The Universal Design for Learning is where companies, products, and the physical layout can accommodate the widest possible range of people. This would include people with all different types of abilities and learning styles. This is an important concept for so many reasons. The first being accessibility.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against an individual with special needs, the IDEA guarantees children in school a free and appropriate education regardless of their condition, but those regulations are just the beginning of creating a framework where individuals with special needs learn, work, and move throughout their community and workforce where appropriate.
The concept of Universal Design is more inclusive of everyone’s needs because it functions across product design, environmental setup, and being sensitive to small changes that can have a great impact on accessibility to more people. If it’s good enough for a person with any type of limitation, then it must be good for an able-bodied person. It’s easier to make modifications that take into consideration a variety of body morphology, motor abilities, and processing skills than to teach an individual to use a system with the skills that they may or may not have.
In a time where equality is the topic of many discussions, there should be a special push for UDL to be considered in schools, product design, environmental structures, city planning, clothes, and most of all education. Whether we refer to this as being culturally sensitive, a method for the design of products, or a learning principle instituted in education...the concept of UDL is to construct a model that requires little or no changes in a system but simultaneously affords accessibility to a variety of users. I don’t feel like that’s too much to ask for?!
As a caretaker of a child with special needs, an educator, or a therapist, you know first hand the challenges that these individuals may face, often on a daily basis. My recommendation would be to get out and change the universe, one design at a time!
Dr Sharon Pediatric Physical Therapist