This article nicely outlines the benefits of universally designed educational facilities and learning environments. It goes well beyond ramps and rails to tackle both the built environment and the learning environment itself.
The author, Ali Simsek, elaborates on the essential principles of universal design as they apply to educational facilities, and suggests solutions to make them more accessible and useable.The classic principles are described, as well as the process of universal design: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. For each of the seven principles of universal design, examples of design are given. For instance, under the heading Flexibility in Use, both right-handed and left-handed people should be considered, and in a museum, a visitor can listen to audio descriptions of the displays in a language of their choice.
Simsek says, “Benefits of universal design in educational settings can be discussed from the points of the learner, the school, and the society at large. Potential benefits do not have to be in conflict with each other. For example, students can enjoy the school because it makes their life easier, the school can achieve its mission effectively, and the society can have citizens with higher sense of self-fulfillment.”
It will be interesting to see if the new Victorian policy of all new schools being built to the principles of universal design will go beyond just physical access and address the learning environment as well.
The paper was published in e-Proceeding of the 4th Global Summit on Education GSE 2016, 14-15 March 2016 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.