produced for dogs, but any adult lab coat can be modified easily for wear by a service dog.

In addition to human PPE (coat, goggles, gloves/boots), a mat with rubber backing or a portable crate will help protect a service dog from accidental spills or breaks while waiting for their handler to require their assistance.

Please reference this Empower Ability Consulting, Inc. blog article for more information about safely accommodating service dogs in biological and chemical laboratories.


Other Areas of Attention

Software is an important aspect of the geoscience laboratory. Programs used for data gathering, analysis, and visualization may or may not be accessible to d/Disabled users. Some software is specialized in serving a geoscientific niche while sometimes a large selection of software can be used to generate similar results. When only one program exists that does the job needed, and is inaccessible, the barrier can be addressed in at least two ways:

  1. assign the student a lab assistant who can navigate the program interface while the student is verbally directing the assistant, or
  2. submit a product enhancement request to the software’s development team if possible.

Here is an abbreviated list of accessibility features available in popular software used in the geosciences. It is also unconfirmed, so if you test out any of the features described below and find them to be missing or ineffective, please email <> to help keep this section updated.

  • Esri products offer many accessibility features.
    • ArcGIS Pro’s are discussed in detail here. They include keyboard shortcuts, different visual modes of operation (high contrast mode, light and dark theme), and screen reader compatibility.
      There are multiple accessible options of ways to interact with a published map as well. For instance, a Voice User Interface (VUI) has been developed for Amazon Alexa to help Arc users with sight impairments to gain spatial awareness through a visual map.
    • ArcGIS Web AppBuilder also implements accessible features. They are described here and include screen reader support and visual themes.
  • The programming language R offers various packages useful to the geosciences, including Gstat, IsoplotR, soilphysics, and treeclim. More recent releases of RStudio Desktop, Server, and Workbench offer screen reader support. See this guide to enable this feature.
  • Python is another useful programming language for geoscientists. Anaconda’s text mode can be navigated by braille terminal. Follow this guide to activate this accessibility feature.


This work was done in collaboration with the Accessible Studies Program at Central Washington University. You can learn more about it at this link.



DO-IT. (2022, June 10). Accessible science equipment.

DO-IT. (2021, April 9). Are there fume hoods that are accessible to people with mobility impairments?

DO-IT. (2021, April 9). What are examples of science lab accommodations for students with disabilities that impact learning and/or attention?

Empower Ability Consulting, Inc. (2019, September 8). Accommodating service dog handlers in science laboratories.

Godfrey, A.J.R. (2013). Statistical software from a Blind person’s perspective. The R Journal, 5: 73–79. ISSN 2073-4859

Sensory Interface. (n.d.). Accessible graphs for visually impaired and blind users.

University of Vienna, Department of Lithospheric Research. (n.d.) Selected R packages useful for geological sciences.

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©2024 IAGD. The IAGD is a 501c3, volunteer-driven, non-profit organization.

Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0939645. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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