Creating an Accessible Physics Lab & Classroom Experience for All Students

Ginelle Testa

An inclusive physics lab ensures that all students, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds, have opportunities to participate. This includes students with disabilities, those who are at-risk, and even disengaged students. How do we make the physics lab accessible to them all?

Here are nine ways: 

  1. Engagement through choice boards
  2. Individualized accommodation
  3. Personalization
  4. Physics lab design
  5. Contextualize learning
  6. Utilize technology
  7. Foster a collaborative environment
  8. Continuous feedback & assessment
  9. Regularly update & adapt

A committee on laboratories from the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) has commented that the need for accessible physics education is pressing. 

How to Create an Accessible Physics Lab & Classroom

1. Engagement through Choice Boards

Students are more disengaged than ever, especially tech-savvy, always plugged-in Gen Zs. Part of accessibility is ensuring that each student is engaged in their learning. How can you do this? Using a variety of tools is one way. Assigning options on a choice board is a great way to diversify the experience while maintaining specific options that align with your curriculum.

According to research, although planning for differentiation in coursework is time-intensive, it has many benefits to enhance student learning in the classroom.

Here’s a sample choice board using Labster virtual labs:

2. Individualized Accommodation

Although students with disabilities or those requiring special accommodations should register with the appropriate office to implement accommodations, instructors must meet students where they are. An accommodation may include allowing additional time for setup or completion of the lab. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, providing individualized accommodations can significantly increase the performance and participation of students with disabilities.

One benefit to Labster is that students can take their time with the virtual lab. They can go through it at their own pace and can redo it if they feel they need to learn more. 

3. Personalization

A one-size-fits-all approach is becoming less effective in today's diverse classroom setting. Students come with their own set of strengths, weaknesses, backgrounds, and learning preferences.  Personalization has been shown to increase student achievement, especially for ESL learners, students with disabilities, and those who are achieving below grade level.

Labster recently implemented a Quiz Editor tool that allows instructors to create their own questions for each virtual lab, tailoring them to their curriculum. Instructors also have access to a dashboard that shows how students did in the virtual labs, enabling them to adapt their teaching to gaps that may be common among students or identify a struggling student before it’s too late.

4. Physics Lab Design

It can be challenging when labs are already designed without accessibility in mind. However, there are steps educators can take to make labs accessible, such as having cabinets within reach, reducing clutter, and having at least one adjustable workstation.

5. Contextualize Learning

When students see the relevance of what they’re learning, it gets them excited about the process. To make physics learning more inclusive and accessible, instructors can incorporate real-world examples from diverse cultures and backgrounds to highlight the universal importance of physics.

Labster offers a variety of physics simulations, each with a contextualized storyline. In Labster’s Basic Electricity virtual lab, students help scientists get electricity back in their lab by understanding how electricity works. What is the difference between charge, current, and voltage? How do we know what light bulb or battery do we need to use? They’ll find it all in this simulation.

Labster electricity virtual lab

6. Utilize Technology

Using technological tools in the classroom and lab can greatly enhance the learning experience, but it's vital that these tools are accessible to all. User-friendly and adaptable technology aids the learning process and ensures inclusivity for students with varying abilities.

In the last couple of years, Labster worked very hard on introducing accessibility features following international guidelines. We've come a long way and with our continuous improvements in accessibility with each platform release, we are proud to enable students with various impairments to experience science in a digital and accessible environment. 

Hear from our in-house accessibility expert, Monika Starnawska, “Our efforts are recognized by our customers. They appreciate our unique approach to accessibility that adapts web-based requirements into simulation space. We are equipping our students with built-in screen readers, voiceover systems, colorblind-friendly assets, keyboard navigation, and many more features that enable equitable access to all students, as well as those who might need a bit of help to pursue their scientific interests.”

7. Foster a collaborative environment

Collaborative learning promotes accessibility by allowing students to work together, capitalizing on individual strengths, and helping students learn from one another. Revisit the choice boards to see the different ways students can work together!

Labster’s platform provides an environment conducive to group-based learning. Students can communicate their observations and findings with peers, simulating the collaborative nature of real-world scientific research.

8. Continuous Feedback and Assessment

Frequent assessment not only ensures that students grasp the concepts but it also provides opportunities for educators to address any accessibility issues that may arise.

With Labster’s in-depth analytics, instructors can receive real-time feedback on student performance, allowing for timely intervention. This proactive approach can prevent minor misunderstandings from becoming significant hurdles.

9. Regularly Update and Adapt

Accessibility requirements and tools are ever-evolving. It's crucial to stay informed about the latest best practices, tools, and technologies that enhance accessibility. Regularly solicit student feedback about their experiences and needs in the lab and be prepared to adapt accordingly.


The goal of any educational setting is not just to disseminate information but to ignite a passion for learning. In the context of physics labs and classrooms, this translates to an environment that is inclusive, engaging, and adaptive. 

With the tools and strategies discussed, from personalization to the use of technology like Labster, educators can ensure that every student, regardless of their background or abilities, feels valued and empowered in their educational journey.

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