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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Modules] : Assessment : Appendices

Universal Design

Architects and designers have recently begun to consider the principle of universal design when developing plans for buildings and technological devices (Vanderheiden and Tobias 2000). The principle is based on providing access for all people and has often been implemented when the needs of disabled people are considered in access to the urban environment. A ramp for example, has benefits not just to people who are traditionally considered as disabled but also to the elderly, children, people with prams and people delivering heavy parcels.

Universal design, is design that provides access to objects, technological devices, urban spaces and learning environments, for as broad a range of people as possible without the need for assistive devices or where this is not possible it is at least compatible with the use of assistive devices.

[Check the glossary for a note on terminology]

Universal design in the production of learning materials for education has become known as universal design for learning (UDL) or universal instructional design (UID). Orkwis (1999) has described universal design for learning:

'A more efficient way to provide student access is to consider the range of user abilities at the design stage of the curriculum and incorporate accommodations at that point. This 'built-in' access for a range of users, those with and without disabilities, is the underlying principle of universal design.'

Many of the requests that disabled students make to departments and disability offices are for such things as untimed tests, notes, prepared materials before class, and study guides. As Silver et al (1998) note 'such accommodations are typically helpful to all students, and in fact may be representative of effective instructional practices'.

Most teachers want all students to do well on their courses and want to be responsive to the needs of all their students. Universal design offers a way forward.

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