Reception areas should be easily accessible and welcoming. Reception counters should be 28 to 34 inches tall, so that students seated in wheelchairs have ready access to staff and to printed materials provided on the counter. Signage should be provided in contrasting colors in raised text and Braille at appropriate heights. Trained personnel should be ready to provide information about programs, make referrals, schedule appointments, and direct students to appropriate services and staff. Descriptions of services, staff directories, and handouts should be available in multiple formats, including large type, Braille, and on audiotape and computer disk.
Use of Space
Learning centers should include both individual and group rooms for tutoring and study skills counseling, if provided, as well as for testing. Entrances, corridors, rooms, pathways, and computer stations must be sufficiently large to accommodate wheel chairs and scooters. Adjustable height workstations are more comfortable for people of various sizes as well as for students with mobility impairments. Study carrels provide a level of privacy that can be appreciated by any student. Circular tables for study groups facilitate communication while also allowing flexible seating arrangements.
Windows that allow for natural lighting can make learning spaces more welcoming if other factors are taken into consideration. Installation of windows that filter ultraviolet light will benefit all students, but are particularly important to students with disabilities like lupus and students who suffer from migraine headaches. In addition to providing window blinds to reduce glare on computer screens at different times of day, computer monitors should be equipped with glare guard. It is preferable that overhead lighting not be fluorescent, but when there is no choice, it is important to properly maintain fixtures and replace bulbs regularly. Flickering bulbs can trigger seizures. Adjustable individual work station lighting can also be beneficial for all students. Task lamps should be equipped with "soft" or "low light" bulbs.
Policies enacted to regulate noise levels (e.g., policies related to use of cell phones and pagers) benefit all students, not just those with hearing impairments. In addition, wall, ceiling, and flooring materials should be selected to minimize noise. Study carrels and partitions should be sound-absorbent. Separate spaces should be created for group activities so that the natural flow of conversation does not disrupt the concentration of individuals working on computer tutorials or studying alone. Implementing these practices to promote Universal Design creates a more welcoming and efficient learning environment for all students.
With forethought, learning centers are an ideal place to implement the principles of Universal Design and Universal Instructional Design. On many campuses learning centers play a vital role in enhancing student retention. It is imperative that learning centers be universally accessible.
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