Setting Up Accessible Workstations

When discussing computer accessibility in public computer labs, much attention is given to modifications to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. However, for some users, accessible furniture and good lighting are equally if not more important. Setting up accessible computer workstations at a library or other public access point requires some planning, but usually little additional expense.

This article goes over some of the major considerations to help you get started.

  • Wheelchair access.  Make sure that there is an accessible path of travel to at least one of your workstations.  Chairs should be easy to move out of the way so a wheelchair can fit at the workstation, without inconveniencing other patrons.
  • Desks.  Some wheelchairs have high armrests or other protrusions.  If possible, provide desks with adjustable heights, which range in price from a few hundred dollars for models adjustable via a hand-turned crank to a few thousand dollars for desks with electronic controls that can be easily adjusted by most patrons. At a minimum, provide several desks in a variety of fixed heights.
  • Keyboard and mouse locations.  Arrange the cables so that there is some flexibility in where input devices can be located, including on a wheelchair laptray.  If you have any alternative input devices that users would check out for in-house use, make sure these are easy to set up. You may need to provide a USB hub to ensure there are sufficient USB ports available and that these ports would be easy to reach.
  • Displays.  If possible, allow users to adjust the closeness, height, and angle of the displays. Use of monitor arms may facilitate this.
  • Lighting.  Use a combination of overhead and task lighting (e.g., gooseneck lamps) to keep working surfaces well-lit but free of glare.
  • Seating. Make sure that chairs are comfortable, but also easy to get into and out of. Adjustable chairs will accommodate a range of users. Provide chairs both with and with arms, and with and without casters.

Check with your patrons to see if they have suggestions about specific types or models of equipment.

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