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ADCET Webinar: Making Labs Accessible for ALL

ADCET was delighted to welcome Dr Vicky Barnett from Curtin University join us for this webinar, Making Labs Accessible for ALL: The Need for a Community of Practice to Share Innovations that Support Inclusivity and to Bring Universal Design into the Laboratory Teaching Space.

A highlight for many students studying chemistry, whether they are a Year 8 high school or a 3rd Year university student, is the fascination and excitement of hands-on laboratory experiences, and this extends to other STEM subjects. Students with disability deserve, and are entitled to, the same access to laboratory learning experiences as other students, yet many teaching labs are not equipped in an accessible way. Currently there is no consistent approach by institutions across Australia for how they might accommodate the needs of students with disability, and staff are often required to come up with ways to do so in an ad hoc manner in a limited time frame. This can result in the student not receiving the best experience that they could otherwise receive. Indeed, in 2021, a student was denied access to Vicky's chemistry teaching laboratory because it was not designed for wheelchair users.

This prompted Vicky to question their practices and to start a journey to improve accessibility to laboratory learning, not only for mobility impaired students. but for all students with disability. Vicky is pleased to report that wheelchair access to her lab has recently been implemented and further improvements are scheduled for 2024. This successful outcome was made possible by the efforts of a small group of change agents. This presentation described important elements of this journey, including:

  • The development of a nation-wide Community of Shared Practice.
  • Establishing a local Working Group consisting of engaged stakeholders with diverse backgrounds, including academics, laboratory technicians, professional staff, student support services, properties, and students themselves.

This webinar was aimed at:

  • Anyone involved with STEM education, particularly in the labs: Academics, teachers, laboratory technicians, unit and course coordinators
  • Any student or student support staff advocating for accessibility: Students wanting to go into STEM fields, Student support staff, accessibility officers.


Photo of Dr Vicky Barnett

Dr Vicky Barnett, Teaching Focused Academic, Chemistry Discipline, Curtin University.

Vicky has served at Curtin since 2014. Prior to this she developed a wealth of experience in teaching students with diverse backgrounds and needs by teaching into more than 10 institutions including high schools, colleges, and universities in Australia over a 15-year period. In 2021 Vicky had her first experience of a student with disability not being given access to the chemistry teaching lab. This ignited in her a resolve to champion for change so that no student will be excluded from a laboratory again.

(October 2023)

ADCET is hosted by the University of Tasmania