Universally Designed Education
In education, "universal design" means the preparation of curricula, materials, and environments so that they may be used, appropriately and with ease, by a wide variety of people. Universal design places responsibility for making adjustments upon the instructors and the school. Only students posing unusual special needs are expected to provide their own accommodations. The Council for Exceptional Children ( CEC) has offered a definition of universal design in education:
In terms of learning, universal design means the design of instructional materials and activities that makes the learning goals achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember. Universal design for learning is achieved by means of flexible curricular materials and activities that provide alternatives for students with differing abilities. These alternatives are built into the instructional design and operating systems of educational materials--they are not added on after-the-fact. ( Research Connections, Number 5, Fall 1999, p. 2)
One recent book, The Accessible School: Universal Design for Educational Settings ( Bar and Galluzzo, 1999), tells us to think of universal design as applying to the physical environment. That is a part of what "universal design in education" means (see Chapter 7), but it is only a part of it. Laurel Bar and Judith Galluzzo, both occupational therapists, showed in their book how to apply the principles of accessible design to the built environment of public schools and classrooms. While helpful, that information may not assist many educators, because most of us do not have the opportunity to design buildings or classrooms. Rather, we in this text must look at universal design much more broadly--as applied also to what we do inside the built environment.