Three Decades of Universal Design – Defining Moments

Kinsella, Margaret Three Decades of Universal Design – Defining Moments. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 256. pp. 107-118.


This paper contributes to the growing research on incorporating Universal Design in the Higher Education landscape by presenting a Practitioner's Perspective on Universal Design as delivered in the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown (ITB) in the first year of a creative digital media degree as part of the first year experience. This first year experience is a transition time for many students and has many complexities; while being an exciting and fulfilling time, the transition can also be challenging and isolating. Through Universal Design, the aim is to enable students to ‘Get connected’ and ‘Stay connected’. Universal Design for Learning is explored through changes in curriculum design as a means of enhancing student engagement [1]. The Universal Design framework is structured into three strands; providing multiple means of representation; providing multiple means of action and expression and providing multiple means of engagements. The broader perspectives of Universal Design are considered at Institutional level. Resources, practices and attitudes, Michael Fullan suggests, are the three critical elements required for change to occur [2]. ‘The Power of Moments’ [3] and why certain experiences have extraordinary impact, coupled with underpinning Universal Design for Learning guidelines is considered in curriculum design and how they may enable meaningful engagements.The role of creativity and innovation suggests a way of interlacing universal design with the power of moments, acknowledging the critical elements for change to move from UDL exploration to integration. This paper highlights case studies where all these interrelated forces intertwine with emotional learning and how embedding Universal Design enables transformation. These are design models and are still to be evaluated.

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