Accessible Biomedical Immersion Laboratory (ABIL)

 

ABIL 3-D Simulation

A view of the doors to ABIL opening into the laboratory space.The Institute for Accessible Science (IAS) has partnered with the Envision Center here at Purdue University to develop new and innovative ways for students with disabilities to gain exposure to laboratory research environments.

The Accessible Biomedical Immersion Laboratory, also know as ABIL, is a unique learning laboratory located within the Discovery Learning Research Center at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.  The goal of ABIL is to provide you with an opportunity to familiarize yourself with a biomedical research lab designed with accessibility and ease of use in mind.  These laboratory modifications are also designed to improve lab safety and research capacity for persons with disabilities.

A 3-D computer simulation of the physical ABIL was developed in partnership with the Envision Center at Purdue to virtually navigate within ABIL from the comfort of your home computer. We hope ABIL can serve as a blueprint for retrofitting or constructing a more accessible laboratory space.

Click on the following for a short video tour of ABIL or a 3-D interactive simulation that you control:

 

History of Building the ABIL

ABIL was built at the Discovery Learning Research Center at Purdue in 2011. It is a state-of-the-art learning laboratory with an accessible  work triangle of frequently used lab spaces including the fume hood, lab bench, and lab sink. 

DLR Science Lab
 

Constructing ABIL - The Challenges

 

Although accessibility was a consideration in the initial design of this space i.e. open floor plan, mobile workstations, accessible hood etc..., close inspection revealed a number of issues that required refinement as well as complete redesign.

The construction of ABIL is finally complete!!

Now, we are ready to finalize the plans for our summer internship program with research training activities planned in ABIL using assistive tech devices designed by IAS and its partners - details coming soon.

 


safety shower and eyewash
Safety Issues

When evaluating the safety features of the lab, we discovered the height of the eyewash was insufficient to allow a wheelchair user access - this also meant the shower head depth from the riser above would also have to be adjusted in relation to the eyewash basin.  In addition, the eyewash basin depth from the shower riser was too shallow.  Lastly, the safety shower handle was entirely too high for persons with both motor and visual disabilities to reach/locate easily.

 

lab sink and modular workbench
 
Workspace Issues
 

When evaluating the workbenches, we discovered in order to alter the configuration i.e. height manual dismantling was required.  These are steel construction and thus not lightweight thus not very accessible.  In addition, there was no alternate accessible bench space in the lab.  Lastly, there was not an accessible sink within the lab and simply removing the cabinet doors under one of the existing sinks was not an option - toe kick present, sink strut supports and sink depth problematic.

 

accessible hood
 
Accessible Hood Issues
 

When evaluating the accessible hood, we discovered the height of the on/off switches for the hood fan and vacuum pump were the same as taht of the regular hood atop the operational panels on each side.  In addition, the handles that operate the flow rate of gases, vacuum... were twist on thus not very accessible friendly.

 

 

ABIL Renovation at Purdue's Discovery Learning Research Center


Dismantled safety shower

Renovations Begin

 
July 20th, Day 3, Safety Shower and Eyewash Dismantled
 

Today, the eyewash basin and shower head have been removed in order to not only adjust the height of the eyewash from the the floor but also to increase the depth of both outputs from the riser.

 


Safety shower and eyewash reassembled for fitting check
July 27th, Day 8, Safety Shower and Eyewash Reassembled for Fitting
 

Today, we needed to assess the prescribed specifications for the height of the eyewash basin.  As seen in the accompanying images,  this height was not sufficient to accommodate a person with a motorized wheelchair.  The height from the floor would need to increase another 3 inches in order to enable access.  The increased depth however of both the eyewash basin and the shower head were spot on.

 


Adjusted safety shower and eyewash
Aug 2, Day 12, Safety Shower and Eyewash Second Fitting
 

Today, the new height for the eyewash basin was assessed and determined to be adequate and the shower head alignment was perfect.  In addition, we utilized this second fitting to assess a mock up of the required extended safety shower pull.  It was determined the handle would need to be a few inches longer as well as be shifted slightly to the left to optimize accessibility.

 


Safety shower with new pulls
Aug 17, Day 23, Safety Shower with Dual Pulls Ready to Evaluate
 

Today, the new armature supporting the dual pulls for operating the safety shower was ready.  However, we only tested the positional accessibility of the different ability pull since it was actually operational and we did not bring our scuba gear for a swim - Hee, Hee.  The height and position for the different ability pull was perfect.  It allowed for adequate operation without interfering with any other safety features.  Once again, our innovative physical facilities crew answered this unique call by designing a specialized arm to enable operate of the shower by all users.

ABIL Workspace Reno


Removal of sink base and counter

Renovations Begin

 
July 18th, Day 1, Sink, Sink Base and Associated Drawer Unit Dismantled
 

Today, the sink base, neighboring drawer unit and countertop were dismantled in order to decrease the height from the floor and create an accessible sink/workspace.  All of the plumbing was disconnected today in prep for tomorrows demolition and re-route.

 


empty space following sink and counter removal
July 19th, Day 2, Complete Removal of Sink, Sink Base and Associated Counter
 

Today, all cabinetry as well as the associated countertop was removed.  The drawer unit that use to reside to the left of the sink will remain yet it will require a slight design rework by our carpenter since the counter height in this area will decrease.  In addition, the plumbing will also need to be adjusted to allow for unobstructed maneuvering under the sink.

 


Shortened drawer unit demonstrating counter height difference
July 20, Day 3, Refurbished Drawer Unit Returns
 

Today, the carpenters have worked their magic and the drawer unit is back.  Both the height of the overall unit and the height of the top drawer had to be adjusted to accommodate for the change in overall counter height.  The intent is to provide not only an accessible sink but also an associated work surface to the left of the sink itself.

 


Lowered Countertop and ADA Sink
July 25, Day 6, Counter Tops and ADA Lab Sink Installed
 

Today, the counter tops and ADA sink were dry fit.  In order to maintain the integrity of the facility, the carpenters had to do some detailed finish work where the two different height countertops/backsplash//base furnishings meet.  Also, the plumbing adjustments required for under sink accessibility begin taking shape.

 


Sink and Counter Fitting
July 26, Day 7, Accessible Sink and Counter Fitting
 

Today, the new height of the countertop and sink were assessed.  The under sink clearance was determined to be adequate for both the sink depth and plumbing.  In addition, the placement for the sink faucets and low-profile paper towel dispenser were determined.  We also realized during the "fitting" that there was no overhead lighting directly above this sink just under cabinet light to the left.  To further complicate the situation, the switch for these under cabinet lights was not easily accessible; residing above the counter backsplash and rewiring was not without challenges.  As a result, we decided to tie into the box overhead and run another line in order to add an additional ceiling fixture perpendicularly to dispense light directly over the sink.  By treating it in this fashion, the fixture would be tied into the room main and thus controlled by the room switch.

 


RO Faucet in Place
July 28, Day 9, RO Faucet Arrives
 

Today, the reverse osmosis faucet arrived and installation began.  In addition, the plumbers devised an accessible drain plug for our sink using drain line - how clever!

 


Testing RO Faucet Ease of Operation
Aug 02, Day 12, RO Faucet Connected, Now Able to Test
 

Today, the reverse osmosis faucet is operational and we need to assess the ease of operation for the depressor mechanism.  We discovered that the arch of the rocking edges for the faucet mechanism were too high thus making 
depressor initiation a bit of a challenge.  Our physical facilities team removed the handle and shaved down these arches to facilitate a smoother, more easily depressed mechanism - again what an innovative and solution driven team.

 


New Overhead Light
Aug 09, Day 17, Let There be Light!
 

Today, the overhead light was installed in order to correct the lack of direct lighting for our accessible work triangle noticed back on Day 7.  Now the area can be lite up in conjunction with the rest of the room via the main switch thus making it accessible friendly.

 


New Faucet Blade Handles
Aug 17, Day 23, Re-worked Faucet with Blade Handles in Place - Ready for a Test!
 

Today, the plumber replaced the original tap water faucet handles with more user friendly blade handles.  In addition, you will note that the faucet handle position has been rotated with respect to the sink and the faucet stem.  This minor yet inspired alteration in regular orientation enables ease of access and operation for users of differing ability.

 


Testing the Operation of the Blade Faucet Handles
Aug 29, Day 31, Blade Faucet Handles in Action!
 

Today, we tested the operation of the faucet handles as well as the position of the faucet with respect to the sink.  Although the faucet position was ideal, the laxity in the handle stems proved problematic due to a tendency for the blades to depress until contact with the counter.  For an individual with limited hand mobility, this would pose an accessibility challenge thus stops were ordered for the handle stems to rectify this problem.  Furthermore, the positional shift of the handles with respect to the faucet neck resulted in opposing operation of the handles i.e. one had to be pushed back to be turned on while the other had to be pulled forward.  This also lead to a problem for individuals with limited hand dexterity thus a new stem was ordered for one of the handles to insure optimal and synchronous operation.

 


Demonstration of the Revamped Paper Towel Dispenser
Aug 29, Day 31, Low Tech Paper Towel Dispenser Test!
 

Today, the lab was buzzing with activity because we also tested the ease of operation of a modified low tech paper towel dispenser.  This style of dispenser is often referred to as a continuous gravity feed since advancement of the next sheet is the result of an interlocking relationship between the tri-fold style paper towels coupled with advancement by pulling from a slit in the bottom of this wall mounted dispenser.  Unfortunately, this design i.e. to extract by pulling or even tearing is not accessibility driven.  In order to make all aspects of this facility accessible, we needed to consider our options.  As a result of the popularity of this style of dispenser in many academic and professional setting, we thought a revamp of the installation of the dispenser would be beneficial and intriguing.  So, I worked with our carpenter to design a different ability stand that would facilitate use by individuals of varying dexterity.  As you can see, combining a bit of ingenuity, thought and a touch of physics this accessibility issue was resolved rather inexpensively and quite simply.

 

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