If universally designing my course isn't legally required, how would approaching my work from a universal design perspective make a difference to me?
Equal access is required by the law. How you provide equal access is not necessarily defined. Universal design offers a seamless approach to providing access, which allows the University to be in compliance while implementing approaches to design that are more usable by everyone. Incorporating the principles of universal design into a class enhances the accessibility of the curriculum to a variety of diverse learners: minority students, second-language learners, returning students, students with disabilities, etc. While re-envisioning the design of a course may seem overwhelming at first, experience has shown that once faculty members experience the increase in student engagement and learning that is achieved through a universally designed curriculum, there is little desire in returning to the traditional lecture format.
Could incorporating principles of universal design compromise the integrity of our programs at Missouri State University?
Universal design is not about removing the challenge of a course or degree plan. In fact, a sociopolitical perspective would take issue with the idea that things need to be easier for people with disabilities to succeed. Reducing the challenge would be contrary to this philosophy. Sometimes people get the idea that proponents of universal design are saying that environments and courses should be designed so that everyone should succeed. This is a misinterpretation. Our goals are the same as the goals of the University. We want to engage all learners in ways that support and increase their fluency with the subject at hand. We want all students to get the full experience.
If we are trying to make changes and move to a social model of disability then wouldn't we need to change everything; even the name of your office "Disability Resource Center"?
Yes. We will be examining the office of Disability Resource Center to make certain that we are in line, as much as possible, with the socio-political model of disability. We have also thought of changing the name of the office. As we begin to reframe disability from the medical model to the social model, we find that the language we use is very important and powerful. Historically, our society's language regarding disability has been deeply rooted in the medical model/service industry, as is our office name.
If and when a name change occurs, we believe that "Disability" must remain in the office name. We feel this is important as it is a further reflection of the socio-political model and the need to reflect disability pride. It is important for people to embrace disability pride and to view disability as a part of diversity, where disability is appreciated and is perceived as an integral part of the University experience. If we were to remove disability from our office name, it could have a negative impact - reflecting the problem our society has in perceiving disability negatively and the lack of acceptance of disability perceived as a part of diversity.
Can universal design be applied to online courses?
Yes. As an instructor begins to design an online course they should proactively think about the course design and how it might impact disability. It is important to make certain the course is usable to everyone. We are in the process of developing a website dedicated to universal design resources and online classes, www.missouristate.edu/ud/UDTechnology.htm. As we learn more about universal design as it applies to technology, we will continue to update the site.