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Why focus on universal design?

Universal design is an important design intervention for many reasons, ranging from legal, to ethical, to economic, and pragmatic. These are all driving rationale for implementing and researching the impact and value of universal design as a method for design. As UD crosses all types of products, environments, and services the potential benefit of infusing universal design interventions on a higher education campus is profound.

Moreover, a college campus provides a unique venue to examine a promising strategy such as universal design. Campuses include, residences, food services, transportation systems, information systems, social networking events, political systems, recreational environments, an array of multimedia presentation venues, and so on. The scope of potential universal design implementations, in fact, is as broad as a community, small metropolis or city. Consequently, the campus environment provides the perfect demonstration site for societal implementations of universal design. It is controlled, yet with a full range of buildings, services, and events.

Furthermore, the cultural fabric of a university environment holds several motivations that can facilitate the implementation and testing of universal design interventions. First, university campuses overtly delineate their constituents broadly as students, employees (faculty and staff), and the community. Campuses also espouse to include individuals, from the broadest array of backgrounds. By definition, higher education campuses have an open and inviting environment. And university missions virtually embed universal design concepts. In fact, the root of the terms ?universal? and ?university? is common.

Perhaps even more importantly, however, is that higher education environments intrinsically invite new ideas. Universities provide the home and implicit mission for new learning, information transmission, knowledge development, acquisition of skills, and fundamental research and development. The concept of inquiry is the foundation of higher education. Consequently, creating, piloting, and testing universal design concepts, specific protocols and strategies find the perfect environment in higher education campuses.

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FAQ about Universal Design in Higher Education

This 5 page document covers the 6 most frequently asked questions regarding universal design in education. It also provides links to various resources which can assist with implementing universal design strategies.


FAQ about Universal Design in Higher Education  (Word Document)

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It took me several years of struggling with the heavy door to my building, sometimes having to wait until a person stronger came along, to realize that the door was an accessibility problem, not only for me, but for others as well. And I did not notice, until one of my students pointed it out, that the lack of signs that could be read from a distance at my university forced people with mobility impairments to expend a lot of energy unnecessarily, searching for rooms and offices. Although I have encountered this difficulty myself on days when walking was exhausting to me, I interpreted it, automatically, as a problem arising from my illness (as I did with the door), rather than as a problem arising from the built environment having been created for too narrow a range of people and situations.

Susan Wendell, author of
The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability