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General Guidelines for Laboratory Settings

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General Information

Many courses at Memorial University involve a laboratory component, including courses in biochemistry, biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, computer science, mathematics and statistics, earth sciences, geography, French, German, Russian, Spanish, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, business, and engineering. To find out which courses include laboratories, students can refer to the university Calendar, the Registration Procedures Manual, or contact the respective academic departments.

Many programs at the Marine Institute also involve laboratories, including courses in marine engineering technology, marine systems design technology, marine environmental technology, naval architecture technology, nautical science, electro-mechanical engineering technology, seafood processing technology, food production quality technology, food safety, fisheries development, and aquaculture.

Laboratory courses often require advance arrangements between the student and professor. The following general guidelines are meant to assist students, professors, and others in laboratory settings. Accommodations should be made on an individual student basis. The student should contact the academic department at least four to six weeks before the commencement of the course. Students and professors can seek assistance from the Blundon Centre if they have difficulty determining an appropriate accommodation.

What can students do? 

  • Contact the academic department at least four to six weeks before the beginning of the semester and arrange to visit the laboratory. Advise the department of any modifications that are required (e.g., locating wheelchair furniture, labelling chemicals and instruments in large print or braille, or increasing illumination).
  • When possible, speak with the professor before the semester to review course requirements (e.g., field trips, experimental procedures, the format of lab assignments or exams, and deadlines for submitting written work). If necessary, discuss alternatives for such requirements (e.g., requesting extra time to complete written work or submitting it at a later date, completing language labs orally, or using an assistant or sighted guide when you perform challenging procedures).
  • Advise your professor of any similar arrangements that were made for you in the past; offer solutions that work for you.
  • Request lab manuals and other materials such as maps, experimental outlines, etc, in an alternative format (e.g., cassette tape, diskette, or large print). For further information, contact the Blundon Centre.
  • Ask your professor for a list of all chemicals that will be used during the labs. Review the list with your doctor, particularly if you have allergies, asthma, cystic fibrosis, or sensitive eyes.
  • Students who use an FM amplification system should meet with their professors, lab staff, etc., prior to the beginning of classes to show them how to use the device. By planning ahead, you will be prepared to participate in your first lab. The Blundon Centre can provide advice on how to arrange inservicing on the FM amplification system.
  • Keep up to date with computer technology that might be helpful to you. You may wish to consult with computer and adaptive technology specialists and service providers in the disability field. For more information, contact the Blundon Centre.
  • In order for some students to participate in computer labs, they will need to make arrangements with university personnel to install their adaptive technology (such as large print or voice synthesizer software) in the lab. This should be done before the first lab session.
  • If it is not possible to install the adaptive technology in the lab, and the technology is not available at other locations on campus, another option might be for you to borrow the software needed for the course (e.g., word processing or spreadsheet programs). The program can then be installed on your personal lap-top computer.
  • Depending on their degree of detail, topographical maps may be reproduced on the stereo copier, which is available at the main campus in St. John's.

What can professors do? 

  • If possible, orient the student to the layout of the room before lab courses begin. This is particularly important for students with physical disabilities.
    The student should advise you if any furniture, lab, or computer equipment is not accessible. For example, a computer might need to be placed on a wheelchair accessible table or desks might need to be rearranged for wheelchair accessibility.
  • When requested, provide the student with a list of all chemicals that will be used during the labs. The student can then discuss potential health concerns with his/her doctor.
  • For some students with mobility difficulties, it might be helpful if laboratory equipment and supplies are located near their work area. In other cases, an assistant may be needed, for example, to manipulate tools or laboratory equipment and chemicals.
  • Some students with visual impairments may need a sighted partner or assistant in the laboratory. For example, in some labs, a student with a visual impairment might be asked to identify certain minerals or samples. Although this process is generally based on vision, if the lab demonstrator ensures that the student can identify the samples in other ways (e.g., hardness, texture, magnetic qualities, etc.), the student should be able to work more independently, avoiding the extra cost of a sighted lab assistant.
  • Use of computer technology can offer effective and timely access to information related to the course. For example, you may wish to put all class notes on the World Wide Web, or post assignments to your home page. Be innovative and flexible!
  • Labelling chemicals and instruments in large print or braille can be helpful for some students with visual impairments.
  • Students with visual impairments may need to order lab manuals and other materials in alternative formats (e.g., large print, braille, or cassette tape). If requested, assist them by providing a copy of the book list, including reserve readings, as early as possible. Perhaps required lab manuals or other course materials already exist in electronic format (i.e., they were written within your department) and can be made available to the student on disk. Generally, most students with visual impairments have access to a personal lap-top computer with adaptive software.
  • In order for some students to participate in computer labs, they will need to make arrangements with university personnel to install their adaptive technology (such as large print or voice synthesizer software) in the lab.
  • If it is not possible to install the adaptive technology in the lab and the technology is not available at other locations on campus, another option might be to let the student borrow the software program needed for the course (e.g., word processing or spreadsheet programs). The program can then be installed on the student's personal lap top computer, for example, without cost. The student would be expected to return the software at the end of the course.
  • Provide both an oral demonstration and a written description for each lab. This is particularly helpful for students with learning disabilities or students with a hearing loss.
  • Consider alternative ways of testing knowledge (e.g., for students with visual impairments who have difficulty reading detailed maps or for students with mobility impairments who cannot participate in field trips involving rugged terrain).
  • Feel free to consult the Blundon Centre if adaptive equipment or software is required by the student.
  • Your face should be visible during all explanations and demonstrations, particularly for the benefit of students with a hearing loss.
    If requested by the student, wear the microphone and transmitter for his/her FM amplification system. This device amplifies your voice only to the student wearing the transmitter.
  • Depending on their degree of detail, topographical maps may be reproduced on the stereo copier, which is available at the main campus in St. John's.
    Check with the student, the Blundon Centre, or other professors and laboratory staff in your department to determine if similar accommodations have been made for other students in the past.
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