The Knowledge Lab: An experiment in increasing accessibility on campus

Updated: Feb. 28, 2023

pictured: two students sit at a table working together and smiling

Purdue Libraries’ Knowledge Lab is designed to provide students with the equipment and resources needed to make innovative new ideas a reality, including 3D printers, vinyl cutters, virtual reality (VR) headsets and heat presses. While designed to be a welcoming space for students to freely collaborate on creative projects, within a few months of its founding, questions were raised about the lab’s accessibility. Did everyone feel welcome in the lab? Were the resources provided accessible to all students?

The answer to these questions came in a cross-departmental accessibility audit involving the Disability Resource Center (DRC), Purdue Libraries and Innovative Learning. Together, these departments identified gaps in accessibility and provided recommendations like posting an accessibility statement, providing staff training centered around interacting with and assisting different students, and clearly labeling different equipment stations.

These were just some of 27 different recommendations made during the audit, and visiting the Knowledge Lab today reveals their successful implementation. Their success is also reflected by the increased diversity of learners utilizing the lab in comparison to the initial demographic of predominantly STEM-focused male users.

Pictured: A desk in the Knowledge Lab holds a variety of papers, flyers, writing utensils and more

While this audit was successful, recognizing small changes that improve accessibility around campus can happen in collaboration with any number of colleagues across all of campus. This is because campus accessibility isn’t achieved through a singular, sweeping action. Rather, it involves consistent efforts to address the small things to make Purdue more equitable, like:

  • Ensuring furniture is arranged so wheelchair users can fully maneuver.
  • Having height-adjustable workstations
  • Posting signage that details your commitment to accessibility and provides a contact for anyone with concerns or barriers

For more information on recognizing barriers to accessibility and being an advocate for accessibility, please visit the university’s accessibility resources website.

headshot of communications student assistant, owen hughes

Owen Hughes

Communication Assistant for Student Success Programs,