Medical advances, new legislation, and changing social attitudes have encouraged more students with disabilities to enter college. Educational systems consequently must continue to respond to the unique needs of these Individuals by developing adaptive educational tools. Laboratory courses requiring hands-on experience, such as physics and biology, are challenging to students with physical limitations. One promising and innovative way to provide access is through virtual environment technology, which can provide a unique tool for students with physical disabilities by offering opportunities for mobility and manipulative exploration without requiring physical access, dexterity, and strength. We are developing a virtual physics laboratory that should benefit students with physical disabilities by providing them greater control over their environment and more educational opportunities. These benefits also will be realized by nondisabled students. We discuss some of the issues and technologies employed to design the laboratory, including user needs analyses, task analyses, and assessment of current technologies.

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