This article discusses issues of accessibility and how user-centered and participatory approaches can inform empirical research to guide the Universal Design of virtual spaces and influence writing center efforts for students with disabilities. Because this article describes how to integrate usability/accessibility testing for online and in-person services, it can work as a model for writing centers struggling with the challenges of serving students with disabilities. Toward this end, the article discusses two generations of usability testing on a large, well-established online writing lab (the Purdue OWL), as well as the collaborative projects that emerged between the usability team and campus disabilities services as a result of this testing. The article concludes with heuristics and generative questions that may assist readers in developing similar projects tailored to their own contexts.


This is the Author’s Accepted Manuscript version of Brizee, A., Driscoll, D., and Sousa, M. (2012). Writing Centers and Students with Disabilities: The User-Centered Approach, Participatory Design, and Empirical Research as Collaborative Methodologies. Computers and Composition 29(4), 341-366. http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2012.10.003.

© 2015, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.


Online Writing Lab (OWL), writing center, writing lab, user-centered design, students with disabilities, accessibility, usability, user-testing, participatory design, collaboration, universal design, empirical research

Date of this Version