The staff of the Disability Resource Center believes that when educating people about Universal Design that we are fulfilling the three major themes of our institution’s Public Affairs Mission: Ethical Leadership, Cultural Competence, and Community Engagement. Our staff fulfills these mission themes in numerous ways throughout the year. One example occurred this past summer, on August 7, 2009, when the Disability Resource Center (then the Office of Disability Services) hosted PEPNet’s (Postsecondary Education Programs Network) Regional Roundtable. The purpose of PEPNet is to increase and improve secondary and postsecondary educational opportunities for individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Over 40 people attended the event here at Missouri State with participants from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. Topics covered at the event included use of assistive listening devices to advocacy and making classrooms accessible.
One of the sessions focused on Universal Design (UD) in Instruction. PEPNet defined Universal Design (UD) as an approach to designing course instruction, materials, and content to benefit people of all learning styles without adapting or retrofitting. PEPNet believes that not only do the Deaf and hard of hearing benefit from UD, but all students; specifically those with other disabilities, students who use English as a second language, international students, non-traditional students, and students whose learning style is inconsistent with the teacher’s preferred teaching style.
Below is a list of some of the UD teaching strategies PEPNet recommended:
- Do your best to create a welcoming environment in your classroom for all students. Keep in mind that your actions and the attitude you display toward students with disabilities are observed by all students in the class.
- Utilize technology in the classroom when teaching.
- Provide information in multiple modes.
- Signal new topics in a as clear a way as possible.
- Include long pauses.
- Deliberately state that you are beginning a new topic.
- Outline class material in the corner of the board and point to new topics as you proceed through the material.
- Detail changes in email or an accessible course website.
- Post class notes, PowerPoint slides, and other visual aids to an accessible website.
- When presenting information with overheads or PowerPoint slides, allow time for all students to read the material shown.
- Make certain there are no line-of-sight issues. Can students see you, the board, visual aids, sign language interpreters, etc.?
- Assess the sound environment of the classroom. Are students able to hear you over sounds in the room? Do you need to use a microphone?
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Repeat comments made and questions asked by other students in the class before responding.
- Make eye contact with students.
- Present material in a logical progression.
- Try to prevent unintended false starts, backtracking, or drifting off topic when you present material.
- Ensure a learning space that accommodates both students and instructional methods.
PEPNet staff noted that these UD strategies not only enhance equal access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students but to all students. These strategies have the potential of enhancing the learning of everyone and takes little effort or financial resources.